Martha Ullman West, Art Scatter’s chief correspondent, has been trotting the globe. She’s endured an evening of wretched belly-dancing on the Nile, chatted with a centenarian ballet dancer in Philadelphia, revisited the works of Jerome Robbins in New York, and returned home to Portland, where she found irritation with Random Dance and happiness with Oregon Ballet Theatre. Here’s her report:
Here are some scattered (no pun intended) thoughts about what I’ve been seeing in the world of performance, mostly dance, since I departed on February 1st for a glorious Metropolitan Museum of Art tour of Egypt with a postlude in Jordan, followed by 10 days in New York, where I ploughed through many clipping files in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at Lincoln Center.
These endeavors were interrupted by snow and a day trip to Philadelphia to interview Yvonne Patterson. She is a former dancer in Balanchine’s first companies, now a whisker away from turning 100, still swimming every day and teaching the occasional master class in ballet, no kidding. There was also a fair amount of hobnobbing with my New York colleagues, during which the state of dance and dance writing was discussed with a certain amount of hand-wringing on both counts.
The worst performance shall come first: an unspeakably godawful belly dance demonstration on board the Nile River boat on which I spent four otherwise glorious nights.
I’ve seen better at various restaurants in Portland, although the effects of her lackluster undulations, which bored even the men in the audience, were somewhat mitigated by the sufi dancer who followed, a very young man who was completely committed to spinning himself into a trance, and therefore pretty compelling.
In New York, I was taken to see a play called Mr. and Mrs. Fitch, oh so cleverly written by Douglas Carter Beane, at Second Stage Theatre, starring the suave John Lithgow as a gossip columnist running out of copy and Jennifer Ehle as his equally ambitious and rather more unethical wife. They invent a celebrity to write about, and despite such wonderful lines as “I swear on a stack of Susan Sontag‘s Against Interpretation” and the cast’s finely tuned delivery of the lines, the ethics practiced by the real-life press these days made it all rather less than funny for someone who still thinks journalism is an honorable profession, or at the very least that it should be.
Continue reading Belly-dancing on the Nile: Our far-flung correspondent hobnobs and returns