On November 3 and 4, 2017, Alison Cook Beatty Dance Company presented a limited engagement performance From Concept to Production: An Evening with Alison Cook Beatty Dance at Ballet Hispánico. Bursting with raw intensity and shades of nostalgia, the showcase featured four pieces, three of which were world premieres. Bookending the performance, was an exhibition of artworks related to the choreographic process and a Q+A session with the company. From Hairography (Carolina Rivera!) to Hooteneannies, this showcase was not to be missed!
Inaugurating the performance was a two-part solo, Touched By Fire, passionately danced by the company’s Artistic Director, Alison Cook Beatty. Originally choreographed two decades ago, the first section was created when she was an undergrad at the Boston Conservatory of Music at Berklee, set to the music of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G, by YoYo Ma; while the second section was newly choreographed and set to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 4 in E flat Major, by Julius Berger. Like twin flames that never meet, Cook Beatty takes us on an incendiary journey of her past and present selves, each burning brightly in their respective realms. Expansive choreography repeatedly launched Cook Beatty’s limbs and torso into multiple planes of space, while an unsettled ground roiled beneath her. Quite dramatically, after a series of frantic head spins and overwrought contractions, she collapsed to the floor, breathless and writhing in between worlds.
The next piece, The Emotions Project, was the product of social media and collaborative choreography. As part of her research, Cook Beatty sought out her Facebook community to determine what they considered to be their most vulnerable emotion. Their responses were then charted onto a map with arrows that linked how one emotion connects and/or changes into another. Looking to the interactive map, Cook Beatty collaborated with members of her company to interpret a series of emotions into movements and phrases. The result was an extraordinary display of mental states that reverberated well beyond the stage. Set to neo-baroque music, the piece played out like a Fellini-esque dream sequence, confronting the viewer with an onslaught of emotional vignettes that endlessly synapsed throughout the night.
The final dance of the evening, Houston Street Hootenanny, was a powerful meditation on activism through the arts. Featuring all company dancers, including musical guest Marlon Cherry, the 20-minute piece delivered an inspiring and patriotic performance about the 1960s, American counterculture and the Vietnam War. From Simon and Garfunkel to Joan Baez to Bob Dylan, the soundscape reflected both highs and lows of a politically charged time, when the antiwar movement was at its peak. Highlights include Carolina Rivera’s sultry solo to Plaisir d’Amour by Joan Baez, Fiona Oba’s solemn sequence with a tattered American Flag, and the company’s vibrant energy and stage presence for the duration of the epic program. Appropriately timed for Veteran’s Day, From Concept to Production: An Evening with Alison Cook Beatty Dance was a night to remember.
By Kristen Hedberg
Viewed on Friday, November 3rd 2017
Performed at Ballet Hispánico Studios, Studio 8
- Touched By Fire – set to J.S. Bach
- First Section 2001
- Second Section World Premiere
- Touched By Fire – set to Julia Wolfe
- First and Second Sections World Premiere
- The Emotions Project (World Premiere)
- Houston Street Hootenanny (2014)
If any critic is a proponent for the relevance of American Modern Dance in 2017, it would certainly be me. Modern Dance is undeniably communicative of human emotion, holistic themes, and groundedness. The power of this genre shakes its audiences and spits them outside again to see the world in a vastly different way.
With utmost satisfaction, I viewed the choreography of former Taylor dancer Alison Cook Beatty on November 3rd at Ballet Hispánico. Modern Dance is clearly engrained in Ms. Beatty’s artistic tongue; her movement language appeared to stem from Taylor, Humphrey, Duncan and Graham. Derivatives from these techniques continuously appeared throughout the evening. More importantly, Ms. Beatty and her company dancers utilized Modern Dance to effectively communicate heavy, emotional topics. Alison Cook Beatty’s Modern Dance influence was successfully married with her own personal flare to create an enticing evening of dance.
During From Concept to Production: An Evening with Alison Cook Beatty Dance, Ms. Beatty presented four dances. The first two dances on the program were different variations on the same solo. Each dance was entirely different in structure and storyline. Ms. Beatty also made a point to reveal the process of each dance with the audience: she did this by offering a gallery exhibition and a Q&A session with herself, her company dancers, company manager Tony Musco, and guest percussionist Marlon Cherry.
I intentionally browsed through the gallery before the performance. I was curious to see in what context each item would be used. None seemed related to another, but I knew they would somehow tie in. Some of the items on exhibition included benches, musical scores by J.S. Bach, photographs from the 1960’s of riots and wars, a large map with black arrows and emotional words such as “rage” and “fear,” and a torn American Flag. The torn flag seized my attention.
