As someone who has spent my entire professional life performing, choreographing, teaching, and now Co-founder, Chief Editor, and writer for LA Dance Chronicle, I know first hand that dancers often travel around the globe in order to find work. They also enjoy visiting cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, London, Paris, etc. to see and be inspired by what dance artists are currently creating. It is in that vein that I occasionally write about what is taking place in cities other than Los Angeles just in case a few of our readers might be visiting and interested in attending a dance concert or two. Indeed there are two very different dance events taking place in New York at the end of September and into October that piqued my interest.
DENISHAWN, dances by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, the Mother and Father of American Modern Dance, will be performed by several New York dancers from different companies on September 30 through October 3, 2021 at the Theatre at St. Jeans, 150 East 76th Street. And The Trust for Governors Island announced the world premiere of Herstory of the Universe@Governors Island by Richard Move and MoveOpolis! featuring six site-specific dance performances occurring in several of the beautiful landscapes around the Island. These events came to my attention through publicists Audrey Ross (Audrey Ross/Publicity) and Janet Stapleton (New Dance Alliance in NYC) and I owe much of the information included here to them.
Audrey Ross was a dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Ruth Page’s Chicago Opera Ballet, Theatre Dance Collection (Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Lynn Simonson, Jacqulyn Villamil), first National Company of Camelot, productions of Oklahoma!, including at the State Theatre/Lincoln Center, and numerous other ballet and contemporary dance groups. Ross then became an administrator working at the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. She worked as a publicist for Pentacle from 1980 to ’82 followed by founding Audrey Ross/Publicity, which handles publicity for dance and music events.
“I had the great pleasure of handling publicity for Denishawn Repertory Dancers for several years, even going to Lyon, France, with the Company when they appeared at the Biennale Festival. I was very saddened by the passing in 2010 of Jane Sherman at the age of 101, the last living member of the original Denishawn Company, and the subsequent closing of the Denishawn Repertory Dancers,” Ross stated in her press release. “ It has been my wish ever since to produce some of these dances that heralded the beginning of American Modern Dance, so that they may be enjoyed and not forgotten. I have added producing to my usual job of publicity and am making my dream come true with a dream cast of remarkable artists.”
The list of esteemed dance artists performing in DENISHAWN include: Arthur Avilés, former member of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance and founder of BAAD!, performing “Danse Américaine,” (1923, Shawn); PeiJu Chien-Pott, former principal dancer and current guest artist with the Martha Graham Dance Co, performing “A Javanese Court Dancer” (1926, St. Denis); Christine Dakin, former Artistic Director and longtime principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, in “Waltz/Liebestraum” (1922, St. Denis); Antonio Fini, principal dancer with the Michael Mao Dance Company, and guest with the Martha Graham Dance Company, performing “The Cosmic Dance of Siva” (1926, Ted Shawn); Nina Jirka, member of the Vanaver Caravan, dancing “The Legend of the Peacock” staged for the Vanaver Caravan by Jane Sherman (1914, Ruth St. Denis); Valentina Kozlova, former principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet and New York City Ballet, performing “Incense” (1906, St. Denis); Bradley Shelver, Metropolitan Opera Ballet principal, dancing “Japanese Spear Dance” (1919, Shawn); Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble, principal custodian of the works of Anna Sokolow, will perform the trio “Choeur Dansé” (1926, Shawn), taught and coached by Francesca Todesco; and Limón2 will open the program with “Floor Plastique” (1916, Shawn), taught and coached by Henning Rübsam. Musician Jonathan Howard Katz is a pianist/composer and director of Periapsis Music and Dance.
As a teenager, RUTH ST. DENIS (January 20, 1879 – July 21, 1968) first appeared in vaudeville and musical comedy shows. Denis became interested in Asian art and dance after seeing a poster featuring an Egyptian scene of the goddess Isis while she was touring in David Belasco’s productions. She began studying Hindu art and philosophy and these studies influenced her choreography throughout her life. She took the stage name Ruth St. Denis and in 1906, gave performances in NYC and toured throughout Europe. In 1914 she met and married Ted Shawn and together they formed Denishawn, which toured the world from 1915 to 1928 with their original choreography. Among the members of Denishawn were Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, Doris Humphrey, and Jane Sherman. With Ted Shawn, St. Denis founded numerous dance schools around the country, including in Los Angeles, and continued to teach and inspire her pupils until her death at age 90.
TED SHAWN (October 21, 1891 – January 9, 1972) took his first ballet lessons after a bout of diphtheria left his legs temporarily paralyzed and made his professional debut in 1913 as a ballroom dancer. He and Ruth St. Denis’ creation of the Denishawn Company and School changed the course of dance history. Shawn later became a major impresario, forming Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers, touring the U.S., Canada, Cuba, and England from 1933 to 1940. In 1931, Shawn founding the now world famous Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, considered to be the crowning achievement of his many years as a dancer and choreographer. After separating, Shawn and St. Denis continued on as business associates, promoting dance through education, producing a generation of major dancer/choreographers, and the lasting legacy of Jacob’s Pillow.
