Capturing the spirit of dance can be a challenge in any art form, but sculpture is a medium where that is that particularly difficult. To convey a sense of movement while staying true to form in three dimensions is something few artists can do–much less master.
But there are always exceptions.
Andrew DeVries is one such artist, and he was selected by the National Museum of Dance to display some of his work with dancers. We asked Assistant Director Sarah Hall Weaver to share more information about this artist and his work, which we are pleased to share with you here…
What made you select Andrew’s work for the exhibit “Homage to Dance”?
I had been looking for a 3d exhibit for a while actually when Andrew and his wonderful wife, Patricia, approached us. Our museum has a 2d fine art show and a variety of other exhibitions each year but we had yet to welcome sculpture. Representing dance without being able to have live dancers on hand can sometimes be a challenge. We are constantly looking for new and diverse ways to relay the world of dance to our guests. On top of looking for a sculpture exhibit, we were also looking for the RIGHT sculpture exhibit and it came down to the fact that Andrew’s work displayed the level of advanced dance understanding that I was looking for.
Can you talk a bit about what his work is like?
Andrew’s work is an outstanding combination of master bronze work and individual aesthetic. What really speaks to me is that even though these are in fact stagnant, heavy objects, they still imply very clear movement. You instinctively understand where that dancer is coming from and where they are going. The muscles in each body are sculpted with that advanced understanding I mentioned earlier – Andrew knows how the body works, how muscles, bones, all the body systems work together to allow dance movement; and even if the viewer doesn’t arrive with their own understanding, they can learn something from these pieces. His pastels are equally revealing of his dance models. The gestures and the expressions indicate very clear emotions and physical states yet these are not overworked images. They have a light, airy quality that really complements the intensity of the bronzes.
How many pieces will be on display at the museum and how were they chosen?
There are over forty bronzes on display, some of which [if spring ever really comes around!] will be displayed outside in our entrance gardens. There are also twenty pastels on display. We approach each exhibit as its own experience and in this particular case I left it up to Andrew to select the works and layout. He and Patricia are quite the team and have got the exhibition business down to…well…an art.
Is there a piece you are particularly drawn to?
This is a tough question, I have a lot of favorites…If I had to pick one I would say Apollo. It is the first sculpture that greets you as you walk into the gallery and something about it keeps you right there for a while. I’ve watched several of our guests fall victim to it, they linger there much longer than I would normally credit a museum-goer per piece of artwork. Like I said, there are forty-one sculptures and twenty pastels – that’s a lot, but even with the excitement of seeing everything in this gallery, let alone the entire museum, this piece really seems to affect people. Myself included.
How long will his work be on display at the museum?
“Homage to Dance” will be on display through November 24th, 2013. Museum hours and admission can be found at www.dancemuseum.org. Andrew’s studio and gallery can also be visited in Massachusetts and information can be found at his website.
We are having an opening reception for this show on June 28th which will be a wonderful opportunity for guests to view the work for free, and to also meet Andrew in person!
The Rite of Spring is the theme behind one of the latest exhibits at the National Museum of Dance – here’s a closer look, courtesy of Sarah Hall Weaver, the Assistant Director there…
Can you talk a bit about how the exhibit “A Riotous Work” came about?
I’ll give you the short story…we actually had another exhibit planned that fell through leaving us in a bit of a bind about a year ago. The Rite of Spring has always been one of my favorite historical dance topics and I have had it in the back of my head for years as a potential exhibit concept. While sorting through our options we realized the centennial anniversary was quickly approaching and that eliminated all debate – something had to be done to celebrate this momentous occasion. The original work had such a tremendous impact on the course of dance and music history, it is something dance lovers young and old should have some awareness of.
For those who are not familiar with this ballet, can you explain its significance?
Haha…oh no…ok…short version here too…
This ballet premiered on May 29, 1913 in Paris. It was choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky [imagine the Nureyev or Baryshnikov of their time], the music was written by Igor Stravinsky [this guy created DOZENS of ballet scores, many of which you probably know and know well], and it was performed by the avant-garde ballet company the Ballet Russes.
To fully understand the significance you have to put yourself in that time – there are no TV’s, no computers, the ballet and orchestra were coveted forms of entertainment, and the audience was used to the fairy princesses and sparkling tutus that we still often associate with ballet today [remember modern dance is just igniting at this very same time]. They were also used to the music that went along with it. Stravinsky and Nijinsky created a ballet that was set in pagan Russia – a chaotic world relatively unknown to Western European audiences.
