dance

My Brief Foray into Tango

tango

After I booked my fall trip to Buenos Aires, I decided to learn tango.

The style originated in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, UruguayВ in the late 1800s. As a dancer, I felt there would be no better way to get to know a culture than through its moves. I planned to take several tango classes in NYC, В so I’d have enough basic knowledge to go dancing in BA. Plus, I thought it might be fun to do a social dance, for a change.

I took a free introductory class at TriANGulO, an all-Argentine tango studio, then signed up for a four-week tango course at Paul Pellicoro’s DanceSport, using a Groupon deal. (TriANGulO didn’t have any beginner classes that worked with my schedule.)

Though I liked the instructors at both places, I wasn’t having as much fun as I expected. I chalked it up to a few factors:

  • Tango is an intimate dance!В More so than I expected. Much of dance is an unspoken conversation between you and your partner. Leaders (men) “tell” followers (women) which steps to take by shifting their weight and moving their bodies. Followers are able to understand this, because they’re dancing with their hands on their leaders’ chests, or are in an open or closed embrace. Since I wasn’t coming to the lessons with a partner, I initially felt a little awkward dancing closely with people I’d just met.
  • Going along with that—it takes two to tango.В I really enjoyed dancing with the instructors who guided me into talking all the right steps. But in beginner tango group classes, there’s a lot of blind leading the blind—as in, dancing with partners who are just learning how to lead. Which translates into bumbling around awkwardly with strangers!
  • I signed up for tango classes at the worst possible time.В 8:30 p.m. on Fridays. It was the only session that fit my schedule.В But it was directly following my favorite ballet class. And after that class, I’m exhausted from the week, starving and ready for a quiet night in. Going to tango afterwards was tough!

I thought I’d enjoy myself more if I had a good dance partner. Or if the class were at a different time. Or if I progressed to the point where I knew a lot more steps. But finally, on the subway ride home from a tango class, I realized what the real problem was: I just wasn’t loving tango, itself.

Dance is an art, and, like any art form, there are styles that speak to you more than others. For me, ballet feels natural. The movements feel right and I love every minute of it. (Even when I’m sore or tired or my feet are hurting.) I’ve danced other styles over the years—modern, jazz, hip hop, tap, African—but I never felt the same affinity towards them. Not enough to pursue them, or even take classes for fun.

And that’s how I feel about tango. It’s a gorgeous (and sexy!) dance, and there are thousands of people who love it the way I do ballet. And I know they’re thrilled every minute they can dance it. But it’s not a natural fit for me.

Knowing that, I’ve put tango on hold until I go to Buenos Aires. Maybe being there will inspire me to take a class, or attempt dancing at a milonga. Or maybe I’ll just watch a tango show. I’ll see in a few weeks!

(Photo via Pinterest—though I would love to know the original source!)

“After the Rain” in NYC

Christopher Wheeldon’s “After the Rain” is a piece I really want to see live.

I’ve watched several excerpts of the pas de deux via YouTube, and love the stripped-down quality of the movements and the tender interplay between the dancers. Simplicity is what makes the piece so stunning. It’s the kind of choreography I want to dance, myself.

This morning, at sunrise,В Maria Kowroski andВ Ask la Cour from New York City Ballet performed “After the Rain” on the 57th floor of 4 World Trade Center. This performance, billed as “New Beginnings” was in remembrance of 9/11, and a “testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and a tribute to the future of the city that New York City Ballet calls home.”

It’s just gorgeous, especially against the backdrop of the city waking up.

Watch it (a couple of times!) below:

(Video via New York City Ballet

77 Dance Scenes in 5 Minutes

I can’t believe how cold and rainy it is, after such a gorgeous end to the holiday weekend! Hard to believe I was just BBQing at Mal’s and picnicking on Hudson.

But this gross weather is perfect for curling up inside and watching crazy YouTube videos like this: a mash-up of dance scenes from 77 movies.

I hardly ever watch movies—my friends have long stopped asking if I’ve seen whatever films they reference in conversation—but I was amazed at how many flicks I recognized in the video. (Slumdog Millionaire, Napoleon Dynamite, 500 Days of Summer, The 40-Year Old Virgin, Flashdance, American Beauty, Singin’ in the Rain…just to name a few.)

Enjoy!

