Sunday, 7 October 2012

Inheritor Album - 605 Collective


Inheritor Album by 605 Collective
Presented by Brian Webb 
October 5-6, 2012
Timms Centre for the Arts
Edmonton, Alberta

Choreographers and Dancers:
Lisa Gelley, Shay Kuebler, Josh Martin, Justine A Chambers, David Raymond, Laura Avery

Original Sound Design:
Kristen Roos

Film/Animation/Projections:
Miwa Matreyek

Lighting Design/Technical Director:
Jason Dubois

Inheritor Album is the second offering in this year's series presented by Brian Webb. The previous week Bboyizm was presenting urban dance performance for Edmonton, and Webb presented 605 Collective as "a different kind of urban dance," specifically an urban and contemporary dance fusion. Urban dance has influenced most dance forms at this point, finding its way into everything from belly dancing to ballet, drawing on various cadences, attitudes and levels of commercialism. This particular combination can be tricky, and if you've had past experiences with other performers, you might have simply called it suburban dance. As Webb introduced the company, he used the word "physicality" several times and explained the success of Interitor Album at a recent dance festival. And there was a sense of local pride in the introduction since two of the three core collective members are from Alberta (Edmonton and Camrose) despite the company's home base in Vancouver.

Separated into several sections, perhaps 8 or 10, the core of the 605 Collective (Gelley, Kuebler and Martin) explore different concepts of inheritance and give them each their own chapter in this album. The first section begins with a very dark stage except for a cool blue-green light, sometimes in down spots which move. The dancers randomly dart across the stage. A computer-generated circle of bright green light forms and begins to spiral. The group is in the middle. Individuals begin to run the lines of the circle, sometimes joined by the centre group. In a sort of relay, they come together but one or the other gets thrown back to the centre, watching for when it’s their turn to get caught up in the centrifugal force of the rotating spiral.

As it turns out, the 605 Collective maintains a serious edge throughout all the sections. The urban dance references act more to enhance a vocabulary of contemporary aesthetic dance forms; inversions and floor work that when performed are technically like urban dance, but with an introspective approach that changes the game. The dancers dive, spin, and are sucked into hyperspeed, then come out the other side with graceful sudden stops, glides and tumbles. Almost of all the faster movements are on or close to the floor. Arms and legs are cast outward which bodies meet with twisty shuffles and rolls, often like stones being tossed around in the action of shallow waves, occasionally coming to rest on the bottom before being propelled along the seafloor for another run. At times the dancers appear to struggle to keep up with each other in the unison phrases, but that’s part of the appeal. It is not an easygoing dance, and the movement evokes the sort of accepted burden that comes with inheritance. In other sections, the unison is randomized, with dancers starting and stopping mini phrases like popcorn. A couple of sections look like advanced versions of improv or choreography 101 such as the follow-the-leader section, and the rapid fire tableau that happen late in the piece. The follow-the-leader section starts out looking like a scorpion with the dancers attached at mostly-outstretched arms, but they detach and they move so well together that in profile they look like video feedback of each other.

At times the dancers separate and get caught up in their own sort of personal groove. The dancers stand hunched over, allowing waves of movement to progress from their feet, catching at their hunched shoulders and causing a little funky head bob. They do this for quite a long time, and the movements seem to change subtly from the groove to almost seizure-like to dry heaves and back again to groove (illness appears to be one of inherited traits in the piece). This theme comes back a couple of times and its simplicity and sense of solitude in a crowd is striking. They allow this to go on long enough to spend time looking at the way each dancer does this, and after looking at them awhile you might think of those wiggly inflatable guys at used car lots.

The dancers are dressed in generic Gap-like jeans and khakis with short sleeved shirts. It's possible it has taken you the two weeks since you saw the performance to decide how you feel about the drab attire and how it relates to the rest of the super-slick production (intense electronic music, specialized lighting and custom-designed computer animations). On one hand, the clothing makes the dancers look more boring than they are, and a there is a strong aesthetic disconnect. On the other, it's logical that the production elements are there to help our everyday heroes transcend their blandness and connect to the intangible. You might finally decide that both are true. And socks! If you ask other dancers about the socks they might say, “I know, right? I think it’s a Vancouver thing.” Most dancers warm up in socks but shed them as the feet require more feedback and friction from the floor. Somehow the 605 dancers are able to find enough traction to dig in and perform the precision floor work.

As an audience member it’s hard to keep track of all the sections of Inheritor Album, and there’s nothing in the program that delineates them for us. Each section is almost a separate piece, which led to a heated discussion among audience members after the show whether or not people should have applauded between them. Each section has its own slow build and its own resolution, the lights going to full blackout with a bit of space before the start of the next with no continuation of one narrative to the next. However, movement themes do return, and the pacing of each section is similar, the album tied together with sound and visuals. But the lack of continuity is occasionally almost humorous; the dancers who all seem to collapse or even die a slow death in one section, appear exactly the same in the next section, completely unscathed.

The computer-generated lighting graphics are successful in complementing the dance rather than the very usual problem of interfering with it. Sometimes the design creates fascinating puddles of light under the dancers, tracking their movements. Other times intricate webs (or spreading bacteria) sprout from dancers as they strike curious poses on the floor. Sometimes the graphics add a layer to the design, and sometime they are more literal, such as in the woman-against-the-crowded-world solo as graphic buildings grow up around her and crowd her visually into a corner. While the light graphics are visually interesting and effective, they don't come close to fitting on this particular proscenium stage, bleeding way onto the walls, floors and ceiling of the space. That might seem like a contemporary shrug to traditional rules, however it frequently threatens to remove us from the psychological space of the piece.

The electronic/computer music score is intricate and intense, utilizing some interesting and harsh real-world sounds. One section begins with the dancers in rectangles of light as we listen to an industrial-strength hammering sound. Kristen Roos provides rich textures and pulses rather than the beats and bass we often expect to accompany many urban dances. Some might think the music is too loud. It is not.

