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Wednesday November 21, 2007

Tonight:

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Thursday October 18, 2007

Congrats to Miami City Ballet [Music], who’s Jewels has just been very favorably reviewed in the New York Times.

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Friday March 2, 2007

Merce Weekend

merce cunningham Ocean performance

This weekend is probably the peak of the season. Get your butt out there and do something… but bring an umbrella just in case. Weather looks like it’ll be gradually cooling off, but possibly rainy.

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Merce Cunningham' s Ocean

Merce Cunningham - Ocean

Thanks to the good people at Carnival Center, I finally got my taste of Merce in Miami. To wit: the 90 minute 1994 piece Ocean.

Intended to be performed in the round, with the dancers on a circular stage surrounded by the audience, and the audience surrounded by the orchestra, the piece was a brave, if imperfect, fit for the Knight Concert hall (my second favorite room in the city, second only to my living room, and it would even upstage that if they got rid of the bizarre fabric hanging in the middle behind the stage — teal and with a pattern that doesn’t go with anything else in the building — in fact, it sort of looks like a “it was on clearance at the fabric store” type of situation — what gives?).

Oh shit sorry for the digression. Anyway Merce Cunningham sort of invented Modern (with a capital “M”) Dance in the 1940/50s, and his work comes across as stark and formal to this day. This is hardcore, rigorous choreography, with no allusion to an external story, or even to regular human interaction.

Basically, Cunningham is to dance what the abstract expressionists were to painting — a reduction to the essence of the art, with references to outside phenomena (i.e. human story-lines) minimized. This is pure movement, and it’s not for everyone.

The piece builds slowly over exactly 90 minutes, the musicians and dancers synchronized by large digital timers clearly visible to the audience. At 1:29:59 the last of the dancers disappears from the stage and that baby is over. That is preceded by a gradual and methodical development (Supposedly the piece is divided into 19 sections, though I read it as maybe 7.) — we begin with very stiff movements, and angular relationships of bodies, which gradually become more organic and energetic. The piece builds to a sort of crescendo (pictured) of movement and color, much more satisfying then what the beginning sections promise. There are dazzling moves, unexpected relationships, and novel ideas at every turn.

What I’m getting at is that it was spectacular. Cunningham (who attended the performance) was 75 when he put Ocean together, and he’d mastered the art of working the crowd — the piece starts out difficult, and gives off hints of beauty grudgingly at first, then introduces new ideas and variations, never allowing the attentive viewer a moment of boredom.

Or does it? I noticed a beautiful review by Jane Simpson of a true in-the-round performance of the piece, and she had some issues with it (go read, she’s great). But the Carnival Center performance of the piece was I guess the polar opposite to what Simpson saw — the musicians sat on the upper level of balconies, far from most of the audience, and the round mat on the stage hardly masked the fact that most of the audience were, in fact, seeing the performance from roughly a single perspective.

Reservations aside, this is a masterwork by the founding father of modern dance. It’s the culmination of Merce in Miami, which is exactly the sort of thing that Carnival Center should be doing — the sort of thing that makes all the heartache surrounding its construction worth it. It’s being performed again Friday and again Saturday, and anyone who loves dance, or likes to challenge their aesthetics, should get down there.

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Monday November 6, 2006

DRDT

New photo set: images from the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater performance this weekend.

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Thursday June 29, 2006

CandoCo at Florida Dance Festival

The Journey

Oh, so the Florida Dance Festival has been on since last week. Last night there was a performance at the recently reopened Colony theater by CandoCo Dance Company. The performance consisted of two extended pieces. The first, “The Journey,”[1] a kinetic piece built with tight clusters of activity, dancers interacting mostly in groups of two or three, even when all seven are on stage. CandoCo includes two disabled dancers,[2] one of whom has no legs. You would think this would be a challenge to creating a coherent performance of people dancing. In fact, though, the physicality of being disabled energizes the interactions of these men with the rest of the members of the company. It sort of makes sense when you see it. The choreography explores various ways in which a person in a wheelchair and a person standing can interact, but those movements are so well integrated into the piece that, suddenly, nothing could seem more natural then a dance company with wheelchairs.

In Praise of Folly

After that (and an intermission so long that the idea of ditching got bounced around) relatively straightforward piece, the second opened with a stage darkened except for a couple of spotlights, some arcane recitations, and a solo performance on a contraption which was sort of a cross between some pilates equipment and monkey bars (and which was later turned on its side to form a padded table). From there it proceeded to get really weird. Dance theater has a tendency to get theatrical and dark, but I’ve never seen it taken to this extreme before. The whole thing played like a scene from a David Lynch movie, with some dark meaning just out of grasp (out of my grasp, anyway). Lisa Hunt says of one section of the piece:

Most memorably the spotlight singles out a dancer, blindfolded, struggling and falling, in a metal tunnel – one of the most poetic representations of human suffering I have ever seen on the stage.

It was wonderfully strange. Not having a literal meaning allows dance to incorporate fantasy, horror, and science fiction elements in a way that’s, well, poetic. Were straightforward theater to do so it might come off as silly, but here it’s redeemed by the focus on movement. More stuff like this would have me going out to a whole lot more dance performances then I currently do.

The Florida Dance Festival continues through the weekend; here’s the schedule.

[1] Why do dance pieces always have silly names? Maybe because choreographers are inherently visual- and movement- oriented people, and dealing with words is so removed from their creative experience.

[2] This performance was co-sponsored by Tigertail, part of a collaboration with Florida Dance Association called danceAble.

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