Touched By Fire (Section 1 2001, Section 2 World Premiere) was a two-part solo that Alison Cook Beatty set on herself when she was a student at The Boston Conservatory of Music at Berklee. Originally choreographed as one section, Ms. Beatty described her reverence for J.S. Bach’s timeless Cello Suite No. 1 in G. Incorporating her own blaze into Bach’s suite, Beatty torched the studio with a wide, sweeping use of the space. She wore a brick red, open back leotard with a long, flowing skirt and tan tights to achieve the look of a leaping flame. The solo’s first section appeared more studious than the second section. Section two incorporated intricate gestures and deeper connections with the audience. Section two, set in 2017 as a continuation, was danced to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 4 in E Flat Major. All of Ms. Beatty’s movements were musical down to the last note. Her energy was peaceful as she glided through the space to Bach.
Alison Cook Beatty then danced both sections of Touched By Fire immediately after completing the version set to J.S. Bach. Her second go round, the solo was set to music by contemporary musician Julia Wolfe. Her Bach version translated her as a candle; in Julia Wolfe’s version, Beatty was an erupting volcano. Her overall demeanor was more playful, energetic, and wild. While her energy was strong in the first presentation of the solo, Julia Wolfe brought out a more dynamic quality in Touched By Fire’s performance.
“I was curious about my performance choices, when I was playing around with different types of music for Touched By Fire,” Beatty admitted in a talk-back session following the performance. “That’s why I went with Julia Wolfe. She brought out something completely different in the solo. In addition, I was relieved I could still physically perform the solo now, from 2001 to 2017!”
The evening’s second dance on the program was The Emotions Project (2017), a world premiere set for eight dancers in Beatty’s dance company. The Emotions Project stemmed from Beatty posing a question for many of her friends, family, and acquaintances to respond to over social media: “What do you believe the most vulnerable emotion is out there?”
Many responses included hope, shame, anger, and fear. Beatty constructed a large, tapestry-sized map with these responses written blaringly on the poster. She also pasted vulnerable images representing the responses that were taken from her home. Large, black arrows were also on her map, intending to depict how one vulnerable emotion stems into another. Dance movements were constructed by her and her dancers after conversation regarding the map.
The eight dancers’ transitions from one grouping into another depicted the map’s black arrows during The Emotions Project. They reconstructed the vulnerable images physically by how they arranged themselves in the space; virtuosic lifts, sharp diagonals, and mass groupings in organic clumps were prevalent. Employing familiar modern dance techniques, the dancers exploded in cascades of rolls, falls, recoveries, runs, and jetés. The dance opened with a contrast of brisk walks and slow, somber walks. Half of the group walked quickly while the other half did the latter.
The women wore thin, white and tan slips. Their hair was loose, and their feet were bare. The men wore long, tan pants and were bare-chested and barefooted. The thin materials they wore had an elegance, as small lace details were visible. But the lack of materials on the dancers certainly indicated vulnerability, and a lack of protection.
A scene of appearing unprotected revealed itself when company dancer Carolina Rivera became separated from the sweeping seven other dancers. The seven circled her, holding their hands in a tense circular gesture as if they were holding a ball of fire. While Carolina Rivera’s character appears depleted and desolate, her solo continues and she communicated raw desperation with technical proficiency and complete openness.
The Emotions Project did not blatantly state what the most vulnerable emotion out there is. For me, it indicated that one is not mutually exclusive.
Houston Street Hootenanny (2014) closed the program. This dance featured the full company as well as Ms. Beatty herself and guest percussionist Marlon Cherry. In this dance, I was warped into the world of the 1960’s. Eclectically dressed in denims and florals, each performer embodied a different 60’s archetype. Characters ranged from “the sexy man” to “the flower girls” to “the tough girl.” Each character interpreted his or her own challenges with living during such a changing society, for the 60’s certainly were an era of change.
Borderline shocking in this dance was a recurring prop: a tattered, mangled American flag. The “star” side of the flag was in tact, but there were several rips along the stripe’s lines. It frayed and flowed when carried through the air. It did not come across as disrespectful to be dancing with the flag. However, the state of the flag indicated that it had endured catastrophe, as with the narrative of the dancers. This flag was utilized throughout the dance as the performers twirled it, ran with it, carried it, and even wrapped it around themselves. Ms. Beatty had received this torn flag as a gift before Houston Street Hootenanny’s commission for The Joffrey Ballet School in 2014. It had been found on a railroad track, and once Ms. Beatty received it, the American flag inspired Houston Street Hootenanny. To her, the flag resonated themes of endurance and resilience within America.
I watched with fascination as her dancers reconstructed images of the Baltimore Riots of the 1960’s and the Vietnam War, when they took the space. For example, the dancers imitated “throwing back purple hearts” over three wooden benches, which were placed on stage to serve as gates. Like the process of The Emotions Project, supplemental materials (such as photographs) were used to develop the energy and aesthetic of the Houston Street Hootenanny.
Noteable about Houston Street Hootenanny was the use of music in this 2017 reconstruction. Both the original tracks were used as in the 2014 version; however, pop artists’ covers of some of these songs cut into the score and played as well. Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence began the dance – and then when Disturbed’s cover of the same song cut in, the dance was into a fiery mood. The use of popular covers overall spurred Houston Street Hootenanny to become emotionally charged in a way that represented the “then” and the “now.”