Rain Room

Here’s a good reason to mark your calendar: Random International’s Rain RoomВ is coming to PS1!

The exhibit, which debuted last year in London, looks incredible. Vistors enter a room filled with rain—but wherever they step, overhead censors prevent water from falling on them. So they’re able to walk through the downpour without getting wet, virtually controlling the weather!

I first learned of the Rain Room, last fall, when I saw these photos. Wayne McGregor choreographed about 25 hours of dance for his companyВ to perform inВ the London exhibit:

rain room

rain room

No word, yet, on whether there will be a similar dance component in the PS1 exhibit. But if anyone is interested in being my pas de deux partner, let me know—I would happily dance around the Rain Room with you!

(Photos by Sidd Khajuria via Random Dance; Rain Room is at MoMa PS1 from May 12 through July 28.)

Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem

This past Saturday night, I had the pleasure of seeing theВ Dance Theatre of Harlem. Their five-night run at Jazz at Lincoln Center marked the end of a nine-year, financially driven hiatus for the company, and I was super-excited to see one of their first NYC performances.

Saturday’s program could best be described as “lovely”—a real joy to watch. It opened withВ “Gloria,” a gorgeous new work by resident choreographer Robert Garland. It was one of the most inspiring pieces I’ve seen in a while—one that I would love to dance, if I were so talented! The movement was deeply classical with refreshing contemporary elements woven throughout. During the piece, the mood shifted between melancholy and and joyous, as dancers effortlessly wove among each other, partnered up and separated. At the start and end of the piece, ballerinas-in-training, from the Dance Theatre of Harlem school, joined their more seasoned counterparts onstage—an apt metaphor for the company’s new beginning.

The next piece, Helen Pickett’s “When Love,” was a moving, athletic duet featuring Jehbreal Jackson and the ultra-talented Ashley Murphy. (My apologies to Jackson—I kept finding my eyes drawn to Murphy!) Set to Philip Glass’ stirring “Einstein on the Beach,” the piece depicted all the wild emotions that you experience in love. I especially appreciated how well the dancers conveyed the feeling that the two of you exist separately, in a world apart from everyone else.

Balanchine’s playful “Glinka Pas de Trois” followed (also featuring Murphy), then Ailey’s “The Lark Ascending” (pretty, but it felt less tight than the previous three works). The last piece of the evening, Donald Byrd’s “Contested Space,” was my least favorite. After the moving, uplifting dances that preceded, this felt like a misfit. “Contested Space” is set to a jarring, techno score and features flashy, ultra-contemporary ballet moves—overwrought developpes and the like—the type that you might see in So You Think You Can Dance. This was not a good thing. And I’m saying that as a diehardВ SYTYCDВ fan!

I’m hoping Dance Theatre of Harlem is back for good—not just because I really enjoyed the Saturday program. I also fully support what the company stands for.

Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell, the firstВ African-American principal dancer of New York City Ballet. (He’s probably best known for his В role in Agon‘s pas de deux, which Balanchine famously choreographed for him—ground-breaking, at the time, because it paired him, a black man, with a white woman.) Dance Theatre of Harlem’s mission has always been, in part, to break boundaries and prove that black dancers can perform classical ballet at the highest caliber.

Today, it’s no secret that the ballet world is still not the most diverse. In most of the classical ballet performances I’ve seen, there have been very few—or, often, no—dancers of color. And in comparison to the very diverse world I’m used to seeing every day in NYC, I can’t help but notice that. (That’s also one of the reasons that led me to take ballet at Ailey—I wanted to be surrounded by a diverse group of dancers.)

And that’s why I’m hoping Dance Theatre of Harlem will be around for many years. I’m hoping this diverse, talented company will inspire everyone who has the drive to pursue ballet to do so, no matter what their backgrounds.

(Photo of “Gloria” via the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Facebook page)

A Ballet Weekend

I still want to be a ballet dancer when I grow up, but, at 30, I kinda know that it’s not happening. That’s why I’m incredibly grateful that I still have opportunities to perform. This weekend, I’m participating in another showcase at Ailey—three sold out shows yesterday and today! We’re dancing the Act 1 coda from Raymonda. Check out the Paris Opera Ballet performing it below, at the 12:05 mark. You wouldn’t guess it from their expressions and ease of movement, but all those little jumps and arabesques are super-tiring!

Hope your weekend has you dancing with joy!