Revivals and Innovations

December 4, 2014

It is the start of the holiday season and the end of one year is upon us as we all prepare for a new one to begin. As the leaves swirl around in the New York City air and the holiday lights shine, the concept of revival circulates in my mind.

At Steps, we recently hosted an artist talk revering the legacy of Bob Fosse. We have classes with the ladies of Fosse who were on the panel – Diana Laurenson, Dana Moore, and Mimi Quillin, and we have hosted many Broadway choreographers teaching his famed repertory from fantastic shows and films.

As history presents itself, I think it also reinvents itself. A dancer’s training is based on history as we preserve an art form still bound to an apprenticeship mentality. A dancer’s artistic stamp and career path is largely determined by his or her teachers.. mentors… bloodlines so to speak.

Speaking of Bloodlines, one of my favorite choreographers and a friend of one of my personal mentors, Stephen Petronio, has announced his intention to bring back “old” work and legendary revivals in a series titled “Bloodlines”. There really must be something about this time of year drawing us to our roots, to the past, to reflection.

Mr. Petronio’s reflection on the past and dedication to history is not a first with the advent of the Bloodlines series. His latest work, “Locomotor”, which I had the chance to learn a section of in his master class series, was “inspired by the theory that backward motion stimulates reminiscence” as quoted in a New York Times article.

With eyes (and sometimes bodies) pointed backwards, glaring into dance’s past.. I cannot help by ask which is better… revival or innovation?

I spent a good amount of my time in college arguing on behalf of innovation, as my teacher and my peers tried to convince me that it has all been done before. This would leave me frustrated–feeling as if I had not yet left my artistic signature on the world, or in the community. But the more I begin to look at dance with a historical lens, the more I begin to think that the argument of my friends makes a little bit of sense. Perhaps it is the way the world works–we all stand on the shoulders of giants, so that later, we may also be a springboard for others, for discovery, for innovation.

Perhaps the answer to the question “revival or innovation?”.. is not to be questioned at all. Dance is all about revival. I am proud that dance is still an apprenticeship form as techniques, choreography, and secrets are passed down from teacher to student. This sort of lineage makes way for innovation in the future. Have you ever heard the adage, “you must know where you came from to know where you are going?” Our form, our art.. is just like that. Legacy matters, lineage matters, blood lines matter… and then what?

If you are interested in knowing more about Stephen Petronio’s “Bloodlines” click the link below:

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– Kylie Michelle Phillips
Operations Manager, Steps on Broadway

Revivals and Innovations