Ms. Beatty explained that she intentionally made choreographic and musical changes to Houston Street Hootenanny in this 2017 reconstruction. She wanted to demonstrate the similarities between what people are fighting for in 1967 vs. 2017.
I vaguely wondered what sort of 60’s character I would take, if I were thrust back into this era. Would I be waiting for a lover, who just returned from the war? Would I be a hippie wearing flowers in my hair and spreading the sunshine? Would I tough it out through each day’s challenges? These characters endured it all. They progressed from slow walks to running; from trudging to skipping; from twirling to clapping, falling, rolling, and fist punching the air. The 60’s were a charged era: “this dance has the capacity to represent what happened then, and the spirit to represent what is happening today,” Ms. Beatty affirmed.
While each dance spoke of entirely different themes, fire served as my common thread between the pieces. From Alison Cook Beatty’s literal Touched By Fire – to the passionate flames in The Emotions Project – to the sparks and challenges of the 1960’s-2017 in Houston Street Hootenanny – each dance was an inferno in its own right. The dances complimented their sister pieces on the program, each contrast beautiful and blazing.
I left Ballet Hispánico heated and uplifted. From Concept to Production: An Evening with Alison Cook Beatty Dance was a terrific window into the eyes of a choreographer clearly seeking where Modern Dance can be taken next.
Alison Cook Beatty Dance’s latest performance showcase, “From Concept to Production: An Evening with Alison Cook Beatty Dance,” was successfully presented to a full house at Ballet Hispánico on November 3 and 4, 2017. The audience was completely rapt and shaken by the deep, raw emotions expressed by the dancers’ bold and honest movements, set to soul-stirring as well as uplifting music that they could sing along with.
The showcase featured four distinctively different dances, three of which were world premières. Along with dance performances, the audience was treated to an exhibition of artworks related to the choreographic processes, and an intimate Q&A session with Artistic Director Alison Cook-Beatty, all the company’s dancers and guest performer Marlon Cherry.
The first dance was a solo by Ms Cook-Beatty named “Touched by Fire.” Set to the music of Bach’s Cello Suite in G Major, the first section was choreographed when she was still a student at the Boston Conservatory of Music at Berklee. The second section, set to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 4 in E Flat Major, was newly added recently and premièred on November 3. Ms Cook-Beatty danced her solo in a bright red dress, evoking the flames of fire with her passionate, soaring moves, interspersed with contractions and head spinning that bordered reckless abandonment and madness.
In the second piece, a world première, which has exactly the same title and choreography but set to a different musical piece, “Into the Clouds” by contemporary composer Julia Wolfe, the audience witnessed a transformation in Ms Cook-Beatty’s movement quality and were suddenly transported from a classical realm to the contemporary setting. It was fascinating to see how the same choreography matched two starkly different musical genres and still “worked”! The audience was spellbound by the end of the performance, when Ms Cook-Beatty self-rotated on the floor without music, seemingly in agony. The only thing audible was her breath, pulsating in the movement of silence.
As Ms Cook-Beatty explained in her introduction, the second version of this solo stemmed from an experiment of a new piece of music she came to be curious about during the reconstruction of her original choreography. The experiment happened spontaneously and was a kind of a “lucky accident.”
The next dance, titled “The Emotions Project,” also a world première, sprang from an interactive experiment that Ms Cook-Beatty did on Facebook about two months ago. She asked her audience what they considered to be the most vulnerable emotions. Responses poured in in the forms of words, phrases and pictures. Taking all the responses as clues, she then laid them all out on a huge “map,” with arrows linking how one emotion morphs into another. This map was hung on the wall next to the stage as an exposition of her creative process.
During the rehearsals, Ms Cook-Beatty would challenge the dancers to make suggestions of movements that expressed these emotions. While she would give her own instructions on choreography, and craft off of their suggestions, the dancers were encouraged to express their individual interpretations and bring them on the stage. The result was an extremely intense demonstration of the full spectrum of human emotions in a capsule–from fear to anger, rejections, panic attack, desperation, shame, schadenfreude, to joy, forgiveness, peace and empathy.
As senior dancer Carolina Rivera told the audience later in the Q&A section, it was a big challenge to rehearse this dance, as dancers were invited to relinquish “control” and give in to the fluid and spontaneous interactions with their partners to come up with their unique interpretations of each emotion. Some of the emotions were particularly “shocking” to perform. For example, when newly hired dancer Nika Antuanette came to her first rehearsal, she immediately had to plunge into the dance of a panic attack!
Despite the wide range of emotions, this work gave an impression of unity and transcendence. The neo-baroque music, “Tenebrae” (version for string quartet), by renowned contemporary composer Osvaldo Golijov, along with the ethereal flowing quality of the costumes, made with white chiffon and copper-colored silk and designed by Ms Cook-Beatty herself and Barbara Carey, gave the impression of a classical Greek painting with different archetypes displayed with high drama. The performance literally took the audience’s breath away.