Inheritor Album is a dark piece, except for the last section which seems to open up the sky. The lights are up to maybe 6 instead of 3, and for the first time just on the warm side of cool. The dancers engage in an optimistic sort of urban-meets-country line dance that covers huge amounts of space, possibly an homage to dances the choreographers inherited from Alberta. The light darkens again slightly as the dancers are once again together in centre stage, caught up in their personal groove. A sonar-like wave of light repeatedly wipes the stage from top to bottom. The group systematically disintegrates as the dancers walk off stage one-by-one. The last dancer remains for a moment, but in the waves of light we continue to see the shadows of the other dancers, standing like ancestors as the last dancer walks off stage.




Please see Kelsie Acton's review of 605 Collective's Inheritor Album at Sound + Noise.

In The Upper Room - Alberta Ballet

Great Masterpieces of the 20th Century
Alberta Ballet
Northern Jubilee Auditorium, Edmonton, Alberta
September 21-22, 2012
7:30 pm

This concert makes sense.

The program title though, is oddly generic. It seems to be an appeal to concert hall patrons who might be afraid of words like "modern" or "contemporary," but are very pleased to buy tickets to attend not just regular masterpieces, but great ones. It leaves out the fact that it is so very specific to the United States, and even more specific to New York City, and even still more specific to just two choreographers, George Balanchine and one of his most ardent followers, Twyla Tharp.

It's worth a dive into Tharp's autobiography Push Comes To Shove to understand the chemistry here:
"For all my adoration, or precisely because of my adoration, I saw Balanchine only three times over the years. For a long time I had steadfastly refused to take advantage of offers to be introduced, fearing I would simply burst instantly into tears. However, when I was in Nashville with Misha (Mikhail Baryshnikov) for the taping of The Prodigal Son, it had happened......I turned around and there was Balanchine. I had no time to think; I simply bowed.....then Balanchine bowed, saying he was a great admirer, and I bowed saying, No I was a great admirer..." "Several years later, Balanchine was in the hospital. I went twice.....The second time, he was very sick.....so I just left what I had brought for him - a Walkman with a favorite cassette of mine, one of Mozart's last works, the Adagio and Rondo in C for Glass Harmonica. After that, I got together with a friend and we made sure that every day from then on there would be a small, but different, flower brought to his room. I read of Balanchine's death when I was flying back from a film location, in a New York Times that had been left on an empty plane seat. For the next year, every morning I went into the studio to work, I could not keep myself from crying. I missed Balanchine terribly--the thought that he would not be making any more dances, that he would not be springing into an incredible late blossoming...that I was now completely alone in the studio. I imagined making a dance to his memory, but the thought was ludicrous. He was embedded in every step I did."

In The Upper Room debuted in 1986, three years after the death of Balanchine. Quintessentially 1980's, the ballet is a fusion of many types of movement; ballet, jazz, modern, tap, boxing, and archery. The original Jennifer Tipton lighting design was used; modern lines and angles creating the illusion of moonlight coming into high-ceilinged, room with floor-to-ceiling windows. And costumes based on the original Norma Kamali design were used as well: combinations of black and white striped baggy pants with red leotards, bare-chested men in jeans and running shoes, and red ballet skirts with red pointe shoes.


Though the heavenly upper room is implied, Tharp refers to her upper room more as an enormous attic, where treasures are stored and may be visited. The dance is often symmetrical or chiral with a great deal of intense, if stoic partnering. Alberta Ballet dancers were mostly able to recreate the tight rhythms built within the movement phrases and at the same time maintain the precise looseness so specific to Tharp's style. From this looseness, the dancers then surprise us with sharp leaps that dissolve into turns that seem so relaxed it's hard to comprehend where the momentum is coming from. The turns and lifts and near-drops are breathtaking, managing to convey a sense of urgency and importance without angst or unnecessary acting. With the driving score of Philip Glass which he wrote for Tharp, the dance is one of a sort of post-postmodernist resplendence.

For Tharp in the 80's, creating dances that utilized all of her own skills (Balanchine ballet, tap, jazz, modern) became a kind of signature for her. In this piece it is notable that on the same stage we see bare feet, pointe shoes and sneakers, which was somewhat radical at the time. In fact she was possibly the first to put shoes back on the barefoot modern dancers. She herself had been choreographing to everything from Bach to Sinatra, making dances for her own company, for film, for Broadway, yet also choreographing for Joffrey, American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet.

Tharp says in her autobiography that In the Upper Room is the only work she has made that no matter where it is performed it gets a standing ovation (the Alberta Ballet performance being no exception). And it does get a fair amount of airplay by ballet companies around the world.



Tharp originally choreographed the piece on her own company. After it received some acclaim, she set it on American Ballet Theatre. At the time, New York Times dance critic Arlene Croce skeptically welcomed it as a definite improvement on Tharp's failures the year prior. In 1987 she wrote, "Unlike Fait Accompli, In the Upper Room will probably last a couple of seasons."  However, if you look today at the ABT schedule, it's on the bill this very weekend, 26 years later.

Alberta Ballet, when commissioning the ballet to be set on them, must have a member of the Twyla Tharp Foundation evaluate and train the company (in this case, Elaine Kudo). They then must spend three intensive weeks in rehearsal. Alberta Ballet doesn't have the typical look of a neo-classical company (the extremely tall and lithe Balanchine dancers we are accustomed to) but the dancers did quite well with the bolder, precisely and purposefully off-balance demands of Balanchine and Tharp. Aside from the dazzling steps and slithers and lifts, there are moments of stillness that must be abrupt and startling. If you had a favorite part, it might be when three male/female couples are dancing in a diagonal row, and after much back and forth in a kind of athletic and playful flirtation of turns, swivels, lifts and dips, the couples finally release themselves into each others arms. Just as instantly, their arms and bodies then repel each other like polar ends of magnets and they stand suspended for a moment, locked in a disconnected embrace as the next dancers materialize from the darkness behind them to take over the building inertia.

