Revue: With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario by Eva Maze

Yes, I spelled revue like that on purpose, it’s a stylistic choice.

I recently had the pleasure of being asked to review Eva Maze’s memoir With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario. The book is written by Maze and starts with her early days in Bucharest, Romania, during which she survived a bout with scarlet fever, a disease that would end her classical dance training before it had a chance to begin.

Each chapter is named after a city or country Maze lived in. The memoir shows Maze’s college years, marriage to her husband of nearly 50 years Oscar Maze, and the eventual beginnings and success of her career as an impresario, during which time she produced shows for notable dance companies including Lar Lubovitch, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, José Limón Dance Company and Bella Lewitzky Dance Company. The memoir ends with Maze’s eventual retirement to Sarasota, Florida, where she currently resides.

If Forrest Gump were a dancer, this is how I imagine the movie would have played out (haven’t had the chance to read the book yet–it’s on my list). The book beautifully integrates dance and the arts as a whole with major world events. Photos and visuals appear on nearly every page showing Maze as a child, young woman and as she is today at 95 years old. Coupled with newspaper reviews of many of Maze’s shows and historical photographs,  the book is one part memoir, one part photo album and one part history archive.

Maze has a front row seat to WWII, the raising and tearing down of the Berlin wall and the tragic massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympic games, among other landmarks in time. What’s interesting about With Ballet in My Soul, although it doesn’t become apparent until the very end of the book, is that because Maze spends the majority of her adult life living abroad, we aren’t given a glimpse into how dance intersects with major American events. The assassinations of  JFK, Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, the space race, and even the rise of computers and the internet are all omitted from the story save for a passing reference near the end. While it would have been interesting to see dance as a part of American history,  these elements aren’t missed.  Maze goes into amazingly descriptive detail to discuss her time in places like Berlin, Tokyo and Paris both as a producer of performances and as an observer of cultures.

While I generally enjoyed Maze’s discussion of the various environments she lived in throughout her life, there were times where I felt her assessment of other people’s cultures could veer into the territory of being a bit voyeuristic and problematic. An example of this is in the opening  lines of Maze’s chapter about India. Maze describes her life in Europe as “organized” and “middle class” but calls the Indian culture “chaotic, dirty, noisy, hot, poor and very exotic.” This othering happens in other areas as well including a section where Maze refers to a Kabuki dance theater in Tokyo as “exotic,” and it definitely took away from my enjoyment of Maze’s narrative.

It is no secret that it is a privilege to get to travel freely and experience other cultures. Maze does appear to become a student of the cultures she is able to live amongst and seems genuinely interested in learning the dance styles and history of places like New Delhi, Kathmandu and Tokyo. But her attempts, however subtle or unintentional, to differentiate her European upbringing from other non-western cultures, and even from being American (even though she lived and attended college in New York) are off-putting, and put a damper on my appreciation of what would have otherwise been an engrossing narrative.

Privilege aside, Maze does tell an engaging story that flows nicely from the beginning of her life as an aspiring ballerina to her present situation as a woman who has lived a full, rich life and can now enjoy the fruits of her labor. I often say that the key to success as a dancer and in life is to lean into the fact that your career won’t look like the career of the person next to you, the dancer your age, or anyone else. Eva Maze’s desire and willingness to have dance and the arts in her life in any way possible led her to have a brief professional dancing career and a longer and fulfilling career as an impresario. I’d say this could be a worthwhile read for dancers and dance lovers who want to learn about dance from someone who danced briefly, and also learn about what life can be like after dance.

You can purchase to book on Amazon.

Dance World News (Aug. 26, 2017)

First things first… Happiest of Birthdays to the O.G. Dance Momma, whose truck (R.I.P.  Chrysler Aspen) became a bus to and from Orlando for competitions and a home for lost dance shoes, my Mom!!! Love you so much!

And now…on to the news of the world, the dance world that is.