The final work, “Houston Street Hootenanny,” was a substantial production involving all company dancers, Ms Cook-Beatty herself and a guest percussionist, Marlon Cherry, an accomplished musician in his own rights.
Before the performance, Ms Cook-Beatty recounted the genesis of this piece. It all started with a vintage American flag that she was gifted. One day, she walked around Greenwich Village with this flag and her thoughts went to the Vietnam War era, when the anti-war movement, hippie culture and a lot of artistic creations sprouted in this part of New York City.
So she started to choreograph a dance using a suite of popular songs from the 1960’s. This year, Ms Cook-Beatty worked with a sound editor and added in popular covers of some of these 60’s songs. The fact that people are still singing the same songs some 50 years later was a point of fascination for her.
“The main reason I made all these changes to the piece, musically and choreographically this year, is I felt that with everything happening in today’s society, this dance has the spirit to represent not just what happened in the past, but to speak out against what is happening now,” explained Ms Cook-Beatty. “To ignore, turn a shoulder, or just not notice what is happening in today’s world did not feel right. I could not put this dance up just about the 1960’s. To me, my research began there, and in observing the world around me, people seem to be fighting for the same things in 2017. What’s happening today may look or sound different from 1967, but the songs are the same. For example, Beyonce is singing the same song as Richie Havens’; Disturbed is singing the same song as Simon and Garfunkle, and so on.”
To bring the 60’s era to life, Company Manager and MC of the evening Tony Musco, who himself grew up in the 60s and has intimate connection to this era, designed costumes for the dancers to reflect the fashion of the time.
Cherry’s participation in the piece was particularly interesting as his look resembles the famed guitarist Jimmi Henrix, who was a Vietnam War veteran himself and was active in Greenwich Village prior to his subsequent claim to fame in London, followed by the world.
Ms Cook-Beatty presented to the audience some black-and-white photographs from the Vietnam War era to show the sources of inspiration for her choreography. Dancers demonstrated the movements that reflected those images, including the hurling of war medals at the White House in protest of the war.
The performance started with a solemn, reflective dance about the war, set to “The Sound of Silence,” followed by a gradual progression to the emotions of liberation with Joan Baez’s “Te Ador/Ate Amanha” and “Plaisir d’Amor” and then different version of the song “Freedom” by Beyonce and various other artists as well as by the original singer Richie Havens. From then on, the audience was treated to visions of carefree, hippee youngsters celebrating sex, drugs and rock-and-roll along with the music of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” and the same song by Sleepers’ Reign. The finale was an uplifting piece set to Peter, Paul and Mary’s “If I Had A Hammer.” There was an intricate story line in the dance but the audience was free to interpret whatever they read into it. While the subject matter is heavy and politically charged, the overall feel of the dance movements is light-hearted and a zeitgeist of one of the most transformative eras of modern-day American history.
The extraordinary performance brought down the whole house. Not only were audience members amazed by the sheer talent, sparkling presence and strength of the dancers–many of whom were classically trained, but were deeply touched by how the subject matter was handled with such great nuance and sensitivity. Some of the audience members who were involved or had family members who were involved in the Vietnam War participated in an animated discussion and congratulated the dance company for this excellent creation.
Both evenings concluded with lively Q&A sections with the company dancers, leaving the audience with a deeper understanding of the artistic process and a better appreciation of the dancers and the company as a whole. Dancer Dorrie Silver recounted how some of the songs she danced to were played constantly by her Vietnam War veteran father since the day she was born. So to dance to the music of the era holds a special meaning in her heart.
Kitty Lunn, Artistic Director of Infinity Dance Theater, commented after the show: “The work was spectacular and very, very interesting. The dancers are all fabulous movers and I’m very proud of Alison.” Lunn enjoyed the whole evening’s performance, but was particularly fascinated by the two versions of the solo that Ms Cook-Beatty danced. “I really liked the first piece, that she did the solo to the Bach, and then did it again to different music, and we saw how it changed her body. I really enjoyed that.”
Stark Wilz, singer, songwriter and musician, who has been following Alison Cook Beatty Dance for years, said he enjoyed the performance very much. “I’ve seen as many performances as I could, and as many of the individual performances of any given engagement, and I have seen growth. It’s very, very exciting. I love especially the mixture of modern with ballet technique, clearly, and a great deal of training on the part of the dancers. I thought this was a wonderful performance tonight.” Wilz’s favorite of the evening was “Houston Street Hootenanny” because, being a musician, he enjoyed the music set to the work, especially “If I Had a Hammer” by Peter, Paul and Mary. “Everyone was smiling and enjoying themselves both on the stage and in the audience.”
~ Louisa Wah
For the fifth year in a row, Alison Cook Beatty Dance brought the sheer joy of movement and music to more than 50 residents at the Mary Manning Walsh Home, a nursing home for seniors in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The modern dance company, founded in New York City in 2012, explores the universal human condition through expansive and emotionally driven movements.