Early in the dance, a down spot on the dancers appears when an invisible lamp string is pulled. As the dance builds with entrances fading in and out from the abyss outside the hazy performance space. The dance ends with the angles of light reducing back to that little light, a single dancer jumps up pulls the lamp string, landing on one leg as the last note reverberates and the light goes to blackout. After so much complicated and charged movement, this simple pantomimic gesture becomes sublime.

This program may not have succeeded in reaching a contemporary dance, music and art audience, in part because Alberta Ballet might be more concerned with maintaining their more traditional audience rather than reaching out. In the program notes it states that these Balanchine and Tharp works changed the way we think about dance. Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maître says this:
 "Audiences might think, 'wow, you produced a highly successful Swan Lake, you've made it!' But I think that people should also realize that it takes just as much hard work and sacrifice to do justice to the works of Balanchine and Tharp."
Of course this is a true statement, though the problem with this is clear to a contemporary audience, who, already grasping the complexity, importance and the spectrum of aesthetics in  post-postmodernism will think of a 66-year-old Balanchine ballet to Paul Hindemith (The Four Temperaments) and a 26-year-old Tharp ballet to Philip Glass as decidedly historical, if completely relevent. Alberta Ballet seems in this case to act as an educator, an important role of any regional professional company. But for those of us who see our culture as not even just having recently entered the 21st century, we might feel a disconnect with those who are still afraid of the twentieth.


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Avant Clowning and "Little Lady" at The Fringe

Little Lady
Creator/Interpretor: Sandrine LaFond
Director:  John Turner
Composer: Yves Frulla
Videographer/Photographer: Paolo Santos
Make Up: Elisabeth LeHoux
Costume: Nelly Rogerson assisted by John Stone, Marie Laure Larrieu
Props: Jean Sebastien Gagnon
Stage Manager: Miriam Cusson
Technicians: Josiah Hiemstra (sound) Morgan Franche (Lighitng)

The promotional video for Little Lady is sexier and not as interesting as the show, which is more in character and creepier, in a good way. Sandrine LaFond is a dancer and a performer for Cirque du Soleil. For this independently-produced piece she received training and direction for Little Lady from John Turner at The Clown Farm on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

For those of us who know less about clowning than other performance practices, we might call this "avant clowning," as it crosses over into contemporary dance and theatre, though LaFond does not specifically present this work as a clown piece. More as a one-woman show with a sci-fi twist. The program note tells us this:
Doctors, welcome to the lab. The test subject you will be observing today, specimen LV 89135, has been in confinement for 21 days and is responding positively to our stimuli. She has proven to be kind and what some would qualify as sweet. We have lovingly dubbed her "Little Lady." A small indulgence we have allowed ourselves. Our social experiments have been diligently administered in the highest controlled conditions, a recent development in this process has proven fruitful to our common field of research. According to DNA testing, Little Lady is in fact a one of a kind hybrid; an accidental fusion of human and cockroach genes. The discovery of specimen LV81958 in the north Nevadian icefield is indeed one of the most interesting breakthroughs of our present time Your analysis of the situation will be of the utmost importance.
The piece opens with a video. In it, LaFond appears as a wide-eyed but confident girl in a dream sequence. She is in a desert sleeping under the protection of rock formations. She wakes up and does some exploring. She walks about the desert but suddenly her movements become repetitive hyperspeed affectations and skitterings, then back to normal. There is a handmade teddy bear with button eyes. An eye falls off and rolls away. LaFond comes across it, puts it in her pocket and takes off assuredly through the desert. The film fades, and there is the Little Lady on stage, just waking up from her dream, her derriere in the air.

Little Lady is wearing a coral 1940's style dress with headscarf to match. She's wearing large cartoonish glasses. She moves about the stage in what dancers call a forced arch; on the balls of the feet with heels raised, and a bent knee to force the ankle even further forward. She does this for a punishingly long time, aided by a tiny cane. Her physical extremes simultaneously allude to her little old lady character, and to the joints of insects, and as we know from the program note, our Little Lady specimen is half cockroach.

Jane Siberry
Björk
She really is quite adorable. She squeaks and oohs and giggles. If we compare her with someone we might come up with a combination of Jane Siberry, Lucille Ball, Björk all wrapped up in one.


Lucille Ball


She is infectiously cheerful about her little lab/dollhouse routines that are cued by the sounds of bells, tones and changes in the music (dreamy accordion waltzes with electronically-altered humming). She has a water mister to spray water into her mouth. She has a little tv show that comes on once a day that teaches her things (knitting lessons). She drinks water from a large silver bowl. She is allowed to eat red candy pills from specimen trays. She has a little notebook that she writes in once a day before sleeping. She puts her teddy bear on her little notebook and puts her head down on it, derriere in the air.

Her dreams give her new abilities. After the second dream, onstage this time, she is able to straighten her legs and walk on her feet. After the third dream, she contorts and snores herself into a gigantic bra with large toy rubber balls and pair of undies equipped with two more for a bum. These things amuse her for awhile, but as the days go by, she is allowed more red candy pills. The more she eats the sicker she gets and she ends up back on her toes and cane. Becoming despondent about her lab environment, she tries to make a break for it, but she finds herself trapped.

Just when we think she's trapped forever, she finds a yellow dress hidden in the body of the teddy bear. Finding this dress seems to be her out: she is freed from her head scarf, she no longer needs her glasses. She stands straight again and can even do a playful leaping dance, briefly showing some of her skills as a dancer. She transforms into the brave dream girl in the video and can now make her getaway.