The story is of a sacrificial virgin that is offered up to ancient gods so that spring will return once again. The choreography was flat footed, turned in, and abstract; it eliminated all of the prestigious pointe work and tricks that defined ballet up to this point, and oh boy – the music! The music used pounding, repetitive, abrasive beats that were unheard of in 1913. Stravinsky abandoned charming, hum-able melody, and put all attention on crashing rhythms. The audience went bananas.
There are many first-hand accounts of that night and they all describe immediate outbursts at the first sounds of the music, people standing up from their seats and screaming at the stage and at each other, audience members slapping other people in the next row – can you imagine getting slapped at the ballet?! The audience uproar alone was unlike any other. The Rite of Spring was only performed a few more times and was then lost to history. Since then though the music has been used by dozens of choreographers and companies. It has be reapplied to modern concepts and researchers have even resurrected a close variation of Nijinsky’s original choreography – that alone is a unique aspect of this work, few if any other ballets have been dug up to this degree. In all…it changed what ballet could be, it opened the doors for completely new approaches to choreography in all forms of dance, and it kept ballet relevant to the rapidly shifting arts and social movements of the twentieth century.
Many dance organizations are celebrating Rite of Spring this year – what makes this particular exhibit stand out?
We actually reached out and spoke with a few different groups as we began planning our project – it really is exciting to be a part of a worldwide celebration, and no one organization is doing the same thing as another. We are not offering live performances like many companies and other arts organizations, this exhibit is almost designed to catch you up if you aren’t on board already. We wanted to give our audiences a good understanding of the original work and how it has survived through history. We selected a small group of other companies and choreographers to exhibit profiles on – how their works were different or similar from Nijinsky’s and each other’s. I really stand by this work as a necessity of basic dance history education and that’s how we looked at our exhibit – a resource to understand this piece from its very beginnings to the new productions that are being produced today and that are promised for tomorrow.
How did you select the items that would be on display for this exhibit?
We worked individually with each company featured in the exhibit and discussed with them what was available from their collections while we also pulled several items from our own archives. A lot of companies are using their costumes this year so unfortunately we couldn’t include many of those [in the long run we’d rather they be on stage than in our cases anyways ]. Several companies also suffered great losses from Hurricane Sandy – a lot of the retired costumes that may have been contributed otherwise were destroyed or are being salvaged as we speak. That was a very sad component of our conversations but hopefully with continued support they will be able to recover their collections. I ended up including some interesting objects like a 1932 record set of the music conducted by Stravinsky himself. It is a beautiful album with a textile cover and gold lettering – in the time between 1913 and 1932 the music clearly went from being an outrage to a masterpiece!
What was your favorite part in terms of pulling this exhibit together for the museum?
I loved becoming more familiar with the later variations of the Rite of Spring – it’s so interesting to compare and contrast each choreographer’s take on this piece. It almost reveals the essence of each artist. While researching I kept finding more and more variations, all over the world, in all styles of dance, and from every decade between the original premiere and today. There is a special sensation about the music of the Rite of Spring and about its dance legacy that draws in so many of our greatest artists…there is always more to learn and more to see. The same goes for the original work – every source your find leads to another, there are a lot of accounts and a lot of opinions of why this work was so important from the start. It was easy to get swept away.
by Lissa Smith
Suitcase? Check. Carry-on? Check. Phone? Wallet? Passport? Laptop?
Check, check, check, check. I sat on the edge of my bed, again reviewing the long list I painstakingly made. As I eagerly awaited my cab’s arrival, my nerves and excitement got the best of me. All of the hours spent rehearsing and refining our company repertory would now be put to the test of audiences in Europe.
My effort to pack lightly was an epic fail: a large suitcase, a shoulder tote, a backpack — oh, and a broken finger — would all accompany me abroad. But I was as ready as I could be to travel with Hubbard Street 2, for a two-week tour of Germany. I grabbed one last important item: my travel outlet adapter. Okay, now I was ready. I put on my coat, grabbed my luggage, and headed out with my dreams.
Fast-forward to our arrival in Frankfurt. Completely jetlagged, HS2 deplaned and followed signs reading Gepäckausgabe (baggage claim). We all grabbed breakfast — at 3am Chicago time — and waited for our presenter, who greeted us with a hearty und warm Willkommen! We stuffed the trunk of a van and hit the road.
The van went flying and, really, I mean flying. We quickly learned that German highways have no speed limits. Still, we struggled to keep our eyes open. I tried willing myself to stay awake, but it was a challenge I could not win. I was not the only one who succumbed: All of us fell asleep in the van, and got enough rest to go exploring after settling into our first hotel, the Nestor in Ludwigsburg.