 

  • From the corps to choreography: Alvin Ailey Alum (one time for alliteration) Jamar Roberts will be premiering his first choreographic work for the company “Members Don’t Get Weary” during the company’s upcoming season on Dec. 8. Set to the music of saxophonist John Coltrane, the work is, “a response to the current social landscape in America [and] takes an abstract look into the notion of one ‘having the blues,'” Roberts said in a statement. Learn more here.
  • The Boston Ballet Goes Black:  The Boston Ballet recently accepted three new Black Members into its corps. Dancers Daniel Durrett, Chyrstyn Fentroy and Tyson Clark will be joining the company during its 2017-2018 season. On the whole according to the Bay State Banner, the company is comprised of people representing 15 nationalities.
  • Cast your votes for Dance Magazine‘s Readers Choice Award!
  • With its new location in Memphis’ midtown entertainment district, Ballet Memphis hopes to bring ballet out of the suburbs and position it as a relevant urban cultural fixture. Learn more here.

👀

Watch this!

 

This video shows a troupe of robots dancing in perfect sync. At 1,069 they have also taken home the Guinness World Record for most robots dancing simultaneously (which I didn’t even know there was a record for…)

Dance World News (March 22, 2017)

Rest in Peace…Dance innovator Trisha Brown passed away on Saturday March 18 after a long illness. Brown studied under Anna Halperin and later went on to revolutionize post modern dance with her own company, the Trisha Brown company (founded in 1970). Brown is known for her works including Set and Reset and Watermotor. Brown was also known as a visual artist with drawings appearing in various exhibitions and museums. Brown retired from dancing in 2008 and received numerous including the MacArthur “Genius” Grant (she was the first woman to receive this award), two Guggenheim fellowships, the New York Governor’s Arts Award and the 1994 Samuel H. Scripps American Festival of the Arts Award.

Former American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet Dancer Michael Maule passed away. Maule was born and began studying dance in South Africa. After moving to the United States, Maule performed with ABT and NYCB partnering with ballerinas including Alicia Alonso, Alexandra Danilova, Maria Tallchief and Alicia Markova. Maule also taught at Juilliard and served as the head of the Academy of the Arts in Chamaign-Urbana

Sneak Peek…Jennifer Lopez held a press event for her upcoming show World of Dance. “It’s like a dream come true and, like, the perfect job for me. In a sense, we created literally the perfect show for me to be a part of,”  she said about the show. World of Dance is set to premiere in May and will feature Derek Hough, Ne-Yo and Jenna Duwan-Tatum as judges. Benny Medina, Lopez’s longtime manager, and the show’s executive producer promises that the show will   “to do to dance what ‘The Voice’ has done to singing.”

Dancing into Space…Dance and science will collide again, in Pearlann Porter’s new “The Invisible Jazz Labs” series. The work will debut at Point Breeze’s The Space Upstairs above Construction Junction and will also include field studies at Carnegie Mellon University.

Make Dance not War Women in Gaza have begun forming dance troupes and performing at Christian and Muslim weddings. These troupes were formed to generate income for women, combat unemployment, the and challenge the conservative culture and  traditionally male dance world in Gaza. “This will not stand in the way of the source of my livelihood, nor will it stop me from developing my talent and achieving fame in this field,” said Naha, one of the dancers who declined to provide her full name to Al Monitor.

Saying Goodbye…After 50 years of training dancers in the Oakhurst, Calif. area, the Patti Law School of Dance will be closing its doors. This closure is occurring as a result of the expansion of the Golden Chain Theatre School of the Performing Arts. Patti Law, who also helped found the GCT is less than pleased “After working all those years to keep the GCT open, and to be there to burn the mortgage in 1999, It’s just not right to dismiss one of the founding members who loves the Golden Chain. This is not the way I dreamed it would all end,” she said.

