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Archive for February, 2013

February 28-March 5, 2013 “Graham Slam”

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

The theme of the current season of the Martha Graham Dance Company is “Myth and Transformation” — how choreographers use old stories to make contemporary statements. The use of myth can be a powerful method for tapping into the timeless, but the transformations can also say more about the period when they were made than about the period in which they were set.

On Wednesday at the Joyce Theater the first of three programs in a two-week season opened with Graham’s “Phaedra,” from 1962. In her introductory remarks, Janet Eilber, the company’s artistic director, recalled how members of Congress denounced the dance’s lewdness, and she set it in the context of miniskirts and free love.

As usual, the politicians were upset for the wrong reasons. In the Greek myth that “Phaedra” recounts, Aphrodite causes the queen to lust after her own stepson, with fatal consequences. By today’s standards, the choreography is far from explicit about that lust, though it is clear enough. In the final image, a leering Aphrodite spreads her legs as far apart as they can go.

The trouble is that Aphrodite doesn’t do much except leer. Whether in response to the 1960s or to more internal forces, “Phaedra” represents a coarsening of Graham’s art. As Phaedra’s husband, Theseus, Tadej Brdnik manages to slap his thighs with dignity, but it’s not Blakeley White-McGuire’s fault that her Phaedra is no more than a victim.

When she thrusts a knife toward her crotch, it’s hardly an endorsement of the sexual revolution. A stylized vision of Phaedra’s mother copulating with a bull presents female sexuality as a curse. This isn’t “Sex and the Single Girl” (published the same year). It’s an aging artist (Graham was pushing 70) applying her sure storytelling skills to rage at involuntary desire.

The rage of Achilles is the driving force of “The Iliad,” but the Achilles in Richard Move’s “The Show (Achilles Heels)” isn’t so much angry as vain, sealed off in his beauty. He gazes into his hand as if it were a mirror. The heels he wears are high, gold and sparkly.

The work, made for the White Oak Dance Project in 2002 and paired with “Phaedra” as a more recent example of myth transformation, is certainly of its time in the games it plays. Achilles appears on a “reality game show.” The dancers lip-sync dialogue from Hollywood Golden-era films of the story, mocking clunky exposition while making use of it.

Is the cheapening an indictment of the present or an indulgence? Should the sniggering at dramatic old voices extend to Graham, whose technique Mr. Move borrows for Helen of Troy (majestically embodied by Katherine Crockett)? Mr. Move’s dance won’t decide, though its magpie style achieves moments of poetry. It’s best at expressing the tenderness between Achilles and his lover, Patroclus.

Achilles speaks in the recorded voice of Mikhail Baryshnikov, who originated the role. That’s a dance hero’s armor to wear, but Lloyd Mayor, an apprentice with the company when Mr. Move chose him, has everything that the role requires, except celebrity: a beautiful face, sculptural technique. One thing Mr. Move knows for sure is how to pick ’em.

Martha Graham Dance Company performs through March 3 at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, at 19th Street, Chelsea; (212) 242-0800, joyce.org.

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February 21-27, 2013 “Arrival of Rubio”

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

The White House sought to keep delicate immigration negotiations on track Tuesday as a key Republican senator further distanced himself from a draft bill President Barack Obama’s aides are readying in case congressional talks crumble.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Tuesday sought to keep delicate immigration negotiations on track, as a key Republican senator distanced himself further from a draft bill President Barack Obama’s aides are readying in case congressional talks crumble.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s office said Obama’s plan “injected additional partisanship into an already difficult process.” The White House, following the weekend leak of its draft legislation, insisted the president wants the bipartisan Senate group Rubio is a member of to put forward its own bill instead.

Obama spoke with Rubio on Tuesday to reiterate his commitment to the Senate process and to make clear that he had his own legislation ready, the White House said. The president also called Republicans Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, two other GOP lawmakers involved in the immigration negotiations.

“It is, by far, the president’s preference that the Senate process move forward, that the bipartisan group of eight have success, and that they produce a bill that wins the support of Democrats and Republicans in Senate,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Senate aides said privately Tuesday that bipartisan negotiations are in a good place and they did not feel as though the disclosure of details in Obama’s draft bill would disrupt their process. In fact, Obama’s backup bill could end up spurring GOP lawmakers to rally behind a congressional plan with many similarities rather than support legislation attached to the president.

While they differ on some key details, both sides are contemplating legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S., tighten border security, crack down on businesses that employ illegal workers and strengthen the legal immigration system.

Rubio, a rising Republican star and favorite of his party’s conservative wing, has particular incentive to publicly disavow Obama’s proposals.