LaFond is 110% physically committed to her fully-realised character and story. Little Lady stands on its own as a multi-disciplinary theatre piece, as dance theatre and as avant clowning.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Elsewhere In Dance

From ArtsAlive.ca:
  • If you are a dance aficionado, go to see dance.
  • If you have never seen a live dance performance, try it out.
  • If you are unsure about it, start with something more familiar.
  • If you have seen one show and you hated it, don't be discouraged.
You'll like some pieces and you'll dislike others, but you'll never know unless you try. Get out there and see as much dance as you can. Somewhere along the way, you might just fall in love with dance. 

here is an impressive list of dance festivals around the world.
 
Thank you.
 
 
 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Fringe - Resurrected Motifs


Continuing coverage of dance at The Fringe!
August 16-26, 2012


Resurrected Motifs
Venue: BYOV #30 Phabrik Art and Design Centre
No/w/here Project and Orchesis Dance Society, University of Alberta

The University of Alberta does not have a dance major program, which is a lose-lose situation for the vibrancy of dance in Edmonton and the entire province. There is much to be said about this. Still, the Orchesis Dance Society does an amazing job of offering a fine recreational dance program to its students,with an impressive faculty that offers the Big 3 of western aesthetic dance (ballet, jazz, contemporary/modern) as well as other movement forms such as belly dancing.

Resurrected Motifs is a set of 4 dances by choreographers who are or have been part of the society. Which brings us to the slight problem of the name. In The Fringe, artists are vying for the attention of Fringe-goers who sometimes just scan the program for an interesting title to jump out and make them want to see it. The title here suggests that the company is bringing back ideas that used to be dead. But, titles don’t necessarily indicate the quality of the performances.



First of all, it’s in an unbelievably cool space, perhaps it was a large auto body shop
that has been transformed into a fashion and design workspace with a shiny, groovy bar set up and a runway for fashion shows. The performers made use of the unusual long, narrow stage.






Howl

Choreographer: Kelsie Acton
Dancer: Nicole Perry
Poem: Howl by Allan Ginsberg, performed/recorded by Rachel Kent

It’s generally an interesting choice to have performers in place or already doing things as the audience filters in. In Howl, the runway is covered with a long length of insulation plastic.  Perry is at the upstage end, lying calmly on her right side.



As the lights change, Perry gets onto all fours and seems to be exploring what the plastic feels like under her hands. The sound accompaniment seems to be playing, and it sounds like ambient room noise amplified. It creates an eerie bit of tension in the air despite the extreme subtlety.

Perry’s gaze darts from side to side as if something is out there in the dark. This seems to agitate her and she begins doing some kneeling side curves that circle enough to give her the momentum to get off the floor from a kneeling position. As she does so, the jump undulates through her side-curved spine and she becomes entangled in the plastic. The poem begins, and the rest of the piece is a dance of negotiating the plastic, advancing and retreating down the runway. It’s messy at times with the plastic which has a mind of its own, but then she seems to kick the plastic into a surprisingly great outfit, gracefully wrapped around a leg, the waist and an arm. At one point it becomes almost bridal.


The dancing is often rather active, jumping from one move to the next within the plastic. Perry begins to wrap a tiny bit of it around her hand. It starts getting bigger and becomes a bit of a plastic boxing glove. It gets bigger still, but we might wish she had continued until the entire length of the plastic is around her hand and arm. The careful wrapping suddenly stops and the plastic is tossed off the arm and back to the floor. She ends the piece when she’s wrapped in a sort of cocoon, lying again on her side.

It’s curious that Acton has her character start out by darting her glance fearfully, as though there is a sound in the darkness of the woods. As the piece progresses however, Perry almost continuously looks at the plastic and the floor. It's not clear what is a source of fear here, and it’s not clear what the purpose of the plastic is, perhaps a complicated toy for this animal that Perry seems to be.

Having Howl read by a young-sounding woman is an interesting turn considering the point of view of the poem. While the hum of the recording before the speaking starts is an interesting sonic component, the voice recording is not terrific (it sounds like they attempted a clear recording, rather than going for a low-fi sound). Howl the poem is frequently performed, referenced and analysed, so the use of it in this piece could come off to some as over-used, and this may be intentional on Acton's part. Making a piece involving the poem and have it add fresh meaning to its long, sordid history is a challenge.

Large sheets of plastic have been used a lot recently for dance in Edmonton. Gerry Morita did a piece with plastic for her work Flotsam, which performed around Edmonton and Alberta from about 2005 until 2008:





The Good Women Dance collective also used a sheet of plastic for their work Pod this past spring:




In Acton's Howl, Perry begins outside of the plastic but ends up in side of it.

In all three works, the plastic at some point seems to take on a life of its own, at times a comfort or a burden.

......


A Modern "Grim" Tale
Choreographer: Lysa Downey
Costume Design: Ephram di Medicci

A collection of Grimm tales adapted for dance, the piece has an enormous cast (18 dancers) and elaborate costumes that are sometimes beautiful:




sometimes a bit tacky, for instance elasticky sports bras on fairies:


In fact there are many costumes, and more than one set of characters make use of sports bras, allowing the audience to spend plenty of time deciphering a rather lengthy cursive tattoo on the midriff of one of the dancers.

The piece seems to be giving a performance opportunity for beginning and intermediate dancers in the Orchesis program. The choreography is a blend of rather straightforward ballet, jazz and contemporary vocabulary mixed with some character stage movement. Overall it comes off as a high school or civic theatre production, and despite the fact that the Resurrected Motifs program is essentially a dance recital, it feels unbalanced with the other 3 pieces in the program which are far more minimalist, in terms of performance and design.

.....
Exuvia
Choreographer: Anastasia Maywood
Performers: Lindsay Roseke and Larissa Swayze
Music: John Maywood
Costume design and construction: Cynthia Sibley (assisted by Anastasia Maywood).

Exuvia was reviewed previously on the Dance Conspiracy blog as part of Expanse festival. Please see this post for the review.

.....

Awakening
Choreographer and performer: Tony Olivares
Music: Tidal by Michael Byron
Costume Design by Ephram di Medicci and Tony Olivares
"This piece is dedicated to life."