WHAT: DENISHAWN – a program of rarely seen works by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn
WHEN: September 30-October 3 (Thurs/Fri/Sat. at 7:30 PM; Sunday at 3 PM)
WHERE: Theatre at St. Jeans, 150 East 76th Street (just east of Lexington Avenue). The theater is accessible down the flight of stairs on E 76th St., or by self-service elevator at the corner of Lexington & 76th St.)
TICKETS: $35; $25 for students/seniors/dancers – Reservations HERE.
** The theatre requires wearing of masks and proof of vaccination for entry
Program subject to change
On Saturday, October 9, and Saturday, October 16, 2021, The Trust for Governors Island will present the world premiere of Herstory of the Universe@Governors Island by Richard Move and MoveOpolis! featuring a series of six site-specific dance performances. Herstory of the Universe@Governors Island is conceived, directed and choreographed by Move and is the first performance work commissioned by the Trust for Governors Island.
Each of the six performances will be inspired by and in conversation with its unique sites on Governors Island, including the ecosystems, architectures, materials and species that dwell within. From the abstract to the fantastical, the work will embody various biological and natural processes in a kind of biomimicry—telling the stories of Governors Island through a series of kinetic, strikingly costumed dance installations. Visitors will be led on a journey across the iconic public space—from the ancient trees of Nolan Park to the secluded lawns of Hammock Grove and the dramatic topography of the Hills.
The cast of Herstory of the Universe will include seven female dance artists: Robyn Cascio, Megumi Eda, Lisa Giobbi, Celeste Hastings, PeiJu Chien-Pott, Natasha M. Diamond-Walker, and Gabrielle Willis. The costume design is by Karen Young.
“We are honored to premiere this exciting piece from Richard Move and continue our dedication to bringing deeply engaging, free public art and culture to Governors Island,” said Clare Newman, President and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. “Each season our visitors are inspired by the collection of dynamic art that exists in dialogue with the space, and this new work further enhances our bold vision and commitment to creating immersive and site-responsive projects for all New Yorkers.”
“We are thrilled to be working with Richard Move for our first performance-based public art commission on Governors Island. Arts and culture programs continue to grow with each new season, and we feel particularly lucky to be able to present this project at such a critical time,” said Meredith Johnson, VP of Arts and Culture at the Trust for Governors Island. “This new dance piece will marry movement with place and invite our community of visitors to interact with the Island in completely new ways.”
RICHARD MOVE is Artistic Director of MoveOpolis! a TEDGlobal Oxford Fellow and Ph.D. Candidate (ABD) at New York University. MoveOpolis! has been presented in New York, Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival, Sitelines/River to River Festival as well as internationally. MoveOpolis! collaborators include designer Patricia Field (Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada), maverick visual artist Charles Atlas and writer Hilton Als (The New Yorker). Move’s many accomplishments include The Show (Achilles Heels), originally commissioned and performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and the White Oak Dance Project, which Dance Magazine said “A brilliant work and the most revolutionary work Baryshnikov has commissioned… A powerful, iconoclastic theater piece that’s made to measure for the 21st Century.”
Move’s other choreographic commissions include Lamentation Variations for the Martha Graham Dance Company, and acclaimed works for PARADIGM (Carmen de Lavallade, Gus Solomons, Jr., and Dudley Williams), the American Festival of Paris, the Opera Ballet of Florence, Italy, and for New York City Ballet Principal Helene Alexopoulos. Move has created large-scale, multi-media events for the European Cultural Capitol of France, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards and in 2014 at the Parrish Art Museum. He choreographed Dame Shirley Bassey’s Diamonds are Forever at the Cannes Film Festival AMFAR Gala and directed Isaac Mizrahi in LES MIZrahi.
To learn more about Richard Move and MoveOpolis!, click HERE.
Dates and Reservations for Herstory of the Universe@Governors Island
Herstory of the Universe@Governors Island will be presented on Saturday, October 9, 2021 (rain date on October 10) and Saturday, October 16, 2021 (rain date on October 17). Performances are free and open to the public, but reservations are encouraged. Click here to make a reservation.
Governors Island is only accessible by ferry. To experience the full performance, visitors are encouraged to take ferries to Governors Island at the following times:
— From the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan: 10am, 10:40am, 11:20am, 12pm, 12:40pm
— From Brooklyn (Atlantic Avenue/Pier 6): 10:15am, 11:15am, 12:15pm
— From Brooklyn (Red Hook/Atlantic Basin): 9:45am, 10:45am, 11:45am, 12:45pm
To make Ferry ticket reservations for performance dates, click HERE. Face coverings are required when boarding, riding and exiting Governors Island ferries.
If arriving after the start time of 1pm, visitors may join the program in progress by checking in at The Climate Museum’s exhibition space in Nolan Park and proceeding to the next performance site.
Starting Time and Location
Visitors will begin their guided journey at The Climate Museum (Nolan Park Building 18), where they will receive an illustrated, hand-held map of the performance locations with more details. The map will be its own keepsake, created by fashion illustrator Connie Fleming. Each performance will last approximately 15 minutes and take place on the half hour, with the first performance beginning at 1pm and the final performance ending at 3:45pm.
To learn more about The Trust for Governors Island, click HERE.
Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton from press releases by Audrey Ross/Publicity and Janet Stapleton (New Dance Alliance).
Featured image: PeiJu Chien-Pott in A Javanese Court Dancer – Photo by Costa