Juilliard Spring Dances Features Masterworks By Cunningham, Pite, And Tharp
Juilliard Dance, led by acting artistic director Taryn Kaschock Russell, continues its season with Spring Dances, a repertory program featuring Merce Cunningham's Sounddance, set to Untitled 1975/1994 by David Tudor and staged by Jean Freebury; Crystal Pite's Grace Engine, set to music by Owen Belton and staged by Alexandra Damiani; and Twyla Tharp's Deuce Coupe, set to music by The Beach Boys and staged by Richard Colton.
Spring Dances performances take place Wednesday, March 21 through Saturday, March 24, 2018, at 7:30pm with an additional matinee performance on Saturday, March 24, 2018 at 2pm. All performances take place in Juilliard's Peter Jay Sharp Theater.
Tickets at $30 ($15 for full-time non-Juilliard students) are available at juilliard.edu/calendar.
Cunningham created Sounddance upon returning from nine weeks spent at the Paris Opera, where he was working on Un jour ou deux. The fast and vigorous piece is set to a powerful score by David Tudor. Sounddance was premiered on March 8, 1975 at the Music Hall in Detroit. Juilliard presents this Cunningham work in celebration of the upcoming 100th anniversary of Cunningham's birth, on April 16, 2019. Grace Engine, set to an electronic score by Owen Belton, was created by Crystal Pite for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. In the work, Pite continues her exploration of the familiar storylines that connect mankind. Pite positions and frames these narrative elements with her choreographic language. The work had its premiere on January 31, 2012, by Cedar Lake at La Maison de la Danse in Lyon, France.
Twyla Tharp's Deuce Coupe was commissioned by Robert Joffrey for the Joffrey Ballet and was premiered on February 8, 1973 at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago. The work is both Tharp's first major commission and the first crossover ballet, a dance that forms a bridge between modern and classical styles. The piece is set to music by The Beach Boys, and Juilliard Dance also performed it in 2007.
About the Choreographers
Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) was a leader of the American avant-garde throughout his 70-year career and is considered one of the most important choreographers of our time. With an artistic career distinguished by constant experimentation and collaboration with groundbreaking artists from every discipline, Cunningham expanded the frontiers of dance and contemporary visual and performing arts. His lifelong passion for innovation also made him a pioneer in applying new technologies to the arts. Born in Centralia, Wash., on April 16, 1919, Cunningham began his professional dance career at 20 with a six-year tenure as a soloist in the Martha Graham Dance Company. In 1944 he presented his first solo show and in 1953 formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as a forum to explore his groundbreaking ideas. Together with John Cage, his partner in life and work, Cunningham proposed a number of radical innovations, chief among them that dance and music may occur in the same time and space, but could be created independently of one another. The couple also made extensive use of chance procedures, abandoning musical forms, narrative, and other conventional elements of dance composition. For Cunningham the subject of his dances was always dance itself. An active choreographer and mentor to the arts world throughout his life, Cunningham earned some of the highest honors bestowed in the arts, including the National Medal of Arts (1990), the MacArthur Fellowship (1985), Japan's Praemium Imperiale (2005), and the British Laurence Olivier Award (1985). Always forward-thinking, Cunningham established the Merce Cunningham Trust in 2000 and developed the precedent-setting Legacy Plan prior to his death, to ensure the preservation of his artistic legacy.