Tony Olivares has returned to Edmonton after 10 years. In this piece, which he has dedicated to a friend and colleague of his who passed away, he appears to us from the stage entrance, painted completely in white, holding 60 roses. He is wearing white, skin-like shorts that essentially free him of earthly entanglements. Glacially, Olivares advances forward, at first in silence, and then with the rich music. At times, he shifts his forward-facing position to a sideways forward walk and at this moment some might think of Ted Shawn and some of his early interests in Greek tragedy.




Tony continues to walk toward a light downstage that seems to be beckoning him there. He parts the roses into still-giant fists of flowers. When he gets to the brightest focus of light, he slowly offers the flowers. The offering becomes more intense as he stands there, changing in his body from a state of noble generosity to one of noble despair.



He begins to retreat slowly from the light, as he does, arms at his sides, the roses slowly fall from his fingers. Eventually he ends up with just one rose, which he slowly offers one more time.



Tony then descends to the floor as though he were shot in slow motion. He luxuriates painfully in the roses. This sorrowful and all-encompassing dance of emotional pain also attempts to overcome the pain.

 Olivares is surrounded by the roses and as he rises he pulls up fists-full of the roses, disordered and pointing every which way, still trying to make a bitter offering. At one point he begins to insert or "plant" the roses into the shorts he is wearing. While this is a striking image, it comes dangerously close to becoming comical, as he now has a row of long-stemmed and rather mobile flowers in his pants; pants we had not exactly ignored, but accepted as an alternative to total nudity. This use of the shorts forces them directly into our conscious minds as a wearable prop whether we like it or not. As Olivares continues moving, most of the roses wobble out of the shorts, aside from one almost certainly unintentional tail-like rose coming off the middle back of the shorts like a tail. Because Olivares succeeds so well in convincing us of the supreme importance of these roses, it is impossible to ignore this strong image, even if it only lasts for a few moments. And it does only last for a few moments, but we have to work a bit mentally to bring ourselves back into the drama.

Olivares is undeniably gorgeous and a pleasure to watch both as a male presence and as a dancer. The death in this piece is a long one, with many short, fast exhalations that punctuate some of the more percussive twists, turns and contractions that his body makes. He is able to draw us into every muscle of his physical being, which seem to be heroically (and artfully) taking on the pain in all of us.

.....

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Fringe - Good Women Dance Collective

 The Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival began in 1982, and is the oldest and largest in North America, based on ticket sales of 104,142 to over 200 indoor shows, with an estimated outdoor site attendance of 576,000. It's huge.

August 16-26, 2012

This is Still Not A Play
Good Women Dance Collective
Bring Your Own Venue (BYOV) 31: TACO Space by Punctuate!

Dance performances at The Fringe tend to work like other dance performances, presenting several dance pieces within the space of the show. Two years ago, Good Women presented "This Is Not A Play," in order to distinguish themselves from the theatre crowd. Performance practise definitions are more blurry than ever (performance art, wordless plays, dance theatre, dances that use text, etc). Yet the recent work of Good Women shows that their recent involvement with theatre productions have informed their own sense of theatre and plot in their own work.

 Face Time
Choreographer: Ainsley Hillyard
Dancers: Alida Nyquist-Schultz, Alison Kause and Ainsley Hillyard
Technical Director: Kevin Green

Face Time is a work-in-progress which literally uses FaceTime as a way of communicating within the piece. FaceTime is video calling software by Apple which assures in their advertising that you can "be in two places at once." As the piece begins, we see Nyquist-Schultz mostly on hands and knees in an active and precise dance of flailing motions which recover with paused gazes at the floor or hands. As she does this, Hillyard prepares the space for a video call, pulling down a projection screen and setting up a little work space. Kause enters, a call is made, and the interaction begins. In this case, Hillyard uses FaceTime to tell the dancers what to do. This is a flashback to another less-developed piece by Good Women where they projected dance instructions to each other via text onto the dancers white-costumed bodies. In fact, the image used for that previous piece is the used in the program.

As the dancers make video contact, Hillyard appears to be seated confidently and begins to tell Kause which parts of the choreography she wants to see, and from what viewpoint.



Kause adjusts the FaceTime effects or holds the camera just so, allowing us a different viewpoint of her performance. Then Hillyard tells Alison to finish the choreography with a fall backward. When Kause seems concerned for her own safety, Hillyard says,

"Don't worry. I'll catch you." 
"But...you're not...here..." 

This is comical, yet threatening. We know that Hillyard is actually just off to the side of the stage, mostly out of our sight. But we might also realise that we think of these video conferencing tools as bringing us closer, in this case it creates a psychological distance. We know Hillyard won't be there when she falls. Her image is sent to space, captured and sent back to Kause's phone via satellite. The set up for this works well, and we feel nervous for the trusting Kause, a little irritated by the smug Hillyard. The choreography is moved through, and Kause stands ready to fall. As she does, FaceTime cuts out.

The piece continues through further sections and explores more scenarios of technological disconnect paralleled with a bit of the "gee whiz" factor of what technology allows us to do (angles and effects vs. delays and distractions, for example). Face Time is one of the more successful communications technology pieces I have seen to date. The commentary hints at the deeper problems of technology without being overly sentimental, goofy, nerdy or preachy. The dialogue is well-written and well-timed. It's an intense moment when Kause falls and Hillyard is not there to catch her. A more believable fall by Kause would make for a stronger statement here, though one can't blame her for being a bit tentative with nine more shows in the run (ow!). Another memorable moment is when Hillyard requires Nyquist-Schultz to sync-up the video feedback layers of herself. As she busily dances she manages to respond,

"I can't...control...them..."

 reminding us of the disembodiment of our own images and messages as they come hurling in from space.
 .....