In the afternoon of October 21, 2017, Artistic Director Alison Cook-Beatty, along with eight of her company’s dancers and a local composer-musician Dorian Wallace, took to the stage in the auditorium at the nursing home, where residents waited in eager anticipation since that morning for an hour of graceful movements, beautiful melodies and a bit of body-movement fun.
During the lecture-demonstration, Ms Cook-Beatty shared with the residents how dance is created, rehearsed and then refined. Dancers started by demonstrating a few warm-up routines, followed by a piano performance of a beautiful, Chilean national song by Mr. Wallace.
By this time, the residents were ready for the opening dance. “ Houston Street Hootenanny,” choreographed by Ms Cook-Beatty and set to the music of Bob Dylan’s “ Like a Rolling Stone,” was a pleasant surprise for all. It was The high-energy performance, which involved a lot of jumps, turns, rolling on the floor along with sassy and seductive moves, exuded a great sense of optimism that the 60’s song embodies. The audience couldn’t help but started to sing along with the music, as they all seemed to remember very well the song from their youth. Dancers included Nika Antuanette, Carolina Rivera, Joshua Elliott, Timothy Ward, Morgan Alysse Rydberg, Kevin Wiltz, Dorrie Silver, and Fiona Oba.
More wonderful surprises followed this dance number, as dancers in twos and threes demonstrated how they used movements to express different qualities such as round and angular shapes. At the same time, the pianist would improvise tunes to match the movement qualities. Everything was created at the spur of the moment, and it was truly a wonder for the audience to behold. The audience was even asked to participate by suggesting a color for the dancers to interpret. A resident suggested “green,” and a trio of dancers started to interpret it with movements that elicited elements in Nature. There was a moment of silence at the end of the mini performance, as the audience gasped in amazement of this magical improvisation.
Ms Cook-Beatty and one of the most senior members of the company, Joshua Elliott, performed a duet called “Lifeline,” set to the beautiful and haunting music of Karl Jenkins.
The finale of the lecture-demonstration was a group dance session led by senior dancer Carolina Rivera. The movements she and the dancers demonstrated to the audience were easy to execute despite the fact that some of the residents were wheel-chair bound. The residents started to shake their hands and sway their bodies along with the upbeat music and you can literally see the music moving through them. One of the residents even chimed in by singing throughout the whole event, and amazingly her singing blended in really well with the music!
“Everybody really appreciated the performance today,” said Maribel Cortez, a personal aid to several of the residents at Mary Manning. She has seen all of the five lecture-demonstrations by Alison Cook Beatty Dance and looked forward to each visit. “The dance made me full of life and energy. I really appreciate how the dancers smiled at each other, how they moved their legs and laid down on the floor and got back up and how they were so well coordinated and never got tired!”
Her client nodded in agreement. Ms Cortez said that the event was the highlight of the day for the residents and some of them were waiting in the cafeteria for the dancers’ arrival since 10 a.m. “They really like being involved. They get more energy and more spirit from this, and it really helps them focus,” she said. “Everybody is waiting for you to come back again!”
Gabriel S. Lit, Recreation Therapist of Archcare at the Mary Manning Walsh Home, commented: “Alison Cook Beatty Dance Company brought exciting, enthusiastic, highly professional, and simply excellent modern dance to our residents at Mary Manning Walsh Home. The fantastic interactive performance, melding the fine craft of the artists with the energy and excitement of young professionals making new, good, art, was absolutely electric. The residents were completely mesmerized and engaged, showing their appreciation by actively participating in the interactive elements and, finally, with rousing applause that belied the median age in the audience. Alison Cook Beatty Dance Company provided us with a jolt of life and proved to all that the appreciation of good, new art can bridge generations.”
~by Louisa Wah
APAP Performance Review by Temple Kemezis
In a trend-fest, dizzy New York dance scene, it is refreshing to see a choreographer who takes seriously the art of composition and less the fads of the time. Alison Cook Beatty is one such choreographer, and I was able catch the Alison Cook Beatty Company perform the third movement of the ballet Inishlacken at the 2013 Peridance showcases for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference.
Inspired by her own Irish background, Mrs. Beatty’s piece concerns the social oppression women suffered in Ireland during the greater part of the 19th century and the reign of the “Laundry House” as society’s solution to incarcerate “morally fallen women”. This piece is set to a beautiful score by Irish composer Bill Whelan which is classical but upbeat and folk spirited (Mr. Whelan caught fame in the 1990s for his music which inspired the Irish step dancing stage sensation Riverdance). Despite the heavy subject matter, the third movement of this ballet is joyful and celebrates the unity of the young women as a community.
The piece opens with a corps of girls dressed humbly in various white blouses and calf-length black skirts flooding the stage in the midst of their daily street greetings. The piece builds with the girls in groups entering and leaving the stage with rebounding hops and fresh-air suspensions. Amidst the rejuvenating corps, what anchors the piece to the subject’s gravity are the two solos which segment this movement, both which are induced by the change of music.
