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THIS IS no time for an inferiority complex. Americans operating under the delusion that in ballet, everything important flows westward across the Atlantic should readjust their thinking. Last season, London's Royal Ballet incorporated Mark Morris' Gong into its repertoire, and on June 23, Robert Garland, the Philadelphia-born former resident choreographer of Dance Theatre of Harlem, introduces his new ballet al the Royal Opera House's intimate Linbury Studio Theatre.

The piece will be one of five Diaghilev-inspired commissions by director Monica Mason, planned as a contemporary commentary on this spring's Diaghilev-era revivals in the main auditorium. Garland is the first African American invited to make a dance for the Royal, and he is determined to leave traces.

For his music, Garland has chosen nothing less formidable than the first part of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, a scandal at its 1913 Paris premiere and a score that, for all its potential disasters, has obsessed choreographers ever since. Garland, however, considers his choice an homage of sorts, and when Mason asked him to do it, it all just clicked.

"I'm at this DTH reception at Sadler's Wells, looking at Monica, who came to her stature through Kenneth MacMillan's Rite of Spring, and I'm thinking how much I'm into honoring the people who have given us so much," Garland says. "I mean, I wander into the Royal's studios, and I'm watching Antoinette Sibley and Lynn Seymour coaching Tamara Rojo in Manon, and I'm thinking, 'That's amazing. We need to pass this information along.'"

Banish the thought that this Rite of Spring will resemble any of the hundreds of previous settings. "The piece will have the look and feel of the Kit Kat Club from Cabaret, complete with Liza wigs," Garland relates. "I'm little nervous about it, but the decadence of the time seemed to match the music for me--Tamara Rojo as Joel Grey!"

Garland, whose DTH works, The Joplin Dances, Return, and New Bach, have generated both favorable critical notice and exposure outside the company--The Joplin Dances entered the Oakland Ballet's repertoire last fall--sounds a bit relieved to be away from the New York scene for awhile.

"It's the Balanchine thing," he says. "I love Mr. B and his ballets, but one of the pitfalls of neoclassicism is that it creates problems down the line. In class, I try to work so that there's some integrity to the body. We should be aware of the other ways and respect them."

This seems an odd comment from a former dancer who spent more than

fifteen years with Balanchine-inspired DTH. Yet Garland maintains an interesting perspective on the shaping of performers.

"I'm big on dancers becoming stronger, on fully using their classical training and technique," notes Garland. "It's mostly a matter of style now. Mr. B would sometimes go against that technique to make an effect, and then a lot of people started accepting that as normal. Perhaps, as a result, there are classical steps we don't do any longer, like reversing combinations. Maya Plisetskaya talked about how she could reverse combinations at the drop of a hat. Your mind was involved in another way then. I think we're losing something there."

Dances by Robert Garland, Vanessa Fenton, Alastair Marriott, Cathy Marston, and Matjash Mrozewski will be performed June 23-27 in the ROH TOO series at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. For information, visit www.info.royaloperahouse.org/ROHTOO
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Title Annotation:Dance Matters; dances by Robert Garland and other choreographers slated for London
Author:Ulrich, Allan
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Words:567
Previous Article:A sleeker swan.
Next Article:Karole Armitage and the universal grammar.
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