Let the kids dance…The Dance Liberation Network is calling for the repeal of New York City’s “Cabaret Law,” which prohibited three or more people from dancing in a club without a license. The law was reportedly created to regulate black jazz clubs and is still enforced.

 

What’s going on in your dance world? Did I miss anything? Let me know below!

Terpsichorean Heroes: Isabella Boylston Gives the Gift of Ballet to Her Home State

ABT principal Isabella Boylston is giving the gift of dance back to her hometown of Sun Valley, Idaho.

The 30-year-old ballerina is organizing the inaugural Ballet Sun Valley. The three-day festival will take place at the Sun Valley Pavilion and feature performances from the New York City Ballet, Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and the Mariinsky Ballet.

“This feels like a very personal project,” Boylston told the New York Times.

While Boylston has yet to reveal her full cast-list of dancers, she says they are all dancers with whom she has an existing relationship. Boylston herself will be dancing the solo originally intended for Sara Mearns from “The Bright Motion.” Gemma Bond has also been commissioned to choreograph a piece based around a solar eclipse that is supposed to happen over Sun Valley the weekend of the festival.

“We thought that would be a cool theme to draw inspiration from,” Boylston said.

Boylston is hoping this festival will become a regular event. Congratulations, Isabella. DanceTopia wishes you the best of luck.

 

Dance World News (Mar. 2, 2017)

Learn about why Misty Copeland is pro-drugstore makeup and anti-excessive contouring in her latest interview with Allure Magazine.

Dancing with the Stars announces its season 24 cast! This year’s lineup includes Olympic Gold Medalists Nancy Kerrigan and Simone Biles, Mr. T and Heather Morris.  Who will take home this season’s mirrorball trophy?

 

On the heels of Black History Month, learn about a Washington D.C. dance studio that has been named a city landmark.

//www.voanews.com/embed/player/0/3739098.html?type=video

Yasmeen Godder worked with both able-bodied and disabled dancers for her new work Simple Action, which is set to premiere next week in Jaffa.

Click here to learn more about the fascinating cultural exchange between Russian and Italian ballet.

Dance protests are popping up all over the country. Read about this one in New York, and see below for a video of a dance protest in Chicago.

Dance World News (Feb. 23, 2017)

We open with a bit of sad news as the president continues to express his intent to cut the NEA, which not only funds the arts and various dance companies, but also provides aid to news outlets like PBS and NPR.

 

Happy 150th birthday to the Boston Conservatory. Relive some of the prestigious school’s history and learn more about its exciting winter and spring lineup.

New research shows that dance training can lead to mental health problems including psychological inflexibility, anxiety and depression.

Take a break from Dance Moms and binge-watch Kelly Ripa’s Youtube reality series Joffrey Elite. The show follows 10 dancers at the Joffrey Ballet School who enter dance competitions. The series will release new episodes every week for the next four months-goodbye weekend plans, hello bed, sweats and popcorn!

 

Meet Russell Janzen, the New York City Ballet’s newest principal!

Looking to cross-train? Swimming, running and rowing are among the best cardio workouts for dancers. Get your gym shoes on!

 

 

Terpsichorean Heroes: Phoebe Pearl

It all started with an Instagram post.

rockette-ig

That is (part of) how The Radio City Rockettes performance at Donald Trump’s inauguration became national news a month before the scheduled appearance. In the wake of her moment of outspokenness, Phoebe Pearl, the Rockette who made the post about the performance has become a dance world hero.

“The women I work with are intelligent and full of love,” Pearl said in her original Instagram post. “I am speaking for just myself but please know that after we found out this news we have been performing with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts.”

Since publicly voicing her displeasure at being compelled to perform at the inauguration, Phoebe Pearl has maintained her stance. Most recently, Pearl spoke at an event hosted by the Bessie Awards at the LaMama Theatre, where dance icons like Yvonne Rainer praised her courage and toasted the first amendment. But for Pearl, this was more than just an act of bravery. “This isn’t political, this is about human rights. No matter where you come from, your sexual orientation or race, you deserve respect, you deserve love,” she said.