Both solos carried strong moments. The second solo, beginning as the music parts for a heavy cello solo, is defined with gorgeous gestures of strife that reflect the quiet moments of a shackled human more then a trained dancer. Her community of sisters surrounding her respond in instinctive support to her emotional dancing. The choreography of this solo is trademark Mrs. Beatty’s style which reflects on classic dance, both ballet and modern, and thrives on moments that are simple and direct to insure utmost expression and genuine human nature.
Often folk spirited pieces are a hard sale against the leg whacks, oozing qualities and sheer too-cool-for-school attitudes which primarily comprise the greater handful of today’s New York contemporary dance scene. Folk theme by default is dated. But, I feel this piece was a smart choice by Mrs. Beatty as it shows her expertise in composition and her integrity as a choreographer. This third movement highlights her choreography’s sensitivity to the whims, waves and wearings of the musical score, sometimes appearing that the music itself conducted her.
Mrs. Beatty never fights her score at hand. She has a natural knack to structure works to the music’s idiosyncrasies, most prominently the grand changes of mood a longer piece carries; seamlessly she introduces entrances and poignant solos throughout this third movement which transform the stage and create layers for the choreography to prosper in. And yet, by doing so Mrs. Beatty is able to keep true to her own storyline and voice to create a composition which breathes music yet speaks to the audience. She never looses sight of what she wants to communicate in her work.
In a city where black plays a chic facade to the Forever 21 purchase, where we all know the “win a ‘wow’ in a crowd” dramatic statements to gain a lavish ‘haha’ or Facebook LIKE; in a city hungry to be part of the latest “trend” the truth always stands in the end: trendy will only get old, and integrity only becomes timeless. This harks true for this city’s nouveau choreography scene, too. As easily amused New York is by a leg whack to ambiance-burdened music, this city craves innovative integrity and that is what Alison Cook Beatty offers her audience through her art each time.
The Dance Enthusiast review
Let me say, as a member of the audience I feel it is the audience’s responsibility to try to decipher, understand, what the artist is trying to impart in their interpretation or expression of something they heard, saw or felt. This is an imperative. These are not simply dancers on a stage performing dance moves. These dancers are the visualization of that interpretation or expression.
The first performance was Lifeline. All 3 nights of this performance were expressed by 3 separate set of dancers. During this performance, you experienced the joys of love, of a relationship, of being one with another. It was a sensual piece as the dancers performed it, the slow movements of their closeness. At the same time, you understood the frustration of a relationship, perhaps not always being on the same page as their partner or their partner not being on the same page as them but still they love the other person, their closeness, their relationship. This piece left me with a feeling of love bubbling, the feeling of falling in love, the infatuation. I quite enjoyed the serenity of the performance while understanding that love is not always easy.
The second performance was Patience Impatience. Again, all 3 nights of this performance were expressed by 3 separate set of dancers. Honestly, I had trouble understanding this piece even after watching it the 3 nights. While the sounds of the ocean were soothing to me as I’ve lived near the ocean my whole life, the waves, people on the beach, bells of the buoys, I could not grasp the meaning of the weights and rope-lines or even the dancers as they struggled against the ropes or perhaps struggled with the ropes. The backdrop of the music and the sounds of people on a beach lent to the feeling of the ocean, again soothing, but then you heard screams of terror from perhaps those same people on the beach. It did not mesh with my thoughts of those soothing sounds of the ocean so I asked one of the performers what the piece represented. Patience and impatience is the simplest answer, that our lives perhaps are spent in the endless pursuit of patience while our impatience, the rope-lines, at times gets the better of us. This piece was very interesting and I am hoping to watch this performance again with this understanding so I can mesh my preconceived notion of my feelings for the ocean with this explanation.
The third performance was Becoming Another. This is one of my most favorite dances and I call it “The Adam and Eve Dance”, in my mind this is what it will always represent. The backdrop of the commentary, the dialogue, is essential to this performance, I would not use the word “paramount” as the dance in and of itself is beautiful as is the story and you can certainly understand everything the performers impart. But the dialogue of both Adam and Eve enhance the performance to such a degree as to be captivating. When I first saw this dance a number of months ago it was the “Reader’s Digest” version I guess you could call it. Adam’s commentary from his diary in trying to understand this new creature that has surfaced, not knowing if it is animal or human, is truly spell binding. Watching the performers of this dance in its entirety as they come to understand that both Adam and Eve are human, one being male the other female, living together in the Garden of Eden, understanding that one without the other no matter where they lived was not an existence either wanted after a time, coming to appreciate each other and understand each other… Such a wonderful, spell binding, fascinating story and it being translated into a dance is truly magical to watch. If ever you, the reader, have the chance to watch this dance please do, it offers such an amazing interpretation of this story, of these characters, I just love it. Again, one of my most favorite dances.
