Each ballet season at the Kennedy Center Opera House, dancers flock to see the company chosen for the opening program. This year, the Mariinsky (a.k.a. The Kirov) will oblige. However, the man usually sitting in the orchestra, Row M Seat 101, will be missing. And dance will never be the same.
Alan M. Kriegsman, known to balletomanes and his many friends and fans as “Mike,” died last weekend. And words can’t begin to capture his brilliance, especially his insight into all dance. He was honored as the first Pulitzer Prize-winning dance writer, specifically for his ground-breaking look at “Dance and Dollars,” with a photo of Martha Graham in mink!
But Mike was more than that. He was a great guy. Generous and open-minded, he urged dance writers to “make their reviews not like tissue paper where they were tossed away but make them substantial so the world could appreciate.”
A little known fact about his writing – he wrote musical notes in the corner of his notebook. “Don’t make a laundry list of dances,” he advised his students at George Washington University where he taught only one session of dance criticism. “The readers don’t care about the rain you went through to get to the performance.”
Mike was one of the first to point out the significance of “world culture” in the performing arts. He said the dance forms would merge, and, indeed, that is true today. Just look at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in pointe shoes or the American Ballet Theater barefooted. I particularly remember his admiration for Choo-San Goh, the late choreographer for The Washington Ballet, who brought his Asian-influenced signature to contemporary dances.
Mike Kriegsman was not an elitist in classical ballet and enjoyed watching Balanchine dancers kicking up their heels in Stars & Stripes, and local talents such as Jan Van Dyke, Patrick Hayes, Maida Withers, and folks at the old and current Dance Place.
We’ll miss Mike, but we still can look to his wife, Sali Ann Kriegsman – a dance historian extraordinaire.