Irene

Choreographer and Performer: Kate Stashko
Sound design: Jacques Poulin-Denis with music by John Zorn and The Rachels
Costume: Kate Stashko
Technical Director: Kevin Green

Stashko is not in the core group of Good Women Dance Collective, but they’ve featured her in significant roles in other pieces. Here they’ve given her the space to present her own work entirely. Irene is a character sketch dance of a lovely but disturbed woman. She sneaks into a room that is empty save for a wooden chair that she seems nervous to approach.  We get the idea that she is not quite right by her entrance, in which she is crouched and searching suspiciously around the room. She is wearing an odd combination of a lightweight black asymmetric skirt, and a loose black tank top. Over the tank top she has a matronly beige and white checked tweed jacket. She’s wearing black dress shoes, or more probably character shoes worn for musical theatre and ballroom dancing. It’s an odd combination. Irene also has a sleek haircut, which of course is also Stashko’s haircut; a dark, short asymmetric bob.

This costume mention is important firstly because Stashko specifically mentions that she designed it, and also because it's not immediately apparent who this character is through the costume design. But more on this in a moment.

Irene makes it to the chair, and sits. As she does, her jacket opens and we notice that from a hidden crease in the front of her top, she has many dark blue feathers. As she cantalevers her upper body from her seated position, the feathers begin to fall to the floor. As this happens, it’s as though the floor has begun to move and is trying to sweep her feet away. She hangs onto the chair for dear life as the floor, or maybe it’s just her shoes, try to get away from her. 



She struggles like this for a long time before she lets go of the chair and is moved to do a strenuous and nervous dance of repetitive inward tornadoes and skilled but purposefully unwieldy leaps and jumps. As she exerts herself, we see that from her sleeves, more feathers are emerging and flying out and to the ground. Soon the floor is quite decorated with feathers. She seems to want to be rid of them, or at least to set them free.

During this mad scene, there are moments of clarity for Irene, and sometimes she suddenly sees the audience members’ faces, taking time to look at them with a mildly bewildered eye. One of Irene’s ticks is that she stares suddenly and makes little shakes and nods of her head. These shakes then continue through her body. She takes off her shoes for another bit of madness. At this point it’s hard to tell if Stashko slips out of character to perform some of the more formal and technical moments in the piece (Stashko is a highly trained in ballet) with some spectacular graceful jumps. Or perhaps, Irene is actually capable of such grace at times, and this relates back to the costume and the mix of graceful, if loose, artsy black outfit with the matronly bolero jacket. It's as though she may be a mentally ill high school English teacher.

The music changes, and Irene puts her shoes back on. Irene now has a faint sheepish smile on her face. She again nods and shakes, she does a more tired little inward tornado dance. She backs away from us slowly as the lights fade, a slightly mad smile is on her face. Her hands are slightly stretched out to us, as if needing something from us, but her retreat suggests she really doesn’t want whatever we might be willing to give.



 .....
Counterpart 
Choregrapher: Alida Nyquist-Schultz
Performers: Ainsley Hillyard and Alida Nyquist-Schultz.
Dramaturge: Alison Kause
Music: David Kristian, Beef Terminal, Alva Noto

Counterpart had its debut in December, but the Good Women are bringing it back for Fringe audiences to enjoy. The lighting design is quite dark, with the exception of a thin bar of white light that cuts a diagonal from downstage right to upstage left. The piece is a sinister dance of chirality, mimicry and mockery. The dancers enter wearing tight black pants and tight black tank tops that are cut to the navel down the middle revealing the center of the chest through black mesh. The dancers approach the line and each other, the line acting as a mirror or portal or trans-dimensional force field. They mirror each other for some time with precision, an element of threat is present. The movement is strong and vaguely sexy, with lots of whiplash actions that resolve with a sense of pressure bearing down on the duo. They frequently pause for long periods to peer at each other, watching and waiting.

As they explore their boundary and test the mimicking, at some point it becomes clear that one is somehow allowed to be slightly dominant, trying to make the other move in ways she doesn’t want to. Their synchronisation becomes distorted as the second dancer fails to catch up. When they try to go back to mirroring each other, it doesn’t always work and they become more and more in opposition. Eventually the other dancer decides to stop the game and the controller becomes the controlled.



The movement in all the sections consist of active floor movements that splash out and recoil, many seem to quote hip hop or other street dancing forms. The choreography also brings these movements to crouching and taut standing positions that feel simultaneously confrontational and defensive. As the audience, we don’t know who will be next in charge, and we get the idea that the characters are treading new territory themselves.

The most interesting section is after the light line vanishes. Nyquist-Schultz who dominated earlier is now somewhat beaten down. As lights come up she is now on the other side of where the line was. She almost seems blind in this world and she begins moving again. Hillyard’s character comes out and is in the controlling position again, though it seems Nyquist-Schultz can only sense that she is there but can't see her. Hillyard follows her slowly and forces her to retreat. She plays menacing tricks as Nyquist-Schultz navigates this new psychological space. She seems traumatized, but seems to accept defeat in a way. The antics escalate into more of a brawl with complex pushing and shoving motions. Exhausted, they both retreat. The light line returns and the two Good Women find themselves on opposite sides of the line from where they began, perhaps a bit like the film Mulholland Drive.











Hair seems like an important part of the choreography and costume for Counterpart, as it colourfully punctuates much of the whiplash movements, but is also distracting at times. Sexuality is implied through the costumes, the battle scene, and the long stares. The dancers move well together, and it's interesting to see their movement differences which are somewhat amplified during the unison sections. However the differences are only one clue in the mystery of whether these two are separate individuals, an entity within an entity, or if one is completely imagined.


Next!

