Search View Archive

Susan Yung

Susan Yung is based in the Hudson Valley and writes about dance and the arts.

JOHN MCDEVITT KING: In Pursuit of Alien Perfection

Looking at the work of John McDevitt King, the word perfection—or some attempt to achieve it—stubbornly recurs. In the graphite fields of shading that precisely describe volume and light, and yet retain the warmth of the human touch.

Gothic Spirit: Medieval Art from Europe

Can medieval art find a niche in the contemporary art world? Gothic Spirit: Medieval Art from Europe organized by London dealer Sam Fogg and now on view at Luhring Augustine embraces this question.

In Conversation

Trisha Brown with Susan Yung

Trisha Brown Dance Company performs at the Joyce Theater Feb 5 – 10 in a program featuring I love my robots (2007), If you couldn’t see me (1994), and Foray Forêt (1980). Susan Yung recently spoke with Trisha Brown in her Soho loft.

In Conversation

Doug Varone with Susan Yung

Doug Varone founded his New York-based company, Doug Varone and Dancers, in 1986. In addition to choreographing for his own company, which has toured the world, he has directed and choreographed opera, theater, and musical theater. Doug Varone and Dancers will perform at the Joyce Theater from February 24 through March 1.

An Art/Sound Environment with Fleeting Bodies

“On the brink of the end of paper, I was attracted to the idea of a book that can’t forget it has a body,” Jonathan Safran Foer said in a New York Times interview about his art book, Tree of Codes, the inspiration for the dance theater collaboration recently presented at the Park Avenue Armory. Foer’s book reduces and remakes Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles (Tree of Codes is a trimmed version of the title) by literally excising words, leaving gaps, and transforming the text’s meaning.

The Group as Power Source

In this era of crowd-sourcing, a sharing economy, and a Socialist garnering widespread support as a presidential candidate, BalletCollective makes sense. This ballet troupe is not leaderless—Troy Schumacher is the director and choreographer, and Ellis Ludwig-Leone is composer and music director.

Ruffling Feathers

It takes a classic ballet with good bones, like Swan Lake, to withstand centuries of interpretations. Tchaikovsky’s timeless score is often the binding agent among variations, and the key dances by Petipa/Ivanov—the pas de deux, the quartet—often remain intact.

Miami City Ballet Brings the Heat

Miami City Ballet brings challenging repertory to the Koch Theater stage, a run that includes George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Alexei Ratmansky, Justin Peck, and Liam Scarlett, with accompaniment by the New York City Ballet Orchestra (helmed by Gary Sheldon).

Mark Morris Up Close

The Mark Morris Dance Group presented two New York premieres as a part of its spring season. Alongside two older pieces, the repertoire showed the range of Morris’s smaller-scale concert performance choreography, encompassing rituals and formalism both ornate and more classical in nature.

Ratmansky’s Quiet Revolution

There’s a quiet revolution underway at ABT—in its spring season, an impressive half of the repertory is by Alexei Ratmansky. The latest addition is The Golden Cockerel, a full-length spectacle originally created in 2012 for the Royal Danish Ballet, which loaned the lavish costumes and scenery by Richard Hudson (based on early 20th-century designs by Natalia Goncharova).

From the City of Light to the City of Angels

Good news: the L.A. Dance Project (LADP) is back at full strength, with artistic director Benjamin Millepied able to refocus on the company now that he has left his post at the Paris Opera Ballet.

Ballet, Evolving

It’s been a surprisingly good year for female ballet choreographers. It could be a side effect of the political climate, or simply numbers—that half the population just might be able to create noteworthy dances as well as the other half, given the chance. In any case, American Ballet Theatre (ABT) commissioned Jessica Lang to create Her Notes, which had its world premiere in the company’s brief fall Koch Theater season.

Suffusing Form with Activism

Dance can be rewarding for its simple humanity and kineticism, particularly in the hands (and feet, and legs, and torsos) of accomplished companies like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which had its annual month-long run in December.

Justin Peck’s New Language

The rapid artistic evolution of Justin Peck continues to speed forward. His recent New York City Ballet (NYCB) premiere of The Times Are Racing may harken the pioneering sneaker dances of Jerome Robbins, which are playful, street-wise, and express the pleasures and angst of adolescence.

