The relationship between the foot and the floor is where every choreographer begins. Toes sheathed in stiff pink satin, classical ballet makes a formal statement, though within that pretty syntax of flat, demi-, and full pointe there is room for huge variation. The ballets of George Balanchine, for instance, with their en l’air air, offer up a long-distance affair, the supple satin touching down with deep soul kisses, loving then leaving. In the à terre realm of Antony Tudor, the floor is firm and authoritarian, the sad earth straining under highly charged arches. Meanwhile, modern dance continues to echo Isadora’s cri de coeur: the smack of the full bare foot, five little piggies going to market (decades later Mark Morris’s aural homage was the sound of his beefy feet on the boards). The experimental Pina Bausch, doyenne of Dada movement theater and director of Germany’s Tanztheater Wuppertal, marks her...


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