One amazing benefit of performing with a dance company is the opportunity to visit so many new places and travel together. We have truly bonded through our shared experiences of rehearsing, dining, and living together in hotel rooms in so many cities. We are family now, in every sense of the word. We can read each other’s moods and have learned to travel and grow together as a group. The trust that we have for each other extends far beyond the studio and stage. Our tour through Germany, this past February and March, was HS2’s current members’ first international experience together, and my first tour abroad ever.
All of the cities we visited were adorable and quaint, with restaurants, bakeries and butcher shops galore. Every hotel offered a huge breakfast buffet, truly appreciated by all of the HS2 dancers. We particularly enjoyed the German coffee, and I was able to check off a few items on another list, of German foods beginning with the letter S. Streusel? Check. Schnitzel? Check. Strudel? Häkchen (check).
We performed in five venues and taught workshops throughout Ludwigsburg, plus Aschaffenburg, Remscheid, Rüsselsheim and Schweinfurt. Some of the theaters were more intimate; others were large and quite stunning. Performing in Germany was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Our performances were completely sold out and our audiences were true supporters of the arts. Our final bows were unforgettable moments that I will cherish forever: We’d get four curtain calls, standing ovations and flowers presented to us onstage, with stomping and clapping in unison as the soundtrack. The connection that we felt to our audiences was incredibly moving and heartwarming — such a rewarding feeling, knowing that our performances were valued and appreciated. The art of dance can truly bridge cultural differences and bring people together in ways both surprising and exhilarating.
The majority of our audience members stayed afterward and participated in our talkbacks, with our presenter translating both ways. We were asked some very intriguing questions; a couple of people expressed interest in the level of involvement that the dancers had in developing the choreography we performed. Audience members were also interested in learning whether we improvised during performances. Our answers to those questions were that, with a few of the works on our program (Penny Saunders’ Bonobo, Robyn Mineko Williams’ Recall, and Strides by Norbert De La Cruz III), the choreographers brought already-set material. Gregory Dolbashian, meanwhile, used material developed by us while creating By the skin of my teeth, using improvisation exercises and other tasks. So while the finished product might not include any live improvisation, it might have played a central role in a collaborative, creative process.
It’s hard to put into words what I brought home from Germany on March 2. The pieces that I performed there will forever be cross-referenced in my mind and heart with my memories of how our German audiences received them. As soon as I hear any of their scores, I feel the unique energy transmitted to us as we danced in those theaters. Every city we visited bestowed all of us with gifts that might not be tangible, but are nevertheless enduring and everlasting. A little bit of Germany comes with me to Hubbard Street’s studios every day now, and it brings me great joy and satisfaction to know that we left a little bit of HS2 across the Atlantic.
Hubbard Street 2 returns to Germany for performances in five additional cities in March 2014. Catch the company on May 4, at Symphony Center for a special “Get Up and Dance” performance for families, on May 6 at Chicago City Winery for Fear No ART’s “The Dinner Party,” and on May 11 at Ramsey Auditorium in Batavia, Illinois, as part of Fermilab’s 2012–13 Arts & Lecture Series. Visit hubbardstreetdance.com for a complete schedule of events and touring engagements.
BIO: Contributor Lissa Smith, age 21, was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She is currently dancing with Hubbard Street 2 of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. She attended The Boston Conservatory where she was both a Dance Conservatory Scholarship recipient and Jan Veen Dance Scholarship recipient.
Lissa has trained at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Juilliard School, Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, The Martha Graham School, The Joffrey Ballet School and The Joffrey Midwest Workshop. Lissa has worked with world renowned choreographers such as: Thang Dao, Peter London, Alberto Del Saz, Maurya Kerr, Clébio Oliveira, Penny Saunders, Hofesh Shecter, Didy Veldman, Uri Sands, Gregory Dawson, Stephen Pier, John Magnus, Josée Garant, Viktor Plotnikov, Robyn Mineko Williams, Tony Fabre, and Judith Jamison. She has danced principal roles such as: “Yellow Girl” in “Diversion of Angels”, “Conversation of Lovers” within “Acts of Light” and “Frontier”, the solo choreographed by Martha Graham and staged by Yuriko and Susan Kikuchi along with Yasuko Tokunaga.