I’m just standing up for human rights….standing up for what we all deserve, and how we treat each other. As artists we all owe it to ourselves, owe it to the community. It’s our obligation to use our platforms to do what’s right. This isn’t political, this is about human rights. No matter where you come from, your sexual orientation or race, you deserve respect, you deserve love. We live in a country that grants us the right to speak against something that’s against that.”-Phoebe Pearl

“It is this essential American freedom of expression that dancers embody in their physical work onstage. Dance and all artistic expression are by their very nature personal and political, and a critical part of our national cultural dialogue,” said Bessies director Lucy Sexton. To Phoebe Pearl, to her fellow dancers at the Rockettes, know that we support you, that we salute you, that we stand ready to fight for your—and all of our—rights under the Constitution, especially the precious right of Americans to freely express ourselves.”

While Pearl may not think of herself as being overly courageous, the bravery of her act cannot be ignored. Thus far, Pearl is the only Rockette to speak out using her real name. Another Rockette gave an exclusive interview to Marie Claire under the pseudonym “Mary” but many others have remained silent. Pearl has also not backed down from her original statement, instead holding fast to her beliefs and continuing to publicly claim them, even as the Rockettes performed at the White House today.

In a world that is as small as that of professional dance, speaking out publicly against your employer can have severe consequences. While The Rockettes organization has said that the dancers’ fears of retribution are unfounded, Rosemary Novellino-Mearns, the former dance captain of the Radio City Ballet Company, begs to differ. Novellino-Mearns successfully rallied to save the Radio City Music Hall from demolition and have it registered as a city landmark in the 1970s, efforts she discusses in her new book Saving Radio City Music Hall: A Dancer’s True Story. In a recent interview with journalist Sheryl McCarthy, Novellino-Mearns explained  why it has taken more than 40 years for the story to be told.

They were not gracious in their defeat. Rockefeller center…it was truly a David and Goliath story and the little guy won. And I don’t think the Rockefellers liked that–were used to that–and they buried the story completely… I never worked there again.-Rosemary Novellino-Mearns

Whether Pearl’s job is on the line remains to be seen but even if she continues to high kick as a Rockette, her actions will remain a poignant statement that the decisions of dance organizations are not always (if ever) reflective of the dancers who comprise them.

Dance World News (Jan. 18, 2017)

  • The dance and photography worlds mourn the loss of renowned photographer Martha Swope. Known for her images of Martha Graham and George Balanchine, Swope herself was a former student of the School of American Ballet whose career spanned nearly four decades. Swope’s works were honored with a special Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater (2004) and a lifetime achievement award from the League of Professional Theater Women (2007). Read more here.
  • The Bessie Awards recently held an event where Phoebe Pearl, the Rockette who initially spoke out against performing at Donald Trump’s inauguration, gave a rousing speech. “It’s our obligation to use our platforms to do what’s right,” she said.  “This isn’t political, this is about human rights. No matter where you come from, your sexual orientation or race, you deserve respect, you deserve love.” Other big names in dance including Yvonne Rainer and dance writer Eva Yaa Asantewaa were also in attendance. Click here to learn more.
  • Justin Peck is debuting a new work for the New York City Ballet titled, “The Times Are Racing,” which will featured the famed dancers in sneakers. Learn more here.

Watch Kate Hudson and James Corden take dance lessons from toddlers and see if you can keep up!

 

 

And…

 

Ryan Gosling recently watched an old video of him dancing hip hop and was about as embarrassed as anyone would be after watching an old dance video. It’s okay, Ryan. We’ve all been there.

 

Dance World News (Jan. 11, 2017)

Back on schedule and back in the news!