The fourth performance was Manifestations. The story behind this dance is just so sad, truly heartbreaking. This performance is about the Shaking Quakers, and their religion apparently dictated that there be no physical contact, actual touching, of another person. I’m extrapolating that when they prayed it entailed them actually shaking their bodies in what could only be described as convulsive shaking. You open to the community praying with their palms turned towards heaven, very structured, very strict. As the story develops one in the community, the Son, is drawn to another, the Outsider, even as the Mother tries to chase away the Outsider. There is clearly a connection between the Son and the Outsider and eventually they touch, holding each other. The look of amazement, of joy, of finally a love, was so exquisitely expressed by the Son that I as the observer felt the Son’s loneliness and isolation in those moments. The Mother having observed some of this turned away in disappointment or maybe shame. She at times expressing that she understood that they loved each other but that their religion did not allow for this touching, for this love, that their religion was paramount to their existence as a community. The dancers that portrayed these 3 characters did so with so much passion, with such conviction of their personal part in the story that I as the observer was just dragged, not drawn but dragged, into the story that I held my breath in anticipation of what will happen next, questioning why and how could people be so intolerant, un-understanding, not allow for happiness in life. The struggle of the Son wanting this person whom he loved and yet not wanting to disappoint or lose his Mother was absolutely palpable to me. Such an incredibly sad story. The first night’s performance I thought, like I’m sure many in the audience thought and perhaps still do, this was about a man falling in love with another man and this was why the Son and the Outsider were persecuted. This is not what this story, this dance, is about. By the third’s night performance, I understood this was a community that just did not have any happiness in their lives and this is the way they sadly chose to live, with no contact between them. This is my absolute favorite dance because it was so superbly performed, the story so exceptionally expressed, it was so tragically sad yet so thought invoking and so prevalent to today’s society. I cannot say enough of this dance, this story, that would ever give it the credit it is honestly due.
Please visit http://www.alisoncookbeattydance.org/. I have found Alison’s vision to be unique and expressive. I cannot venture to guess where she finds her inspirations for all her work but I find the results of such inspirations rewarding as a viewer. It has been an unbelievable experience to view both her work and the performances of the dancers of this Company. They are truly gifted in their talents and I am absolutely looking forward to more shows from this Company of dancers. I know that I would not have enjoyed the performances as I did without these dancers performing them, they are incredible and should be so proud of themselves for their accomplishments.
The 2016 premiere Murmuration by choreographer Alison Cook-Beatty, performed by her company Alison Cook Beatty Dance, imaginatively offers vignettes of daily life for a flock of birds. Simply done, seemed the key phrase for this piece and it is said in compliment. Ms. Beatty-Cook’s knack for craftsmanship was the shining element of the piece, yet again.
A fully conceived piece in collaboration with costume designer Christine Darch and set by Daniel & Christine Cook. The music selection is the turn of the century Italian composer Ottorino Respighi’s Gli Uccelli, an opus inspired by birds.
The costumes were gradient colored unitards for the women and tights for the men with a train attached from the small of the back and down both legs to the back of calf. They were simple yet quite effective in offering a flutter to the movement and reference of tail. Truly quite stunning. In the far right upstage corner the sole set piece made of wooden pedestals and woven baskets creatively, and again simply, represented a trio of nests. The structure was the perfect size for the 14th Street YMCA stage, or stages for future performances, while offering presence and allowing space for the dancers.
Many choreographers have tackled the challenge of giving the illusion of flight to their dancers. In Ms. Cook-Beatty’s attempt, she did not hide the fact of the obvious restrictions, nor did she overcompensate.
She gave the dancers moments of flight in many clever fashions including fleeting jump choreography and pointe work for the “dove”. Several phrases used a series of quick jumps to move the dancers through the dancescape with lightness. Specifically the men’s choreography proved striking in capturing the illusion of creatures natural to flight with effortless jumps and suspended descents. The second movement of the ballet, titled by Respighi in his composition as the Dove, Cook-Beatty placed the female soloist en pointe against an otherwise on flat ensemble. The pointe choreography, especially the slow walks en pointe, allowed the dancer to beautifully float through her phrasing.
One effective moment came later in the piece when Ms. Cook-Beatty convened the dancers in an upstage corner hands interlocked in an Escher like patterning, arms over shoulders, under other arms, hands meeting without knowledge of owners. While interlocked, the “flock” moved in swift runs across stage as they curled and unraveled out of their woven embraces into new ones changing the shape of the group. As the adjustments occurred they simulated the amoebic yet concise morphing formation of birds flanking, and the tension between dancers replicated the responsive physical communication of a flock.
Ms. Cook-Beatty’s style is very controlled, leaning toward classical ballet and modern techniques, yet she understands when to release and let movement be telling of a character or circumstance. Throughout this piece the arms were very specific with striking timing for musicality, however, there were moments when play would set in and constructed improvisation allowed the characters to offer bird-esque but human-like gestures of expression. One prominent time is at the end where a centerstage courtship occurs between a male and female dancer that is quite perfectly on cue with the music and warms the heart. These moments brought out the eccentric personalities of Cook-Beatty’s birds, which added another element of entertainment to the audience and gave a sense of storyline.
