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BWW Interviews: Lar Lubovitch of Lar Lubovitch Dance Company

Related: Lar Lubovitch, Othello, Elliot Goldenthal, Joffrey Ballet

One of America's most versatile, popular and highly acclaimed choreographers, Lar Lubovitch leads the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in New York City, which he founded 44 years ago. Lubovitch's dances are renowned for their musicality, rhapsodic style and sophisticated formal structures.

Born in Chicago, Lubovitch was educated at the University of Iowa and the Juilliard School in New York. His teachers at Juilliard included Antony Tudor, Jose Limon, Anna Sokolow, and Martha Graham. Lubovitch made his Broadway debut in 1987 with the musical staging for the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical, Into the Woods, for which he received a Tony Award nomination. In 1993, he choreographed the highly-praised dance sequences for the Broadway show The Red Shoes. In 1996, he created the musical staging (and two new dances) for the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of The King and I. Most recently he devised the musical staging for Walt Disney's stage version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in Berlin. In addition to his work for stage, screen and television, Lubovitch has also made a significant contribution to the advancement of choreography in the field of ice-dancing. He has created dances for Olympic gold medalists John Curry, Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill, and has choreographed a full-length ice-dancing version of The Sleeping Beauty, starring Olympic medalists Robin Cousins and Rosalynn Sumners.

In 2007, to supplement the activities (creating, performing and teaching) of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, he founded the Chicago Dancing Company, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to present a wide variety of excellent dance and build dance audiences in his native Chicago. Lubovitch has choreographed over 100 dances for his own company, as well as companies around the world.

Broadwayworld Dance recently interviewed Mr. Lubovitch about his ballet, Othello, A Dance in Three Acts, which will be presented this month by the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.

Q. Why did you pick Othello? What did you see in the play that could be performed in dance without speech?

A. Othello is a story that I believed could be told in pictures and by actions. Its themes of envy, obsessive love and tragic misunderstandings are universally understood. Dance, as a mode of storytelling, works best as a vehicle for describing or embodying the emotional conditions that are drawn by Shakespeare. There is nothing subtle in the actions these characters take, or the consequences of those actions. In addition, it's a story that a majority of people already know, very much like Romeo and Juliet, another Shakespearean play that has been told in dance.

Q. An original American full-length ballet is exceedingly rare and almost prohibitively expensive. In 1997, when you created Othello, it took two major companies teaming up as sponsors: American Ballet Theatre and the San Francisco Ballet. Was it purely economics?

A. At the time Othello was conceived, no new full length story dance with an original score had been created in America for several decades. Such an idea was not in vogue in an era where dance had become more abstract. The cost alone was the more prohibitive factor. Michael Kaiser, at that time Executive Director of American Ballet Theater, originated the idea of two major companies sharing the cost and the finished dance. So it was Kaiser who developed the partnership between ABT and San Francisco Ballet, and made Othello possible.

Q. You had never met Elliot Goldenthal when you commissioned him to write the music for Othello. But you had heard the music for the film, Interview with the Vampires, a score rich with tarantellas. You said that you envisioned the music of the second act being based on tarantellas. Is that why you chose Goldenthal?

A. I had been searching for the right composer for a while. Elliot was recommended to me by Jack Everly, the orchestra conductor for ABT at that time. He knew that I was going to base the second act on the tarantella, a dance that was thought in late medieval times to cause insanity. It was also labeled satanic and forbidden by the Catholic Church It was an ideal accompaniment to Iago's "perfect evil." It was the tarantellas that Elliot had written for Interview thatcaptured my interest, and appeared to make it a very good fit. Though we had never met before, we struck up an understanding immediately.

Q. Your reputation is with modern dance works, not ballet. You said that you approached the task as an innovator who wanted to create a contemporary version of a classically shaped ballet, but using one contemporary language. Could you elaborate on this?

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Barnett Serchuk Editor-in-Chief of Broadwayworld Dance.



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