As one of his party’s leading voices on immigration, Rubio will be called on to sell other conservatives on any deal and he knows that doing so will be harder if that deal has the president’s stamp on it. He’ll also have to convince Republicans that a bipartisan Senate agreement would be more conservative than what Obama would propose on his own.

Rubio’s office, trying to further distance itself from the White House, insisted Tuesday that the senator’s team had not been in talks with the administration on immigration. But Rubio spokesman Alex Conant later said that a representative from the senator’s office participated in five meetings with administration officials.

Administration officials said they were willing to take hits from the Florida lawmaker if doing so gave him the cover to work with Senate Democrats to reach a deal.

“As long as Sen. Rubio and the rest of the gang are making real progress on immigration reform, we are happy to be on the sidelines and even serve as a punching bag every once in a while,” Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s senior adviser, said.

The White House insisted it did not intentionally leak details of its immigration plan, which circulated widely at key government agencies. Top Obama aides tried to clear up the mess over the weekend, sending apologetic emails to the offices of the eight senators, including Rubio, at the center of the Capitol Hill negotiations.

Obama officials say the documents represent draft proposals, not a final bill. The president and his aides have repeatedly said publicly that the White House was readying legislation and would submit it to Congress if the Senate process stalls.

The draft White House proposal and the principles outlined by the Senate group overlap in many areas, though there are some key differences.

The administration’s draft proposal would create a visa for those in the country illegally and allow them to become legal permanent residents within about eight years as part of a broader pathway to citizenship. The Senate group is looking at a 10-year timeline before people already in the U.S. illegally could get green cards.

While Obama’s proposal calls for more funding for securing the border, it does not make border security a pre-condition for opening a pathway to citizenship. The Senate group’s principles would require a border security trigger, though it’s unclear how they would define a secure border.

Rubio’s office has also criticized the president’s proposals for not including a guest worker program or a plan for dealing with the future flow of immigrants.

Officials say the White House has not set a deadline for when the president would choose to abandon the Senate process and send his bill to Capitol Hill. Senate lawmakers have raised the prospect of drafting a bill next month.

Hanging over the entire immigration debate in Washington is a changed political landscape that gives Hispanics more influence in national politics than ever before. Hispanics made up 10 percent of the electorate in the November presidential election and Obama won more two-thirds of their votes, causing many Republican lawmakers to rethink their opposition to immigration reform.

Immigration advocates have vowed to keep reminding GOP lawmakers of the growing political power of Hispanic voters.

“You can choose not to do it, you can choose inaction, but keep in mind that the Latino community is not going to forget,” said Eliseo Medina, an immigration advocate and labor leader at the Service Employees International Union.

“If the Senate blocks it, then get prepared for 2014,” he added, referring to next year’s congressional elections.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Febraury 13-20 “Acid at the Bolshoi”

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

After weeks of speculation as to who was behind the vicious acid attack on Bolshoi director Sergei Filin, multiple sources are pointing fingers at the company’s dancers.

ABC News reported over the weekend that police believe the bizarre assault could have been an inside job, quoting an unnamed law enforcement official who revealed that members of the renown ballet troupe are considered suspects. It’s unclear who or how many dancers are being questioned in the ongoing investigation — only company member Nikolai Tsiskaridze has been implicated as a possible suspect, according to the New York Times, due to his long-standing feud with the theater’s general director, Anatoly Iksanov.

Tsiskaridze, in response to being questioned by authorities, has challenged whether or not Filin was actually attacked with chemicals, remarking to the BBC: “The point is that acid is a very dangerous thing, and if you have studied chemistry or read about other incidents of this kind, you must know that there are always horrible consequences.” He continues, “If a person is speaking and giving interviews right away, it all looks very strange.”

bolshoi ballet dancers suspected

LONDON – AUGUST 14: Nikolai Tsiskaridze performs in Pique Dame during a photcall at the Royal Opera House on August 14, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

The New York Times reports the Bolshoi Ballet administration has threatened to sue Tsiskaridze, noting the dancer’s repeated criticism of the company and his public condemnation of top executives. (Dancers at the Bolshoi enjoy a lifetime tenure, so a lawsuit is likely the theater’s only alternative to getting rid of a performer.)

Filin, who is currently receiving eye treatment in Germany, reportedly stated he knows the identity of his attacker, though he refuses to provide a name until the official investigation is finished. Speaking in an interview with Rossiya 24, he said that he believed his attack was related to the 2011 scandal surrounding former Bolshoi artistic director, Gennady Yanin, who resigned after pornographic images of him surfaced on the internet. “When I came to this post, I felt close attention from a certain group, probably hoping to change everything at the theater,” Filin said.

More dramatic updates are likely to occur, so stay tuned. In the meantime, what do you make of the possible ballerina-led crime?

Sergei Filin
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February 6-12, 2013 “Bummed 49er.”

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013