Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marjani Fortè: being Here......

Dancers perform being Here….. at Danspace. Photo by Wah Ming Chang.

We hear Samantha Speis before we see her. As the lights come up, we find Speis sitting on a disheveled duvet; its stuffing shredded and spilling into downy pools. Crumpling feathers in her hands, she veers from disturbed laughter to frantic hysteria. The audience twitches uneasily witnessing such extended, unbridled emotion.

That’s the point of Marjani Forté's new, fifty-minute piece, being Here… She insists the audience confront their own prejudices about mental illness and addiction in a………

Please visit the Dance Enthusiast to read the rest of my review.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Keely Garfield: Telling the Bees

Keely Garfield’s Telling the Bees at The Chocolate Factory. Photo by Brian Rogers.

Keely Garfield inverts the custom of informing bees about the death of their keeper in her new piece, Telling the Bees. In cultures as far flung as ancient Egypt and the Scottish Highlands, folklore indicated that bees must be told of important life events. Otherwise, feeling scorned, they would abandon the hive in death or retreat, thus ending their powerful contribution to human existence. In Garfield’s piece, these insects………….

Please visit the Dance Enthusiast to read the rest of my review.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Carte Blanche's Corps de Walk: Too Cool to Be Anything but Lukewarm

Carte Blanche performs as part of The Joyce’s Ice Hot festival, celebrating Scandinavian dance. Photo by Erik Berg.

Scandinavia is enjoying a recent popularity surge. From Lisbeth Salander to Ikea to Noma (the world’s top restaurant where chefs forage for their ingredients) we can't get enough of the clean aesthetics and dark psychoses that characterize the Nordic ethos. The Joyce capitalized on this fascination with their Ice Hot festival, highlighting three cutting-edge Scandinavian companies.

Capping off the festival, Carte Blanche, the Norwegian National Company of Contemporary Dance, presents Corps de Walk, a creation by Sharon Eyal and her partner, artist Gai Behar. Eyal hails from Batsheva Dance Company, a troupe that pioneers the use of Gaga, a movement language developed by Ohad Naharin, which emphasizes an instinctive and pleasurable association between the conscious and the unconscious.

Eyal and Behar start with a nifty premise. Using the corps de ballet (traditionally a wavering line of white framing the protagonists’ narrative) as a jumping-off point, they scrutinize its singular attributes of synchronization, spatial intricacies, and herd mentality.

Clad in high-necked nude body stockings with hair and faces blanched alabaster by powder, the dozen dancers begin in a loosely organized clump, arms curved and raised at half-mast under a hazy, white light.

What follows is something between a synchronized swimming event and a fashion show. Walking—in all its iterations including struts, strolls, strides, skips, shambles, saunters, and shuffles—acts as the primary mode of expression for the lower body.  Vivid, punchy motifs of the upper limbs juxtapose the ceaseless locomotion. Hands sling through imaginary belt loops like a cowboy and arms simulate John Travolta directing traffic.  Sensual body undulations—ripples beginning at the head and working their way through to the feet—break up the sculptural poses and kaleidoscopic spatial patterns that etch across the stage.

A pastiche of music ranging from David Byrne to Claude Debussy and many, many electronica outfits by sound designer Torkel Skjaerven thumps relentlessly. It’s like being at a rave without the drugs or teenagers.

If Corps de Walk was a three-minute music video, it would be brilliant. Stretched to twenty-minutes, it would still be good. Topping out at an hour, Eyal and Behar’s homogeneous choreography drags on and on. It’s never clear if the limited movement expression is designed to create a conclusive point of view or to disguise the obvious technical deficiencies of the Carte Blanche dancers. While the company possesses an entertaining and unflagging stage presence, feet flop when they should point and supporting legs wobble. 

Corps de Walk is slick. It’s trendy, full of self-possessed hipness, and even references zombies. But with nothing substantial lurking below the surface, it operates as little more than visual noise. 

Perhaps this explains why the corps de ballet exists as plot enrichment and not exposition.
This review refers to the show seen on Friday, March 15th.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

An Evening With Crystal Pite: Ersatz Entertainment

Parade performed by Nederlands Dans Theater, part of the dance film An Evening With Crystal Pite. Photo by Joris-Jan Bos

Recent hullabaloo in the concert dance world asserts that we are in deep trouble. Government and foundation funding is drying up while audiences decline at a precipitous rate. One fact doesn't change: Choreographers continue to craft stirring pieces and dance fans clamor to see them.   

Film operates as an increasingly popular method for choreographers to connect with an audience who can’t see shows firsthand. Films—while expensive to produce—enjoy a long shelf life and function as artifacts of a particular time, place, and ethos. For viewers, there's no peering around heads, and often, the cameras zooms in until you are inches from the performers.

An Evening With Crystal Pite, a double bill film featuring the buzz worthy choreographer’s works performed by the Nederlands Dans Theater, accentuates the limitations of a performative art reduced to two, inert dimensions.

Daffy, ragtag clowns clash with an aggressive rank-and-file marching band in Parade. Fizzing with action, the musicians practice drills and the clowns engage in farcical antics before competing in a deadly dance-off. It's exasperating to watch. You aren't seeing Pite's vision; you are observing an interpretation fabricated by the videographer and video editor. Film renders us powerless and it compromises our viewing volition. The constant cutting and manifold close up shots prevents us from developing sympathies with the characters as much of the action occurs off screen. Pite’s theme—the inevitable war between reason, embodied the marching band, and intuition, represented by the clowns—seems lifeless when spoon fed to you.

The luminously pure dance piece Frontier demonstrates Pite’s brilliance at making movement that deftly slices through layers of verticality. Dancers resemble puppets freshly animated with a blood infusion—articulated joints with liquid bones. Half a dozen performers arrayed in drab pastels take center in solos and duos—the only section of the stage illuminated—shadowed by chimerical bodies clad in nubby black tracksuits, their faces obscured by a hood. Sitting in the tunnel-like movie theater, you feel as if you are gazing out the front window of a spaceship, drifting about the cosmos in an expansive trance watching stars and black holes. It’s hypnotically experiential, but the dancing and choreographic construction, which is outstanding, only registers superficially.

It’s too soon to say if going to see films of dance performances will become as commonplace as going to see live dance performances. While film negates much of the visceral exhilaration encountered watching a live dance show, it’s better than seeing nothing. 

This review refers to the 11am screening seen at Big Cinemas.