Resurrected Motifs, A Wake, Little Lady and Afterlives

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Dancefest at Nextfest 2012

Reviews of Exuvia, In Praise of the Humble Comma, Moon River, and Bad Betty of the Mine




 Nextfest is Edmonton's emerging artist festival. Mostly for artists under 30, it is a chance for young artists to be seen while they are defining themselves, and gives audiences an opportunity to see some fresh faces and to see artists working through an interesting phase in the development of their ideas and methods. To help them with this, there is a high school mentorship program, and many of the other artists pair up with an established mentor as well. Directed by Steve Pirot, genres represented in Nextfest are visual arts, film, theatre, play development, music (which is oddly separated into "music" and "nu-music") and of course, dance. Dancefest is curated by Cheryl Fontaine.

Highlights from Dancefest at Nextfest:

Exuvia
Choreographer: Anastasia Maywood
Dancers: Phil Kloc, Linsay Roseke, Larissa Swayze
Music: Nextfest does not do music credits. This is unfortunate on many levels. I don't remember what Maywood chose, but I recall it being appropriate, possibly with some sonar-like sounds.
Mentor: Ainsley Hillyard

Right off the bat, I think it would be good to know just at what level of emergence these choreographers and dancers are. Maywood has a master's degree in dance, so she is no beginner. And we see this in her piece, which appears to be an exploration of deep sea life. The lighting design helps us descend into the dark and briny deep. Three bodies enter, their arms lined in some kind of black light paint. Electric eels come to mind as the snake-like neon-striped arms swim through the dark air, occasionally making quick sharp claps that could be electric sparks. They shed their shirts and move from animal behaviour into more formal leg and arm gestures, turning and falling. Perhaps these beings that were once buoyant are now affected by the pressure of the deep water, with clunky exoskeletons skidding across the ocean floor. Eventually the creatures find their jellyfish-like outfits and awkwardly work their way in. The large skirts or funnels are made from chicken wire and plastic, some times coloured, sometimes clear, the creatures slow their pace to explore their new physical presence. The audience cracks up a bit at their preposterousness, and it's not clear if that was the desired response. However, this doesn't seem to be either a serious or humorous dance. Instead it's rather relaxing, like being mesmerised by watching fish in a big aquarium.


In Praise of the Humble Comma
Choreographer: Nicole Perry
Dancers: Anastasia Maywood, Mariel Day
Music: Again; no music credits, Nextfest! Boo.
Mentor: Linda Turnbull


The Edmonton Journal was intrigued by the title of this piece, and what journalist wouldn't be? The idea of a dance about punctuation might lead one to anticipate a kind of grown up Electric Company fun. Instead, Perry, a young social worker who has taken on choreography as a dedicated hobby, has taken a more serious tone. A dancer pantexts while another types at a typewriter. The typing pantomime corresponds literally with the sound of typing that is emitted through the loudspeakers. Arms and legs are decorated in punctuation symbols. As the women remove themselves from their technology to engage each other, they begin to jump, turn and fall together in an effort to connect, tentatively approaching each other. Once they trust each other, they begin to pantomime writing things to each other, on the floor, in the air, on the wall behind them. The other follows along like a foreigner learning a strange new language. They dance again, but with more antagonism. When the dancers become self-conscious, we see they prefer their previous solitude and return to their respective technology. The piece ends as they occasionally glance back toward the other as they type.

If one person came away from this feeling a bit sad things didn't work out for the gals, another might have identified with the need for space after an awkward relationship. This piece is not so much about punctuation as it is a commentary of how technology and communication keep us from engaging each other directly (the anachronistic technologies are perhaps a subplot, but not a fully developed one).

Last year Perry presented a very large cast and a ninja-themed social awareness angle. A common thread in Perry's work is the dancers arms and legs decorated with handwriting, though the ninjas' bodies instead bore words of empowerment. Taking it down a notch in terms of set, choreography and number of dancers seems to allow Perry the opportunity to develop individual characters, a good choice for a young choreographer with a deep interest in human interaction.


Moon River
Choreographer and Dancer: Jeannie Vandekerkhove
Music: A Capella vocals by Vandekerkhove, Moon River sung by Audrey Hepburn (movie soundtrack). (This information was not in the program.)

This gender-bending solo had its debut in March a the Expanse Movement Festival cabaret on opening night here in Edmonton. Vandekerkhove has continued to hone this piece for this festival. She is an accomplished dancer and choreographer, but this piece represents an experimentation in performance art for her. A long, tall drink of water, her character staggers drunkenly onto the stage in an awkward evening gown and what could only be called an abundance of wigs covering her head and most of her face. There is no music, only the sound of irregular high heels and sparkly fabric. She takes her time getting to the microphone while creating the atmosphere of a seedy cabaret at about 2 am. She takes a long drink from a bottle of booze and smokes a (fake) cigarette while making unladylike outfit adjustments.

She clears her smoker's cough and with her back to us, she begins singing Moon River. Her breathy voice is actually sweet enough to call to mind Hepburn herself. But rather than staring dreamily through a window as she sings, Vanderkerkhove's character is busy trying to maintain her balance while working her way out of a surprising number of clothing layers. As the audience chuckles at the scene she starts to overdo it a bit, but she pulls it back just in time for the best part of the number: With the movie soundtrack Moon River playing, she seductively moves her hips as she holds the zipper at the back of her of her floor-length skirt. She unzips it, and just as it seems we're about to get more of a show than we expected at Nextfest, instead of sliding it down, she brings it up and then disappears completely down into its fabric, to great comic effect. A naughty tête-á-tête seems to be happening in there with girly squeals and manly chuckles. But then, as though the skirt is some kind of tardis, Vandekerkhove emerges as a short-haired James Dean-type chap. Somehow this low-tech transformation manages to convince us that somehow this dude has arrived from some other Lynchian dimension.  He takes a comb to his head with Fonzarelli-like precision. He then similarly adjusts his clothing, assumes manly poses and smokes a cigarette as the music ends.

