It’s loosely based on the whore of Babylon,” says Lisa Giobbi, describing a new solo, Babylon, in which she dons a red dress and rides a fabric swing tied to the rafters of the Joyce Theater. “First I’m thinking, what fun to be a hot babe in Babylon! But ultimately it’s about searching for universal truths of being female.” An original score by Hayley Moss, who sets Mayan and Sanskrit vocals to electronic riffs, points to a truth independent of gender: in larger Manhattan dance venues, new music’s an exception to the rule. Rarer still is new music played live— an unofficial theme of Altogether Different, the Joyce’s showcase for emerging dance makers, which runs through January 17. Four headliners use original music— three of them live. (The fifth, Seán Curran, who opened the series Tuesday, settles for spinning old CDs.)
It’s not easy forming such creative partnerships. In November, Meet the Composer suspended its Composer/Choreographer Project, which had given up to $500,000 a year— split evenly by composers and choreographers— to commission new music for dance. The Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust just gave $350,000 to New York troupes through its Live Music for Dance Program. Yet that initiative is limited to local companies, and is geared more to paying musicians than commissioning new scores.
Without such grants, dance makers with a bent for new or live music often hit up friends. At Altogether Different, Kevin Wynn teams up with composer Peter Jones in Vicious Beauties, a collage inspired by jazz and action painting. He taps Philip Hamilton in To Repel the Demons, a balm for urban stress. Sally Silvers summons Bruce Andrews, her partner in nearly 20 pieces to date, for Capture. Her brother, James Silvers, plays Satie fragments in Teddy Growl. H. T. Chen enlists composer Zhou Long for Moon and Weavings. And Giobbi turns to Moss, a friend since high school, for Babylon. “Hayley’s grossly underpaid— like the dancers,” she says. “But we have an unspoken understanding of each other’s work, a second sight.”