While looking at the stars recently, noting I was seeing a synthesis of our galaxy's past in the light of today, I was reminded of the dances of the illustrious choreographer Lar Lubovitch, whose recent works (he's created over 100), also sparkle with the light of the works of his past.
Though a mover all his life (first as a gymnast), Lubovitch originally started as a painter. Studying at the Art Institute of Chicago (in his hometown), he didn't discover his true calling until a fortuitous meeting with a choreographer. Moving to New York City to attend Juilliard, he trained with numerous esteemed ballet and modern dance teachers during their heydays, Antony Tudor, José Limón, and Martha Graham among them.
Making his debut in 1962 with the Graham-influenced Pearl Lang Dance Theater, Lubovitch also performed with companies as varied as the Harkness Ballet and the jazzy, topical Donald McKayle and Dancers, before forming the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company (LLDC) in 1968.
Though his mentor's influences may be seen fleetingly in his work, Lubovitch's style is singular. His novel approaches to grouping and juxtapositioning dancers has a strong sense of flow, yet is never predictable. As his choreography can include lyricism, boldness, eloquence, musicality, and intensity, only dancers with the widest ranges and of the highest caliber have populated the LLDC, some having come from, or gone on to the Joffrey Ballet and Graham, Limon, and Pilobolus companies, with several, such as Doug Varone and Mark Morris, founding their own highly successful companies .
Lubovitch's choreography is also in high demand by other companies and he has created dances for (among others), American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, and the Alvin Ailey and Jose Limon companies. He's created choreography for many Olympic figure skaters, including John Curry, Dorothy Hamill, and Peggy Fleming and among his many TV, film, and Broadway works are "Othello" (shown on PBS's "Great Performances"), Robert Altman's film The Company, and "Into the Woods," which earned him a Tony nomination.
Committed to educating children and young adults, Lubovitch created a New York City school program 25 years ago in which former and current company members teach students dance history and techniques as well as introduce them to other career opportunities in the dance field.
After performing in more than 30 countries and every state for 46 years, the LLDC has recently cut back on touring, so it's a coup for Kaatsbaan to be able to book them—a nod to the four founders of Kaatsbaan, who met Lubovitch 40 years ago when all were dancing with ABT and he was a guest choreographer. The program will include three works, all inspired by other art forms.
A jazz aficionado, Lubovitch has choreographed to many jazz scores and will be presenting Coltrane's Favorite Things (2010), to John Coltrane's version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things, in which the full company occupies every inch of the stage.
A sextet danced to a Debussy string quartet, Transparent Things (2012), was inspired by Picasso's "Family of Saltimbanques" (street acrobats). Per Lubovitch: "Their pensive expressions speak of the uncertain and fragile terms of existence they must accept in order to practice their art," and "they are very like dancers today who have committed their lives to an art so ephemeral that it exists in reality only when it is actually happening."
Inspired by ancient legends predating the written word, The Black Rose (2014) features a couple, soloist, and chorus of dancers who take viewers into a fantasy realm accompanied by excerpts of music from familiar epic stories in ballets, films, and songs.
The Lar Lubovitch Dance Company will be appearing at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli on Saturday, June 20, at 7:30pm. Tickets: $10 to $30. (845) 757-5106; Kaatsbaan.org.