Lissa was the soloist lead dancer in both Thang Dao’s contemporary ballet, “Foil” and Greg Dawson’s contemporary ballet, “Eclipsing Venus”. She has also performed Jose Limon’s “Choreographic Offerings” staged by Jennifer Scanlon and Libby Nye. Lissa has performed the “Doll with Broken Head” solo from within “Mechanical Organ” choreographed by Alwin Nikolais, staged by Alberto Del Saz. Lissa received the “Modern Dance Award” and the “Dean’s Dance Award” upon her graduation from New World School of the Arts High School in June 2009 and won the “Arts For Life!” dance scholarship in 2009 presented by Former First Lady Columba Bush.
In 2012, Lissa was awarded the Martha Hill Young Professional Award.
Lissa’s posts on 4dancers are her own opinion and in no way reflect the thoughts or opinions of her employer, Hubbard Street 2.1
Many 4dancers readers will recognize the name Rebecca King from her blog, Tendus Under a Palm Tree–a great take on the life of a dancer that features wonderful content. What you may not have known is that Rebecca also has started a line of cool dance t-shirts that has done so well, she’s expanding…
But let her tell you the story…
A couple of years ago I decided to start a ballet blog where I could share my musings as a professional ballet dancer: “Tendus Under A Palm Tree .com.” I wanted to take advantage of the Internet’s ability to offer a unique venue to discuss different elements of the ballet. People are fascinated by this art form and I think blogs are a wonderful way to get people involved, interested, and give them a deeper understanding of what they are seeing. Since it’s conception, this venture has taken off more than I could ever imagine. In two years TENDUS has grown to over 6,000 readers a month.
Over the summer I had been seeing the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster and popular parodies all over the Internet. I decided it was time for TENDUS to be a part of this phenomenon. I had recently been put in touch with a tee-shirt manufacturer and knew that this was a perfect opportunity to start something new. In September of last year I launched a TENDUS merchandise line and have since created two different tee-shirts and am now expanding into a tote bag line. In 4 months I have sold over 250 units and am hoping my newest member of the merchandise family will be just as popular!
by Janice Barringer
Under normal circumstances I feel that my life is interesting and eventful even when no special events are taking place. That’s because, as a dancer, even the most commonplace activities have meaning. Just daily classes, whether I take them as a student or if I am doing the teaching, are something I look forward to. Of course, they can be frustrating when the students are not putting forth their greatest efforts. The low point, when it comes to class, is lethargic students. If they don’t put all of their mental and physical energy into this activity, there is not much even the most determined teacher can produce.
If my day-to-day activities are interesting to me, can you imagine how excited I am when something very special is on the horizon? January and February 2013 provided two extraordinary opportunities for me to further enjoy this career that I love so much.
In January, sandwiched between teaching at a Dance Makers Inc. convention in Pittsburgh and one in Detroit, I spent the week at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C. This boarding school which serves students in grades seven through twelve, offers a high school diploma in addition to its dance instruction. It was founded to train dancers in a pedagogy based on that of the Vaganova Ballet Academy and the performance aesthetic of the Kirov Ballet, recently renamed The Mariinsky, in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Martin Fredmann, the Artistic Director and Executive Director of the school invited me to give a lecture to his students, staff and faculty on pointe shoes. For four days I observed classes from 9:30 in the morning until late afternoon and sometimes until 7 in the evening. The classes, taught by masters of the Vaganova system, were creative, artistic and demanding. While some classes are the traditional hour- and-a-half in length, many lasted two, three and even four hours. These lengthy sessions allowed the teachers to work on details and the students to apply corrections over and over again.
While I was in the Nation’s Capital, Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice in Wonderland was being presented at Kennedy Center by The National Ballet of Canada. This version of Alice has garnered much attention due to, not only the stature of the choreographer, but also its outrageous sets and costumes. The company shares the production with The Royal Ballet. Of course, I had to attend, and it didn’t disappoint. While many of my ballet friends felt it was too long and “over the top”, I felt it was a very entertaining evening. As I discussed it with the Artistic Director of a major company, we both agreed the technical rehearsal must have been a nightmare. The sets were huge, complicated and almost as spectacular as a Broadway musical or Radio City Music Hall. After all, the story demands a fantastic imagination.
In an exchange program between the Kirov School and Kennedy Center, later in the week the company sent one of its teacher’s, Lindsey Fisher, to give a master class to the Kirov students. In addition to its wonderful staff, these fortunate students work with master teachers from around the world frequently.
There is nothing I enjoy more than watching incredible teachers work with selected and motivated students in an accommodating atmosphere. Therefore, my week in Washington D. C. was inspirational. In a week-and-a-half I was off again on another adventure in yet another fantastic city, London! Unpacking and packing again in a short period of time is definitely a hassle, but I felt privileged to have this great opportunity.
