RoseLee Goldberg

  • Martha Clarke

    In the ’80s, Martha Clarke, who began her career as a choreographer and founder of the group Pilobolus, stepped from the dance scene into the art world. Though the highly visual quality of her work seemed to justify moving into an art/performance context, this shift turned out to be a mistake. By abandoning inventive choreography for high-gloss imagery, Clarke has nurtured one talent at the expense of another. Had she kept her dancers dancing rather than walking and posing against fantastic backdrops, works such as Vienna Lusthaus (Vienna whorehouse, 1986) or Miracolo d’Amore (The miracle of

  • Il Piccolo Teatro di Milano

    As staged by revered Italian director Giorgio Strehler, Luigi Pirandello’s The Mountain Giants, 1936, has the impeccable styling of an Italian movie from the ’60s. The actors in Strehler’s company, II Piccolo Teatro di Milano, breeze across the stage in elegantly cut dresses and summer suits, gesturing broadly. Their intonation reflects the Italian love affair with exaggeration, captured with such surreal humor by masterful filmmakers such as Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. Indeed, Strehler’s production is a rich period piece, a reminder to American audiences of the visual splendor

  • Molissa Fenley

    When Molissa Fenley collapsed from a severe knee injury on the opening night of her season at the Joyce Theater and was forced to cancel all remaining shows, she was midway into a solo rendition of her work Bridge of Dreams, 1994, performed just six months earlier by dancers of the Deutsche Oper Ballet in Berlin. Because of the expenses involved in bringing members of the company to New York, Fenley had stoically resolved to present a solo version of this work instead. For those who had seen the Berlin performance of Bridge of Dreams, however, the absence of the other dancers infused her solo

  • Jane Comfort

    Jane Comfort’s dance extravaganza, S/He, 1994, shows us what the latest gender wars actually look like when danced and set to music. Every movement is a loaded example of how men and women inhabit space—do they simper or strut, cross their legs or spread them—which raises the age-old nature/nurture question to the point that you want to spend time in front of a mirror, weeding out your own politically incorrect gestures. Take the way you prop your chin on your hand, as though staring dreamily our the window without a care in the world—that’s not natural, it’s just another white woman’s pose. Or

  • Pina Bausch

    At first, constructing a narrative around Pina Bausch’s Two Cigarettes in the Dark, 1985, seems the only way to make sense of this grueling work. One could describe the set as an indoor pavilion at a zoo (exotic flora and fauna in one showcase, desert plants and sand in another, and tanks of goldfish in a third, all of which make up the back and side walls of the stage) and one could view the male and female dancers on stage as specimens for a study of human behavior, but developing such a scenario risks rationalizing the unrelenting cruelty to women in this technically splendid production. Men

  • Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg

    Toward the end of the Maly Drama Theatre’s production of Gaudeamus, 1992, the entire company—14 male performers (heads shaven) and four women (locks flowing)—takes a break from a two-hour rampage across a raked stage made slippery by a thick layering of fake snow, to execute an elegant series of pliés, tendues, and rendejambes. Following this interlude, the company resumes the slapstick gestures and flat-footed stomping that gives this production its high-jinks theatricality.

    The sheer physicality of the production reflects the training methods of Russian theater directors from Meyerhold onwards

  • Martha Graham Dance Company

    “Radical Graham,” a selection of 14 works from Martha Graham’s more than 70-year choreographic career presented over ten days, provided a savvy kickoff to the 1994 season of BAM’s Next Wave Festival. Featuring a revival of the 1918 Serenata Morisca, the evening-length dance drama Clytemnestra, 1958, and her very last choreographic jewel, Maple Leaf Rag, 1990, this celebration of Graham’s oeuvre one hundred years after her birth showed the work to be every bit as complex today as it was during her lifetime.

    Indeed, Graham remains forever radical. The brute sexuality that became a part of her

  • Laura Dean Musicians and Dancers

    Laura Dean's mesmerizing evening of dance was proof, if proof is needed, that extraordinary talent grows in extraordinary ways. Opening with golden-costumed dancers, Sky Light, 1982, provided a précis of Dean's earliest vocabulary: the alternating heel, step, heel, step of dancers in a warm-up line (their palms facing the back wall and their elbows hinged at right angles); the dizzying, dervishlike spin of figures—solo or in formation—stirring up air like battalions of tornadoes across an unencumbered plain; and the taunting sideways bounce (knees bent, feet wide apart) of a boxer

  • Tere O'Connor

    This past season, issues surrounding sexuality and gender have so dominated choreography that at times it would have been advisable to give performances an R-rating. At a Stephen Petronio performance, female dancers, splayed diagonally across the stage, thrust their pelvises to form a fascinating open-legged chain of sexual tension; on another, a pair of Jane Comfort dancers—her legs and arms wound around his torso like a pulsating vine—pulled each other’s clothes off, and with lifts and lunges, hands pressing the length of each body, ended in an orgasmic tangle on the floor.

    Such heated

  • Spalding Gray

    Seldom do we speak of “genre” in performance, especially in reference to solo performances as emphatically different as those of Spalding Gray, Eric Bogosian, Holly Hughes, and Karen Finley. But we nevertheless point to these writer-performers (and the schools that followed in the late ’80s) as a loose group who utilize regional dialects to cover large emotional landscapes.

    The monologue form developed by these artists over the last fifteen years has as much to do with the brute art of storytelling in the style of Lenny Bruce as it does with talk-show confessionals on Phil Donahue; it also draws

  • Robert Wilson

    Robert Wilson’s The Black Rider, 1990, is a delirious journey through a vivid theatrical landscape dotted with the signposts of vaudeville, cabaret, circus, and opera. A rousing and even bombastic overture—of horns and electric piano, drums and found pipes—sets the stage for an evening of splendid artifice. In the opening scene we watch as a larger than man-size black box rises slowly from its horizontal coffinlike position on the floor, to an imposing vertical one. (Is this becoming Wilson’s signature motif which first appeared in his earlier work Einstein on the Beach, 1976?) Like so many

  • “The Cave”

    Race, ethics, gender politics, cultural history, geography, the Torah, the Koran, and current affairs: these are the seemingly improbable ingredients of The Cave, 1993, a majestic music-theater collaboration between video artist Beryl Korot and composer Steve Reich. Yet it is the intricate layering of facts, myths, legends, and opinions along so many lines of video cable and music keyboard that makes The Cave an important work. Indeed, this intellectual theater shows not only that media and technology can be vessels for complex ideas, but that they can also be used for humanistic debate.