Whipped Cream, With a Cherry on Top

Classical ballet is in ascendance, and it’s growing more diverse. Nearly a decade ago the life of classical ballet was in question.

Timeless and Tamed: Lincoln Center Festival Koch Theater, July 2017

George Balanchine’s Jewels (1967) is in the repertory of many of the world’s renowned ballet companies, and the 2017 Lincoln Center Festival presented the iconic work with three of the best troupes, each performing one section.

Fall for Dance—Tweaking the Menu

Fall for Dance has been evolving since its inception in 2004, for better or worse becoming a somewhat more serious affair and less of a dance rave.

Dance and Music Speak the Heart: Two Generations

When Mark Morris has the opportunity to choreograph on a large scale, he has historically created some monumental pieces—L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato; Grand Duo; The Hard Nut; and Mozart Dances, to name a few.

Suspended Animation

New York City Ballet, as an organization, currently exists in a state of suspended animation between the resignation artistic director Peter Martins—accused of emotional and physical abuse of the dancers and cleared by a perhaps less than impartial arbiter—and the appointment of a successor, for whom the search is underway.

Mark Morris’s Ascension in a Shrinking Summer Dancescape at Lincoln Center

With this summer’s dearth of other large venue dance at Lincoln Center, and Morris’s consistency with Mozart festival appearances, suddenly the “enfant terrible” has assumed the role of grand poobah of summer dance at the cultural center.

NY Quadrille: Modern Dances, Fresh Views

ohn Jasperse kicked off the 2018 Quadrille, a series curated by Lar Lubovich in which a temporary square platform bridges the front of the regular Joyce stage and some front orchestra seats; viewers sit onstage on risers and in standard rear house seats.

The Tenant: A Dark Tale Told Through Movement

New narrative dance productions—as opposed to abstract or “pure dance”—exist in a kind of netherworld these days.

New Leadership, and Work, at New York City Ballet

After many months under an interim leadership team of dancers who replaced the ousted Peter Martins, the company announced that Wendy Whelan, who retired from the company in 2014 after 30 years, will be associate artistic director, and ex-principal Jonathan Stafford—who had become the de facto leader—will be artistic director.

Ratmansky’s Imprint on ABT

ABT continues on its path to becoming Alexei Ratmansky’s company.

Taylor Returns—But What Holds the Future?

The current iteration of Paul Taylor Dance Company prominently displayed the change in personnel, seen recently in the bijoux box of the Mahaiwe Theater. Flash back to the company’s last big season in fall 2019 at the Koch Theater, when the wholesale company turnover was already underway in the wake of Michael Trusnovec’s summer farewell during the Bach Festival at Manhattan School of Music.

Puffballs, Storm Clouds, and Goodbyes

At the New York City Ballet Fall Fashion Gala, choreographers Sidra Bell and Andrea Miller produced very different works, each possessing moments of interest, but ultimately falling short on choreographic invention.

Jamar Roberts’s Balletic Foray

New York City Ballet placed Jamar Roberts’s premiere, Emanon – In Two Movements, on a program with works by Pam Tanowitz and Kyle Abraham. The context signifies the prominence that Roberts’s choreography has assumed of late, sharing the marquee with two dance makers who are deservedly busy with external commissions and their own stellar companies.

Kilpatrick’s Imaginative Costumes, Activated

Hudson Hall, built in the 1850s as Hudson’s first city hall, was designed to function as a Columbia County gathering place, with a post office, bank, lecture hall, and gallery. It continues to draw the public, albeit with performances in its splendid hall, recently renovated to incorporate modern amenities such as a/c and an elevator. With a flexible, gymnasium-like floor plus a raised proscenium stage, it hosts forward-looking events which eschew traditional models.

Giselle, Transcending Centuries

Khan’s production picks snippets from Giselle’s original score, and adds all new choreography. Happily, the English National Ballet’s is a new version of a ballet that delivers emotional punch on par with the original.

