Where can I see "lyrical" dance being performed?
September 20, 2005 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Where can I see "lyrical" dance being performed?

I tend to shun any and all reality TV shows, but for some reason (boring summer filled with reruns) I watched every episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Hip-hop and ballroom are nice and all, but I can't get enough of what they call "lyrical" dance. I've never heard the term before so I'm guessing it's what used to be called modern ballet? Is that correct?

Anyway, it's incredibly engaging stuff and I'd love to go see more of it in Portland, Seattle, or San Francisco, but I have no idea where to start. Do certain dance companies specialize in it? Is there a more popular name for it I should look for? Do college dance programs perform it?
posted by mathowie to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Before reading "more inside" I was gonna tell you to watch So You Think You Can Dance. I guess you've got that part covered though.

I kind of thought it was an offshoot of jazz dance but I have to admit I'm not all that sure. Do you remember the names of the 2 lyrical dance instructors they had? You might be able to google up some info on them as a starting point, to get some keywords, etc.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:38 AM on September 20, 2005

Is Movin' Out (noisy flash) considered lyrical dance?

I'm not a dance fan, in general, but I loved Movin' Out.
posted by o2b at 10:26 AM on September 20, 2005

The lyrical coach/judge on SYTYCD is Mia Michaels. The judges, if you believe this NYTimes review, are B-list and perhaps not the best people to start with.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:26 AM on September 20, 2005

Best answer: I would say that "lyrical dance" is the competitive dance world's term for what the performing dance world calls "modern dance." There is a pretty strict division between competitive dance and performance dance, so these terms don't quite match up--modern dance is almost infinitely more varied than lyrical, and perhaps more than any other dance form (jazz, ballet, African, tap, Hip-hop, etc.) defies strict definition. [All of what follows is based on my correlation of lyrical to modern dance, though some may disagree. I think it's your best bet if you want to see similar dance performed.]

College dance programs definitely teach/perform modern dance, often to much eye rolling ("be a tree!"). But the truth is that modern dance (in my experience) is actually moving away from what many people find so silly about it. (Though, I will admit, you'll find a lot to roll your eyes at if you attend a showcase of college students' choreography.)

My absolute favorite dance company is Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and I think it's a great introduction to modern dance. Many of the pieces are quite accessible to the newbie, in that they are not too dark or abstract. "Shining Star," which uses Earth Wind & Fire music, would closely resemble lyrical dance, as would Mr. Ailey's "Suite Otis" (Otis Redding music.) Also, Ailey dancers are, in my opinion, the ultimate modern dancers (perhaps the ultimate dancers, period): expressive artistry, beautiful technique, gorgeous bodies. They tour quite a bit, so you may be able to catch them in Portland, and I'd say definitely in SF. If you get to see them, try to see "Revelations," their most famous piece.

Ailey is also in the "top tier" of modern dance companies--best known, best dancers, most widely touring--along with Paul Taylor Dance Company, Mark Morris Dance Company, and Martha Graham Dance Company. (This list is up for debate, of course.) I'd say that Morris and then Taylor are the next most accessible. The Graham dancers are great, but the choreography is a bit dated/best viewed for historical value.

Other nationally-touring companies you might look out for include The Parsons Dance Company (see them! you won't regret it) or Pilobolus (I've only seen them on TV, but they're renowned for their physicality/acrobatics).

I'm not familiar with the west coast dance scene, but I'd definitely look up the schedules of the local universities, as they tend to be favorite performing spaces for modern dance companies.
posted by CiaoMela at 10:53 AM on September 20, 2005 [2 favorites]

Yikes, that was long! I just love dance, can ya tell?

o2b, "Movin' Out" was choreographed by Twyla Tharp, an icon of modern jazz (not lyrical, though sometimes close).
posted by CiaoMela at 10:54 AM on September 20, 2005

I love Hubbard Street Dance, (videos here) I don't know how much they tour, but if you get a chance to see them they're well worth the price of admission
posted by Floydd at 10:58 AM on September 20, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks so much CiaoMela, that's exactly the info I was looking for! Looks like Mark Morris Dance Company will be swinging through Portland in April of next spring, so I'll be sure to check it out.
posted by mathowie at 11:10 AM on September 20, 2005

Mark Morris is awesome. Check out The Hard Nut around the December holidays. You will not be disapointed.
posted by anastasiav at 11:43 AM on September 20, 2005

I haven't seen the TV show so I'm not sure how it relates to what you've been watching, but La La La Human Steps is (are?) breathtaking to watch. I think they have some videos out.
posted by winston at 12:04 PM on September 20, 2005

Check out Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane company if you ever get the chance.

They are going to be in Berkeley, CA January 20-21.
posted by sol at 6:19 PM on September 20, 2005

mathowie: 2 of the groups CiaoMela mentioned are performing at Stanford Lively Arts this season.
posted by sarahnade at 8:31 PM on September 20, 2005

Everything CiaoMeta said. I thought modern dance was boring until I started going to the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC every summer. Pilobolus is lots of fun and is the big crowd-pleaser, Mark Morris is great, and Paul Taylor and Alvin Ailey are both really really good as well.
posted by Vidiot at 10:01 PM on September 20, 2005

The West Coast dance scene is pretty big itself -

- SF area dance companies
- Seattle dance companies

IIRC from my brief stint teaching at some Dolly Dinkle school, 'lyrical dance' tends to be a mix of jazz & ballet, maybe a bit of modern thrown in too.

So you might want to try some contemporary ballet also. San Fransisco Ballet & Pacific Northwest Ballet are THE west coast companies.

Try some of SFB's mixed rep performances. PNB tends to speicalise in Balanchine pieces - some of his jazzier works and/or Jerome Robbins/Twyla Tharp (like this program) might suit you well
posted by romakimmy at 3:35 AM on September 21, 2005

That "best answer" is a good one (given that "lyrical" = "modern"). But I'm really surprised that no one has mentioned Merce Cunningham, certainly the most influential living figure in modern dance. He is getting on in years but he is still a vital presence on the dance scene. He's known for his collaborations with artists working in other media such as John Cage (also his partner in life) and Robert Rauschenberg. He's recently done work with Sigur Ros and Radiohead (they scored works for a performance at BAM). I've seen his company a number of times and it's both challenging and accessible. Another important figure in this vein is Trisha Brown, who similarly collaborates with visual artists and musicians.
posted by tractorfeed at 8:28 AM on September 21, 2005

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