Come the holidays, Eliot Feld, artistic director of Ballet Tech, has avoided any trace of those perennials, The Nutcracker and Cinderella. He has, however, perhaps in opposition, given us a NoTCRACKER season, which is so highly spirited and entertaining that those others will not be missed. You may, in fact, end up with a sense of relief.
The two Feld ballets offered on the matinee of Dec. 23, "Papillon" and "The Jig is Up," could have been conceived in the nature of holiday fare—they were festive and utterly delightful.
"Papillon" saw participants from the senior company, Ballet Tech; the junior company, Kids Dance; and students from the Feld school. They were having a rollicking time and so was the audience.
Who wouldn't be tickled by seeing a caterpillar, ensconced in a wickedly funny mask and costume, crawling up onto the stage from the orchestra pit? What's more, his fellow "crawlies," who soon join him, are also capable of standing up and dancing through some hilariously eccentric capers, despite what would seem tightly clinging, tube-like costumes covering them from head to toe.
Enter Leopold, The Butterfly Chaser, a bungler incapable of catching the glowing "critters" in his net. However, in the person of Laumonte Williams, we do catch a dancer possessing flawless line, who, in the process of the chase, also manages to exhibit a series of stunning batterie and grand jetés. Never mind that the net, which he constantly wields, never lands a single papillon. At the conclusion, weary of his frustrating chase, he curls up next to a caterpillar and goes to sleep.
Previous to his vigorous actions, there were those wicked spiders, led by a giant one. Le Grande Araignee is formed by two dancers blended into one huge creature, portrayed by Geoffrey Huggins and Vincent Russo with devilish relish.
Their followers manage to frighten and carry off Les Petits Papillons, but not for long. Le Grand Papillion (in the person of Mitza Zobenica), who has sheltered the little ones, enters, and her magical presence prevails. Glorious costumes designed by Willa Kim could, in themselves, bedazzle even the most predatory of creatures into capitulation. They share honors with Eliot Feld's bewitching choreography, to lilting Offenbach music.
Offenbach's music was originally utilized to accompany a two-act version of the story, Le Papillon, starring Marie Taglioni in 1861. This was the only ballet ever choreographed by the legendary romantic era ballerina, and the first ballet for which Offenbach composed the music.
"The Jig is Up" first seen in 1984, remains one of Feld's most popular creations. What we have always found stimulating about this work was the method in which he captured the spirit and visions of Ireland without utilizing the familiar Irish folk or step dancing. In all aspects, "Jig" is a work of true ingenuity.
Jeannine Lowery and Laumonte Williams, in a twisting pas de deux with constantly clasped hands and swinging arm movements, commenced the exciting proceedings, while Jacquelyn Scafidi and Mitza Zobenica scored in valiant solos. A pas de trois had Ha-Chi Yu constantly thrown high into the air and caught by Nickemil Concepcion and Sean Scantlebury. The assured Ms. Yu and her dauntless partners were breathtaking.
One caveat: The war dance was originally performed by a group of men, but, this time, women were included. We thought the all-male cast seen in the original form of the production was far more dynamic.
Martha Graham School to Reopen
Those of us who practically went into mourning at the demise of the Martha Graham School and company finally have been offered a ray of hope.
Current and former Martha Graham dancers will be on the faculty of the Martha Graham School when it reopens with a full complement of classes on Jan. 16, at 37 W. 26th St. Stuart Hodes, the school's new director, has invited notable Graham stars to return, including Pearl Lang, Bertram Ross, Mary Hinkson, and Patricia Birch.
"I first walked into the Martha Graham Studio in September 1946," said Hodes, a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company from 1947 to 1959, "and knew right away it was a place of high adventure. And that is what I want to recapture!" The opening faculty will include Pearl Lang, Dudley Williams, Christine Dakin, Terese Capucilli, Susan Kikuchi, and Kenneth Topping.
An Open House Week (Jan. 1-12) will precede the official opening, in order to give returning and new students a chance to see the studios and meet the faculty. A series of public conversations will take place at 4:30 pm each day, featuring Terese Capucilli, Susan Kikuchi, Jacquelyn Buglisi, Donlin Foreman, Ellen Graff, and Sophie Maslow. Auditions for the Professional Trainee Certificate Programs will be held on Thursday, Jan. 11, at 2:30 pm.
The 75-year-old school, crucible of such creative giants as Erick Hawkins, Anna Sokolow, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Taylor, among others, will move into its permanent quarters at 316 E. 63rd St. when construction is complete, late in 2001.
To learn more about the school, call: (212) 838-5886.
New Work by Johanna S. Meyer
"Every Hotel TV Plays On," a new dance work performed by three dancers, two actors, one video camera, and one projector, and created by choreographer Johanna S. Meyer, known for her idiosyncratic style and iconic view of women, will be given its world-premiere production by Dixon Place (309 East 26th St., NYC), Jan. 11-25.
The work is presented as part of Dixon Place's popular Mondo Cane Commission Series, funded in part by NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and The Jerome Foundation.
Performances: Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm. Tickets: $15 at the door; $12 paid in advance; and $8 for students and seniors, Dixon Place members, and TDF. Reservations: (212) 532-1546.
Jennie Somogyi Promoted
New York City Ballet has announced that soloist Jennie Somogyi has been promoted to the rank of principal dancer, effective immediately.
Somogyi became an apprentice with New York City Ballet in the spring of 1993 at age 15 and joined the company as a member of the corps de ballet in the fall of 1994. She was promoted to the rank of soloist in 1998, and was the recipient of the Mae L. Wein Award, the Princess Grace Foundation Award, and the Martin E. Seigel Award.
Djoniba Dance Scholarship Auditions
Djoniba Dance & Drum Kids, a not-for-profit program that fosters the self-confidence of children by teaching self-discipline, unity, respect, and body control, is holding auditions for scholarships for children between the ages of three and 16. More than 500 children have been awarded scholarships from the program, which is now in its seventh year. Free dance and drum classes are also offered. The auditions take place at Djoniba Dance & Drum Centre, 37 East 18th St., 7th Fl., NYC. Dates: Saturday, Jan. 13 and Saturday, Jan. 20; ages three to five at 10 am; ages six to16 at 11 am. For information, call (212) 477-3464, or visit their website: www.Djoniba.com.