A Requiem Rocks the Fundament

Kyle Abraham and Jlin shake up Mozart’s mass

Dance Your Fears Away

LOVETRAIN2020 looked like a lot of fun to dance. Emanuel Gat choreographed the work to songs by 1980s British band Tears For Fears (Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith).

Taking Root, and Taking Flight

The eight dancers spend most of the hour-long work moving together in lockstep, or in small orbiting groups. When dancers break apart from the cluster, others rush to join them, or assist when another falters.

Episodes and Ash

Rail Contributor Susan Yung examines two new performances from the New York City Ballet.

Alone, Yet Inseparable

Engrossing, mysterious characters inhabit Beth Gill’s Nail Biter

Intimacy from a Distance

Mark Mann captures the complexity of dancers in photos comprising the book Movement at the Still Point: An Ode to Dance

The Potent Alchemy of Food

Christopher Wheeldon enlivens the entire stage when given the chance, as he does in spades with ABT’s Like Water for Chocolate, a grand, new co-production with the Royal Ballet.

In Conversation

Marina Harss with Susan Yung

The two writers discuss Harss’s forthcoming biography The Boy from Kyiv: Alexei Ratmansky’s Life in Ballet.

Ballet in New York: Brio & The Blahs

A recent diablog on centered on whether New York is the dance capital of the world. It raised as many questions as it answered, but it underscored what we jaded New Yorkers can take for granted—the considerable wealth of all kinds of dance, from large companies to open class schools.

In Conversation

Michael Trusnovec with Susan Yung

Michael Trusnovec joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1998, and won a 2006 Bessie Award for his body of work with the company. In the Paul Taylor Dance Company’s March 2007 season at City Center, 32-year-old Trusnovec can be seen in 13 of 18 dances

In Conversation

Ohad Naharin with Susan Yung

Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company based in Tel Aviv, was recently in residence at Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s Chelsea studio teaching a training method he developed called “gaga.”

The Real Tomato

In this modern world, we conduct our lives through a surprising amount of mediation and simulacrum. We rely on computers for most basic information—time, outside temperature, current headlines.

Titicut Follies:
A Stark Documentary Transformed into Dance

Generating new movement ideas is difficult for choreographers, particularly when creating full-length dances. It’s so challenging that most of the big ballet companies continue to rely on narrative staples from centuries ago.

At Long Last Tanowitz

Pam Tanowitz has been making compelling dances since 2002, and yet has been passed over until just recently for choice commissions. Now, we can finally stop wondering: why isn’t Tanowitz asked to create work for major companies?

West Side Story: Ill-fated Passion Burns Anew

Robbins’ contributions and choreography in the original versions will forever be treasured, but De Keersmaeker has provided powerful, contemporary new dances that shine.

Modern Dance’s Moderns

Of modern dance’s pioneering choreographers, precious few are represented in extant companies.

NYCB’s Fashion Gala Leaps Forward

New York City Ballet (NYCB)’s recent tradition of holding a fall fashion gala has evolved from a somewhat crass leveraging of the influential world of haute couture into a fuller consideration of the conceptual possibilities of fashion as explored through dance. In the recent gala, this shift was brought into high relief by the juxtaposition of the season’s most interesting premiere—Unframed, by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, with costumes by Rosie Assoulin—with a section from Bal de Couture by Peter Martins, costumed by Valentino, from the first fashion gala in 2012.

Paul Taylor:
Dance-Dramas and Icons

The annual three-week Paul Taylor American Modern Dance season is always an impressive physical and mental tour de force for the company. Perennial questions anticipate the run: what premieres will Taylor present and how will they fit into his oeuvre?

In Conversation

Passing the Torch: Michael Novak with Susan Yung

Modern dance choreographers have been planning for their legacies in various ways. Some have chosen to disband their companies; others have, at times with the help of their boards, chosen successors. Michael Novak, a distinguished dancer with Paul Taylor Dance Company since 2010, was recently named Artistic Director Designate of the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation. I sat down with him at the Foundation headquarters in lower Manhattan.