On BANSHEE’S LAMENTATION
I saw a lot of different pieces on this night but the one that stuck out for me was ‘Banshee’s Lamentation’. Watching this piece reminded me of seeing one of Graham’s epic masterpieces….
…This is hands down a masterpiece and one of the best ballets that I have ever seen. I would love to see the Graham or Taylor companies add it to their repetoire or even American Ballet Theatre or Ailey. There’s a thought- having Ms. Cook-Beatty set a ballet on one of the more prominent companies of America. Someone should set that up.
” Alison Cook Beatty Dance literally transforms the environment around you. Creating a space where movement, music, and mood meet. Lifelong dance connoisseurs and the uninitiated will find an Alison Cook Beatty Dance performance equally captivating. This should not be missed.”
— Peter Cobb; Program Officer, New York Foundation for the Arts
on ACCUSED (VARIATION B)
“Alison Cook-Beatty whips up a savory feast for the eyes in ACCUSED (VARATION B) Wildly mercurial and yet tender and pensive. The train of women that coil in a serpentine like manner via bouree is reminiscent of Nacho Duato’s style and intricacies of corps de ballet in a very” visceral and modern way. However, her experience with Paul Taylor is also present with signature Taylor leaps and bounds. But most surprising is her Balanchinian way of avoiding sentimentality and creating a work that unlike most choreographers may stand the test of time. Truly a feast for the eyes and not to be missed by any lover of dance.”
— Matthew Cole, Director, Sculpt New York LLC
on PATIENCE IMPATIENCE
“Later in the afternoon, I dropped in to see Alison Cook-Beatty rehearsing her trio PATIENCE IMPATIENCE with Columbia Ballet Collaborative dancers Holly Curran, Abby Ryckman, and Rachel Shafran. Ms. Cook-Beatty fills the stage with a weights and ropes to create what resembles a giant game of cat’s cradle, and as the dancers are alternately tethered and released from this spiderweb, there’s an important subtext of frustrated womanhood. Aided by composer Avner Finberg’s abstract score, the work often evokes the spirit of the mid-century American modern masters.”
— Katherine Bergstrom, dance scholar & writer at Point of Contact (http://ptofcontact.com/2014/11/12/710/)
on HOUSTON STREET HOOTENANNY
“Broadway meet Milford”. On August 24,2014 dance talent landed on the Milford Fine Arts stage and left a lasting impression. Milford native Alison Cook-Beatty and her dance company enthralled the audience, young and old, with her dance interpretation of timeless stories. Her company is adept at movement, but more than that, at transporting the audience with their acting as their whole bodies envelop the roles they are playing. Come back to Milford, Alison Cook Beatty Dance, —New York shouldn’t have all the fun and talent.
Alison Cook-Beatty and her dance company brought back the ‘60s with an amazing Houston Street Hootenany. Selecting just six pieces of music from the enormous body of work in that era , she and her company of dancers–with pitch perfect moves–conjured up the anger, joy and hope of that era. As one who lived through it, I can only marvel that such a young woman could understand that era at such a level to be able to translate it so effectively. I felt transported by her choreography and awed by her story of how she came to put this marvelous piece together. Her unique ability is to explain those years in ways words never could.
Dance is acting without words. If that is true and I think it is, then Alison Cook-Beatty and her company deserve an Academy Award for their performance on August 24 in Milford. Her small company was cast as hippies and fairies and sisters and lovers who experience love and loss and joy. Her work as expressed by her and her dancers is perfectly curated to provide a range from ballet to modern jazz but unlike many dance performances, her dancers inhabit their characters and they need no words to tell their stories, letting their movement do it instead.
If you want an evening of sheer joy, take in a performance of the Alison Cook Beatty Dance. Storytelling is at its best as her dancers convey love, loss, anger and joy through inspired choreography. I guarantee you will leave exhilarated and wanting more.
— Maureen Gorman
Alison Cook Beatty’s piece, LIFELINE, was the most balletic work of the night, featuring lovely technique from dancers Lara Vilches and Edgar Peterson. Both wearing white, under red lights, the piece was romantic, yet disquieting. Supported by emotional string music by composer Karl Jenkins, the dancers come together, separate and came together again. This pattern repeats in various forms throughout the work. One gets the sense they are (or were) a couple in love, but there is something wrong — something at stake. They seem driven together by desire but pulled apart by outside forces. The dancers moved well together, winding and unwinding on the floor and on their feet. They also travel throughout the space with swift leaps, swinging arms, and cascading lifts. There is a sense that they yearn to be together as their arms envelop one another, but this is not a joyful dance, and their struggle are clear as they lean away from one another and break free from each others grasp. Free, but full of yearning
— Nellie Rainwater, fitengine.com