Canadian choreographer and performer Crystal Pite is a former company member of Ballet British Columbia and William Forsythe's Ballett Frankfurt. Pite's professional choreographic debut was in 1990, at Ballet British Columbia. Since then, she has created more than 40 works for companies such as Nederlands Dans Theater I, Cullberg Ballet, Ballett Frankfurt, the National Ballet of Canada, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (Resident Choreographer, 2001-2004), Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Ballet British Columbia, and Louise Lecavalier/Fou Glorieux. She has also collaborated with Electric Company Theatre and Robert Lepage. Crystal is associate choreographer of Nederlands Dans Theater I and Associate Dance Artist of Canada's National Arts Centre. In 2013, Pite was appointed associate artist at Sadler's Wells, London. In 2002, she formed Kidd Pivot in Vancouver. The company's distinct choreographic language-a breadth of movement fusing classical elements and the complexity and freedom of structured improvisation-is marked by a strong theatrical sensibility and a keen sense of wit and invention. Kidd Pivot tours nationally and internationally, performing such highly-demanded and critically acclaimed works as Dark Matters and Lost Action. Most recently, the company has premiered Betroffenheit, a co-creation with playwright and actor Jonathon Young of Electric Company Theatre. Pite is the recipient of the Banff Centre's Clifford E. Lee Award (1995), the Bonnie Bird North American Choreography Award (2004), and the Isadora Award (2005). Her work has received several Dora Mavor Moore Awards (2009, 2012), and a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award (2006). She is the recipient of the 2008 Governor General of Canada's Performing Arts Award, Mentorship Program, the 2011 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award, the inaugural Lola Award in 2012, and the Canada Council's 2012 Jacqueline Lemieux Prize. Most recently, she received a Laurence Olivier Award (2015) for outstanding achievement in dance.
Since graduating from Barnard College in 1963, Twyla Tharp has choreographed more than 160 works:129 dances, 12 television specials, five Hollywood movies, four full-length ballets, four Broadway shows and two figure skating routines. She has also written three books. She has received one Tony Award, two Emmy Awards, 19 honorary doctorates, the Vietnam Veterans of America President's Award, the 2004 National Medal of the Arts, the 2008 Jerome Robbins Prize, and a 2008 Kennedy Center Honor. Her many grants include the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, and she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In addition to choreographing for her own company Twyla Tharp Dance, she has created dances for companies worldwide, where her works continue to be performed.
Taryn Kaschock Russell is acting artistic director of Juilliard Dance. She has been a member of Juilliard's faculty since 2014 and served as associate director of Juilliard's Dance Division in the 2016-17 academic year. She has also been on the faculty of the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase. Ms. Russell directed Hubbard Street 2 between 2008 and the spring of 2013. Prior to that, she held the position of rehearsal director of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC). In her 12-year performing career with both HSDC and the Joffrey Ballet, she traveled extensively, performing works by George Balanchine, John Cranko, Agnes De Mille, Martha Graham, Lar Lubovitch, Ji?í Kylián, Nacho Duato, Ohad Naharin, and William Forsythe. During her tenure as director of HS2, she was responsible for programming and staffing the HSDC summer intensives and curating HSDC's National Choreographic Competition each season. In this capacity, Ms. Russell realized her passion for teaching and mentoring young and emerging artists.
Ms. Russell has guest-taught at the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Trey McIntyre Project, Ballet Hispanico, Ballet BC, and is a regular company teacher for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She has been commissioned to choreograph work for HSDC, as part of its Danc(e)volve Series at the Museum of Contemporary Art and has staged existing repertoire on the Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Ms. Russell has composed a number of site-specific installations, most notably in collaborative partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The Juilliard Dance Division, now in its 66th season, is a groundbreaking conservatory dance program whose faculty and alumni have changed the face of dance around the world. The program was established in 1951 by William Schuman during his tenure as president of Juilliard with the guidance of founding director Martha Hill. It became the first major teaching institution to combine equal dance instruction in both contemporary and ballet techniques. Among the early dance faculty members at Juilliard were Alfred Corvino, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, José Limón, Anna Sokolow, Antony Tudor, and Héctor Zaraspe.
Alumni of Juilliard's Dance Division include Robert Battle, Pina Bausch, Martha Clarke, Mercedes Ellington, Robert Garland, Charlotte Griffin, Kazuko Hirabayashi, Adam Hougland, Saeko Ichinohe, Loni Landon, Jessica Lang, Lar Lubovitch, Bruce Marks, Susan Marshall, Austin Mccormick, Andrea Miller, Ohad Naharin, and Paul Taylor.