In Conversation

PAM TANOWITZ with Susan Yung

A lot of the time I start with a new phrase, movement, or idea, but I’ll also bring along old material that feels interesting, that could be worked on more, or failed in another piece but I want to bring it forward, because part of the nature of a project-based company is that we don’t have a repertory to rehearse. That always inspires me. We’re not like Mark Morris Dance Group, working on a new piece in the morning, and rehearsing old pieces in the afternoon. What we’re working on is what we’re working on.

Bubbling Over with Joy

The all-Ratmansky program leading up to this premiere displayed ABT’s breadth, but also a conundrum—how to remain relevant while keeping the old classics fresh?

Carousel—Talent Transcends a Prickly Book

In Carousel, the stage is often crammed with props such as wooden pallets, lobster pots, and clambake detritus, leaving little space for the dancers. But Peck guides the action vertically by inserting jumps and spins; arms and legs make variegated shapes to add visual interest.

ABT Looks Forward and Back

American Ballet Theatre (ABT) took a gamble on commissioning tap choreographer Michelle Dorrance to create a pièce d’occasion for its 2018 Spring Gala. The wisdom of the choice became apparent in the first moment, when three women struck the floor, one-two-three, with their spotlit pointe shoe toes. How ingenious, and in retrospect natural, to use the toe shoe as a percussion instrument, rather than denying its proclivity to thump and clack with each step—something all ballerinas are trained to avoid. Dorrance allows ballerinas to embrace their physical selves, tethered to earth by gravity just like the rest of us. Her use of tap is not just percussion; it’s overturning a whole aesthetic and artistic dogma

Kyle Abraham’s Live! The Realest MC

In The Realest MC, the hot button topics of gender expression, assimilation, bullying, and appropriation simmer with the threat of boiling over every now and then. The takeaway is powerful—provocative ideas that linger in the mind long after the show ends.

In Conversation

Darkness Manifest, Onstage and Off

The Joyce Theater remounted Molissa Fenley’s landmark solo, State of Darkness to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Fenley and Joyce Executive Director, Linda Shelton, spoke with Susan Yung about the origins of the piece and staging the demanding choreography in the pandemic.

Two Cures for the Doldrums

What July/October activity in New York takes you on a three-hour sojourn filled with twists and turns, heroes, villains, and colorful minor characters, leading to either triumph or heartbreak?

Grand, Pleasurable, and Accessible

Mozart Dances (2006) is one of Mark Morris’s grandest and most pleasurable artistic achievements. This evening-length work in three sections elucidates the prominent themes in Mozart’s compositions with choreography that holds its own when paired with the music that has intimidated many choreographers.

Comfort, Humor, and Grace

Jane Comfort and Company’s 40th Anniversary Retrospective demonstrated how the choreographer’s work engages with audiences, while proving its wide-range and resistance to definition.

Formal / Nature

Dorrance Dance, Mark Morris Dance Group, and ABT performed with and against nature at the Kaatsbaan Spring Festival.

Lincoln Kirstein's Multi-Platform Brand, Dissected

The contents of Lincoln Kirstein's Modern sprawls over a lifetime, with work reflecting Kirstein's myriad interests and varying levels of involvement with cultural institutions. Curators Jodi Hauptman (Senior Curator) and Samantha Friedman (Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints) dissected Kirstein's career and laid out a panoply of artifacts as graphic evidence of his many obsessions.

Book Review: Reading Dance, Edited by Robert Gottlieb

With spring’s overdue arrival comes the promise of viewing things with fresh eyes.

Burning Up the House

David Byrne’s American Utopia, on Broadway, is a jukebox musical, yes, but it upends the genre. It’s at once brilliantly simple and subversively revolutionary, kind of like Byrne himself.

Faustin Linyekula—An Intensive

Implied in Crossing the Line Festival’s title are several possible interpretations of the phrase—crossing borders, boundaries of the known, even perhaps going too far.

Book Review: Merce My Way, Photographs by Mikhail Baryshnikov

Mikhail Baryshnikov has become such a familiar presence in New York’s cultural world that it’s easy to take him for granted.

In Conversation


Belgian Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has choreographed Orbo Novo for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, to be performed at the Joyce Theater from Oct 20-25.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

All Issues