Deriving choreography from two-dimensional sources like paintings and photographs is a risky strategy. Too often, you wind up with poses instead of a genuinely kinetic inspiration. But when your dancers resemble fashion models, as do Elisa Monte's troupe, the temptation to lead with their frozen images is strong. So when she heard from actor and philanthropist Leonard Nimoy (whose collection of photographs, Shekhina, was published by Umbrage in 2002) that he wanted to commission a piece inspired by the Shekhina (the feminine aspect of God), she responded warmly.
She's taken off from photographs before, in the 1996 Volkmann Suite. "The material here is very different, much more specific," says Monte. "There's more historical content in the photos, more references to Jewish, kabbalistic views. It's much more complicated." Nimoy created a stir by depicting women in ritual objects traditionally worn only by men. "He really wants to get at the feminine power of the photos," says the choreographer, an Italian who danced with Martha Graham and has set her work on the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
"My interest is in the concept of a feminine god figure, something that hasn't been dealt with in this society for a long time. There's now a great consciousness of it. I feel honored to have been thrown into this situation. For the last couple of decades we've been trying to figure out what 'feminism' is. It's a power separate from male power. All of society will change if we understand it better." For music, she's talking to Frank London. "He takes traditional Jewish music to orbits that don't exist anywhere else. He's very knowledgeable about Jewish mysticism." The piece debuts in November at the Skirball Center, a 950-seat theater at NYU's hulking new student center.
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Elisa Monte Dance, November 19 through 22, Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 La Guardia Place, 212-251-0789.
DAG HAMMARSKJOLD PLAZA,
EAST 47TH STREET BETWEEN FIRST AND SECOND AVENUES, 212.625.3505
Dancing in the Streets brings wonderful young performers trained in the Paul Taylor style to an outdoor site at lunchtime. It's free.
BILL T. JONES/ARNIE ZANE DANCE COMPANY
THE KITCHEN, 512 WEST 19TH STREET, 212.255.5793, EXT. 11
Celebrating their 20th year, they begin a special season with re-creations of early duets and solos by the founders. On September 18 there's a "TV Dinner" with video screenings, a vegetarian meal, and a panel including Jones, Gregory Bain, Robert Longo, and Elizabeth Zimmer.
JOYCE THEATER, 175 EIGHTH AVENUE, 212.924.0077
For the 19th year, downtown celebrates its own. Burlesque star Julie Atlas Muz and Circus Amok's Jennifer Miller co-host the New York Dance and Performance Awards 2003; tickets are scarce.
'THREE CITY EXCHANGE'
WAX, 205 NORTH 7TH STREET, BROOKLYN, 718.599.7997
A joint project of the Williamsburg Art Nexus and the Field, this program features dances by Rachel Shao Lan Blum and Chris Yon of New York, Julie Laffin of Chicago, and Maureen Whiting of Seattle.
September 30 and October 2-4
BAM, 30 LAFAYETTE AVENUE, BROOKLYN, 718.636.4100, Bam.org
American choreographer William Forsythe, in his 20th and final season with this compelling troupe, brings four U.S. premieres.
TERE O'CONNOR DANCE
DANCE THEATER WORKSHOP,
219 WEST 19TH STREET, 212.924.0077
O'Connor's Lawn uses video by Ben Speth, music by James Baker, and a richly theatrical ensemble to explore environmental issues and the poetics of dance.
'TRISHA BROWN: DANCE AND ART IN DIALOGUE, 1961-2001'
October 10-January 25
NEW MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART,
583 BROADWAY, 212.219.1222
Both the "leavings" of a distinguished career and performances by professional and student performers, not to mention a fabulous catalog.
BALLET NACIONAL DE CUBA
135 WEST 55TH STREET, 212.581.1212
A spectacular accomplishment against enormous odds, this troupe's as big a deal in its homeland as the Yankees are in ours. On one bill, choreography by Azari Plisetski, Antonio Gades, and Alicia Alonso (who also directs the company). On the other, Don Quixote.
NOEMIE LAFRANCE'S 'DESCENT'
October 17-November 23
CLOCK TOWER COURT HOUSE,
108 LEONARD STREET, BROOKLYN, 718.302.5024
In a 12-story marble stairwell, 12 damsels offer an intimate look at women as objects of desire in the domestic realm.
RIRIE-WOODBURY DANCE COMPANY
October 28-November 2
175 EIGHTH AVENUE, 212.242.0800
Utah-based ensemble makes its Joyce debut in a retrospective of work by the late multimedia visionary Alwin Nikolais, including choreography from 1953 through 1985.
NILES FORD URBAN DANCE COLLECTIVE
150 FIRST AVENUE, 212.477.5288
In A Dream Deferred, Ford fuses ballet, modern, jazz, and street dance to investigate the cyclical patterns of war and racism through the lens of popular culture, to music by Björk, Marvin Gaye, and Nina Simone.
DAYTON CONTEMPORARY DANCE COMPANY
30 LAFAYETTE AVENUE, BROOKLYN, 718.636.4100, Bam.org
In The Flight Project, two different bills feature six choreographers celebrating both the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' maiden flight and the Ohio troupe's 35th. See works by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Bill T. Jones, Warren Spears, Dwight Rhoden, Bebe Miller, and Doug Varone.
MISNOMER DANCE THEATER
150 FIRST AVENUE, 212.477.5288
Chris Elam's Intimacy in Transition positions dancers at the wonderfully odd nexus of Balinese and modern styles, to original music by Andy Teirstein.
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