Magazine article The New Yorker


Magazine article The New Yorker


Article excerpt


"Words on Dance" kicks off with a conversation between Mark Morris and Surupa Sen.

A Nice Little Talk

Dance luminaries hold court.

I think that most of us still believe that art originates in solitary inspiration, a sort of bolt to the brain, the way Jesus was beamed into the Virgin Mary in those paintings of the Annunciation. There is some empirical support here. If you talk to artists, they will often describe a feeling of openness, receptivity, that accompanied their getting a really good idea. But this is probably true of people in all fields, not just art. Also, chances are that they had had that idea for a long time, and that the feeling they are describing is actually one of release: the idea is freed from impediments, things that were dragging it down. In other words, what these people are experiencing is not the beginning of their piece but its middle, when they say to themselves that maybe it doesn't have to be performed outdoors or nude or solo or whatever. Then, suddenly, everything that was awful before becomes O.K. In any case, it is amazing, sometimes, to hear artists tell you how many years they worked on an idea, how many times they laid it aside, how many versions they made, and tore up--or didn't. Edvard Munch made two oil paintings and two pastels of "The Scream." In 2012, one of the pastels sold for just under a hundred and twenty million dollars at Sotheby's. Imagine paying that amount of money for something of which there are three others--and yours is a pastel.

Artists will sometimes talk about such matters, but in my experience they are less likely to do so in a regular interview, where an expert is asking them questions such as "Can you tell me about your process?" Indeed, it's likely that they are most forthcoming without a questioner altogether. That may have been the idea of Deborah Kaufman when she began producing her "Words on Dance" interviews, which present two dancers without an interviewer. In any case, it is an idea shared by Lisa Rinehart, a video journalist--she performed with American Ballet Theatre in the seventies and eighties--who is the director of the three "Words on Dance" talks that Kaufman will soon produce at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. These will feature Mark Morris with Surupa Sen, on March 23; Christopher Wheeldon with Wendy Whelan, on May 24; and David Neumann with Doug Elkins, on May 25. All of them were or are widely loved dancers; most are now better known as choreographers. One or two are also celebrated blabbermouths. "I do think it's possible that without a moderator--just the two of them--they could imagine themselves on a couch rather than a stage, and have more fun, and tell us more," Rinehart says. There will be video clips.

Hong Kong Ballet

Co-founded in 1979 by the British dancer Mary Griffiths (and now directed by the Swedish-born Madeleine Onne), Hong Kong Ballet is one of Asia's most respected classical troupes. Its repertory follows current trends, and a recent visit to the "Fall for Dance" festival revealed a troupe of stylish, beautifully trained dancers. For its first Joyce run, it brings three works, by Nacho Duato, Krzysztof Pastor, and Fei Bo. The latter, "A Room of Her Own," is the most intriguing--Fei Bo is the man behind "Peony Pavilion," a poetic, pictorialist work. Like that piece, "A Room of Her Own" takes inspiration from literature--specifically, Virginia Woolf's famous 1929 essay. …

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