The day after I arrived I attended an “Open Day” at the Royal Ballet School. Over the last twenty-five years I have observed and notated classes there, interviewed the teachers, and had photographs taken of the students by highly-respected dance photographer, Rosalie O’Connor. The School has been included in the three editions of the book I wrote on pointe shoes and pointe training, “The Pointe Book”, and I wrote a cover story about it for Dancer Magazine. No matter how many times I have been there, I am always thrilled to have another opportunity to visit one of the very best ballet schools in the world.
The school, which was founded in 1926 by Dame Ninette de Valois, consists of a Lower School for children between eleven and sixteen years of age, housed in White Lodge in Richmond Park which is on the outskirts of London. The Upper School for ages sixteen and over is located in Central London, directly across the street from the Royal Opera House where The Royal Ballet rehearses and performs. There’s a gorgeous spiral walkway several floors above the street that connects the School with the ROH called The Bridge of Aspiration. Both the Lower and Upper Schools are under the direction of Gailene Stock A. M.
The School has trained some of the world’s most famous dancers and choreographers including Margot Fonteyn, Kenneth MacMillan, Anthony Dowell and Darcey Bussell. For the past six years every graduating student has secured a contract with a national or international ballet company. Currently over 70% of The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet are alumni of The Royal Ballet School.
The Open Day I attended was a special event for the Friends of the Royal Ballet School, an organization that supports the school in many ways including financial. One of the main studios in the Upper School is outfitted with lights, curtains and bleachers which support comfortable chairs for informal demonstrations and performances. This is where the day-long event took place.
From 9-10:30am the 2nd Year Girls and Boys combined class presented a typical class complete with corrections. In major ballet schools the boys and girls are taught in separate classes. Today was an exception because the boys’ teacher was on an audition tour seeking out prospective students. Later, the 1st Girls’ Class and a 1st Year Pas de Deux class were a part of the program for the invited guests. The day ended with a tea break (of course, this is England) and ended with a champagne tea.
Just walking into that beautiful building is an inspiration. There are walls of photographs of legends in the ballet world, and the studios are named after these same luminaries. I felt honored to be within its walls.
Fortunately, while in London it just so happened The Royal Ballet was presenting one of my favorite ballets, Onegin, AND a friend of mine, Sara Lamb, was dancing the lead. What perfect timing! Sara grew up in Boston and was trained at the Boston Ballet School. After dancing as a Principal with The Boston Ballet, she joined The Royal Ballet in 2004 as a First Soloist, and was promoted to Principal in 2006. This passionate ballet was choreographed by the late, John Cranko, in 1969. It demands great acting, sensitivity, and artistry. Sara brought all those qualities to her role as Tatiana. She seems to simply float above the earth disguising the very strong technique that is securely underneath.
My guests at the ballet were enamored with her performance, as was I. What a thrilling evening! Because I have attended so many ballets over my lifetime, sometimes I can be bored—-lose interest— but not tonight. Tonight I felt like a novice seeing a ballet for the first time. It was lovely; it was inspiring; it elicited a strong, emotional response. It made me realize once again, that despite the hardships, the injuries, the disintegrating hip sockets, the challenges and uncertainties—-despite all the reasons our parents don’t want us to go into the arts—-it has all been worth it. To be moved by an artistic creation that takes years to create—there’s nothing like it in the world.
See more photos from Janice’s travels on our Facebook page
Contributor Janice Barringer was raised in Florida and received her early training in ballet, jazz, tap and acrobatics from Edith and Bill Royal. Upon deciding to focus on ballet, she moved to New York City and traveled to Europe where she studied with leading teachers in the field.
Janice danced professionally for many years before becoming a ballet teacher and writer. She has written for Pointe, Dance, Dance Teacher, and Dance Spirit Magazines, and is the author of 9 cover stories for Dancer Magazine. Her first book, The Pointe Book, has given her a reputation around the world as being a leading authority in this field. An updated third edition was published in May, 2012. She also is the co-author with Thalia Mara of another book on pointe work called On Pointe. In addition to detailed information about working en pointe, it has a history of the first International Ballet Competition in the United States which is held in Jackson, Mississippi, every four years.
Janice has written a ballet syllabus, produced by Music Works Unlimited, complete with corresponding CD’s and DVD’s for each grade. It is specifically created for the dancing school teacher. The last four years she was employed at Pace University in New York City as a ballet instructor. She now spends most of the year in her native Florida teaching at South Beach Dance Academy in Daytona Beach returning frequently to New York, as well as teaching as a guest instructor in studios, at workshops and conventions around the world.1