Five years ago, when New York City Ballet staged a revival, dancers Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi began filming the ballet as a "reality" take. Their camera follows the dancers through the city to parks and parking lots, trains and side streets, as they get ready to perform sections of the dance on location. Craig Hall & Rachel Rutherford's duet on New York City's High Line, a scruffy disused railroad track (now a park), conveyed a fine sense of urban desolation Robbins would have recognized. Great Performances aired the film on public television in March.
New York Export: Opus Jazz first appeared around the same time as The Sound of Music arrived on Broadway, when DOUG ELKINS was only nine years old. His 2006 Fräulein Maria, which came to the newly rehabilitated Paramount Theatre in September, is a comic take on the Rogers & Hammerstein musical. Elkins's witty show layered the soundtrack of the 1965 Julie Andrews movie into an amalgam of contemporary dance, hip-hop, splintered identities, postmodern innuendo, and nostalgic charm.
David Parker and Jeff Kazin, fellow traffickers in parody, appeared in Fräulein Maria, and in July, with the BANG GROUP, they deconstructed another bunch of show tunes as a benefit for Summer Stages Dance. There's a splash of love in the kind of thing Parker, Kazin, and Elkins do that takes the bite out of their irreverence. The BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO specialize more in parody that blends astute character assassination with precision comic technique and timing. The Trocks played Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in July. Their repertory of shredded masterpieces, rendered by hefty male ballerinas and their cowering partners, is a classic in itself by now.
BASIL TWIST compressed a ballet classic about puppets into a real puppet booth with his Petrushka. Twist's hand-manipulated puppets and their surreal story came to the Paramount in November. Controlled by their nine invisible puppeteers, these exquisitely crafted miniature characters moved like real dancers. The fictional Magician was represented by two outsize hands hovering over them, an eerie menace.
A single puppet and his five handlers were at the center of DAN HURLIN's Disfarmer at the ICA, an extraordinary piece about a forgotten American recluse photographer of the mid 20th century. The orderly but deranged world of this hermit was brought to life in evocative detail by Hurlin's actor-handlers, as they activated a movable dollhouse set, surprising theatrical effects, and a puppet character who gets smaller and crazier as the years go by.
Another other-worldly theater piece, EVAN ZIPORYN's A House in Bali, came to the Cutler Majestic. Ziporyn's ambitious multimedia, multi-voiced work was inspired by the life of composer Colin McPhee, who became captivated and in a way haunted by the music and culture of one of the world's most exotic destinations.
Great dancing and choreography may seem to come out of thin air, but they always have some precedent. Performing traditions stay alive because they're always being reinterpreted by new voices. It was a pleasure to see a master tap dancer (JOSH HILBERMAN's jazz rhythms as master of ceremonies at the Beantown Tap Fest's faculty show) and a flamenco dancer (ANGELITA VARGAS headlining "Fall Flamenco" at the Majestic) start with a familiar-sounding musical prompt and then take off into the stratosphere.