  • Dance Theater of Harlem will pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with their piece “Changes.” Choreographed by Diane McIntyre, the piece will feature music performed by the Spelman Glee club and will have the dancers, who typically dance en pointe, to dance in a more grounded, modern/african based style of movement.
  • Viral dance challenges may have found their next muse with a seven-year-old remix of Evelyn “Champagne” King’s disco hit “Love Come Down.
  • After years of being told “no,” former Beyoncé back-up dancer Akira Armstrong is saying yes to body positivity with her Pretty Big Movement Dance Company.
  • In the upcoming dance documentary Reset or Rélevé (in New York and L.A. theaters on Jan. 13), Benjamin Millepied describes the racism he encountered as director of the Paris Opera Ballet and other issues that ultimately led to his departure from the company in 2016 after just over a year in the role.
  • The winners of the prestigious Clive Barnes Award were announced Monday.

Finally, for our video of the week, watch this pair of newlyweds nail their version of the final dance from Dirty Dancing. Try not to smile, I dare you.

NEW! Terpsichorean Heroes

*TH posts will typically go up on Fridays, this one is coming late, again because cold. This means that there will be two TH posts this week!

And now without further ado, the inaugural edition of DanceTopia’s Terpsichorean Heroes will feature….

Mariah Carey’s back-up dancers. 

Throughout your life as a dancer,  you’ll learn to push through a lot of things that can go wrong during a performance, whether it is through direct experience or by watching others.  Personally, I’ve learned how to keep going when you make an onstage mistake, how to recover from a fall (helpful hint: it often feels worse than it looks), and how to salvage your performance when your music malfunctions or shuts off.  This New Year’s Eve I think we all learned something else–how to persevere when the star of the show has given up.

By now I’m sure everyone has had their fill of Mariah Carey news, but one of the best parts of her NYE performance was the part that got the least coverage. As you watch Mariah Carey meander around the stage and “lip sync” (I use that term VERY loosely),  you’ll also notice that her dancers never stopped giving their all even when it became obvious that Mimi wasn’t even going to try.

I guess the choreo’s not going to do itself, right?

At certain points the dancers even HELPED Mariah get to her marks on stage so that she could do the choreography. For all the things that went haywire during this show, the dancers weren’t it.

Idk about you Mariah but these guys had bills to pay.

Whoever trained these guys trained them well, and I’m sure when it was all said and done they felt that they’d more than earned their checks.  So while 2016 may have claimed one last victim in Mariah Carey’s career, it also gave us one last glimmer of hope in her dancers. These guys were six true models of professionalism and endurance, even as they danced behind someone who would be dragged in the news for weeks to come and became a part of meme/gif history.

 

Don’t believe me, just watch!

 

Dance World News (Jan. 6, 2017)

*This post is coming a bit late as I have been traveling and was sidelined by a cold the past couple of days. Stay tuned for Dance World News and some exciting new content in the coming days and weeks. 

Happy New Year!  Read on to see how the citizens of the dance world closed out 2016 and welcomed in 2017.

Dance Magazine has released its 2017 25 to watch. Check out these phenomenal movers, shakers and leapers. Among them are:  Princess Grace Fellowship Winner Paige Fraser, New York City Ballet corps member Unity Phelan and “Sorry” music video choreographer Parris Goebel. 

The plot continues to thicken in the Rockettes’ controversial decision to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration. Click here to read Marie Claire’s exclusive look into a meeting where the decision to perform was further explained.

Learn about how Minneapolis b-girls are creating space for themselves here.

JLo’s upcoming dance competition show World of Dance now has a host–actress and dancer Jenna Duwan Tatum.

After spending two years recovering from an injury,  ABT dancer and Bolshoi Ballet principal David Hallberg is back and ready to dance.

The video of the week will be replaced with an image from Memphis’ Collage Dance Collective. The striking photo features five company members, all women of color and has gone viral. The dance company is hoping to change the aesthetic of dance and the dance world’s approach to diversity. Read more about the photo here and learn more about Collage Dance Collective by visiting their website and following them on Instagram  (@collagedance).