Those familiar with Vandekerkhove's virtuosity might feel robbed of seeing her dance a "dancey-dance" when watching this. However it is refreshing to see someone who moves very well using their body to present a sort of non-verbal theatre, especially in a festival situation where dance-goers might see 10-25 dances over the course of a few nights, with most pieces demonstrating rehearsed steps and leaps. Vandekerkhove's characters and surreal cabaret call to mind the work of avant garde cabaret artist Meow Meow in that they work within a similar shade of psychological darkness and bring unexpected situations to an otherwise predictable and antiquated form of entertainment. Vandekerkhove is very comfortable in drag, which it seems both characters are. There are certainly questions to ask of this piece, mostly because the characters, though simple, are so strange.


Bad Betty of the Mine
Choreographer and Dancer: Susan Kania
Music: Credits not given by Nextfest!
(a review)

Thank heavens for Bad Betty of the Mine, a solo by Edmonton's best kept secret, Susan Kania. We think she studied and spent some time performing in Vancouver, and is now in Edmonton doing landscaping work by day. She was impressive last year at Nextfest in Barbara Murray's choreography, and she hasn't been heard from very much since then. I'm not sure if she belongs in an "emerging artist" show, but nonetheless, this is where we have a chance to see her.

In dim amber light she comes out wearing a sepia-toned dress and big old brown boots. There are some yodeling cattle calling sounds heard as she advances slowly, carrying a heavy lantern in one hand while doing a stiff and quirky arm dance in with the other. Her shoulder, elbow and wrist articulate the rhythms of the calls, hear face serious, her head occasionally almost bird-like. As the music fades she sets down her lantern, takes off her heavy boots and lets her messy hair down. She does a sensual yet purposefully awkward dance, showing some leg and allowing her dress to fall to her head as she inverts her body. In another section we see Betty in a full-on work dance. This is a dance of effort and sweat with occasional lightness. Something to get through but in a satisfying way. Betty finds her boots again in the last section. She eases her hands into the boots and she plays out a chunky dance which includes can-can. Her arms initiate the steps, her legs and pelvis are compelled to follow them gracefully, accompanied by a old-time mining song. Tired, Betty slides her hands out of her boots and slides her feet back into them. We get the idea that she has sufficiently amused herself in a day's work. Sweaty and mussed, she makes a disinterested, yet slightly sassy exit.


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Nailing Jell-O To The Wall



"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

"Writing about dancing is like dancing about writing."

"Speaking about dance is like nailing Jell-o to the wall." 

I'm working with architect Jennifer Harmon on a big interdis project. In searching through her website, I found that she has worked on a project to make beautiful wall tiles.....out of Jell-o!


                     

Brava!


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

TEDx - Dancers in Alberta


Gerry Morita of Mile Zero Dance on TEDx Edmonton (I'll post the video when it comes out).


and Julie Funk of Fort McMurray on TEDx Fort McMurray speaks about how her life growing up in Fort McMurray fostered a life practice of yoga and dance.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

RETRO! - "Old" Bill. New York Times, c. 1988.


DANCE VIEW; When a Choreographer Settles Into a Formula

 

By Anna Kisselgoff
Published: July 03, 1988
WILLIAM FORSYTHE, A MAJOR talent worth following even when he is stuck in a groove, is represented all around us this season. West Germany's Frankfurt Ballet, where he has been artistic director since 1984, has just appeared in New York City - as part of the First New York International Arts Festival - for the first time (the company made its United States debut last summer at the PepsiCo. Summerfare festival in nearby Purchase, N.Y.) with local Forsythe premieres that came on the heels of ''Behind the china dogs,'' choreographed for the New York City Ballet's American Music Festival this spring.

At this writing, ''In the middle, somewhat elevated,'' created by the American choreographer last year for the Paris Opera Ballet, has yet to be presented by that company during its current New York season. But there is little reason to believe that it is different from the line of ballets that Mr. Forsythe has been choreographing in the last five years, of which ''Behind the china dogs'' and the 1987 ''New Sleep'' for the San Francisco Ballet are typical examples.




If one reads Mr. Forsythe correctly - and the subject of his current work is how one actually perceives the language of dance or ''reads'' it - he has settled into a formula for creating dances rather than a true esthetic.

The ''old'' Forsythe (he is only 38 years old) made his first impact as a manufacturer of pop imagery turned against pop culture. Unlike most of my colleagues, I admired his updated ''Orpheus'' (created for the Stuttgart Ballet with the English playwright Edward Bond and the German composer Hans Werner Henze) for its theatrical impact and the power of its political message.

At that time, we had not seen the West German Tanztheater movement, which was to surface later in Pina Bausch's success abroad. But when the Netherlands Dance Theater presented Mr. Forsythe's ''Say bye bye'' in New York in 1981 it was obvious that this critique of American culture via Elvis Presley songs was highly innovative. It married a formal substructure - a thematic use of ballet steps in many varied ways - with theatrical imagery.

Since 1983, Mr. Forsythe has chosen to strip away the narrative pictorial imagery. He has abstracted this approach to its bare bones. We see a deliberately restricted number of steps performed by dancers in more than one way (often repeated, often changed slightly, usually placed in different contexts according to how many others are doing the same steps). In place of dancers identifiable as characters, no matter how anonymous, the performers are seen as dancers. They are only one of several formal elements that come into play. The choreography is presented in fragments, and that is because the lighting, usually by Mr. Forsythe, is full of blackouts, eclipses, obscurity or blinding light that segments the dancing. The ''music'' is more often than not a spoken text, woven into fragments of classical music or heard alone, or it is an electronically produced sound score, usually by the Dutch composer Tom Willems, which has a percussive and goading loud beat - a cross between the wooden blocks clapped together in Kabuki drama and a rock-music rhythm box.

This is not the Forsythe represented by ''Love Songs,'' re-staged for the Joffrey Ballet in the 1980's and that was, in the recent season at the City Center, performed with admirable if more violent power by the Frankfurt dancers (some of whom are Americans familiar from American companies). The cast I saw was smashing on all counts - Amanda Miller, Isabel Gerber, Elizabeth Corbett, Glen Tuggle, Andrea Tallis, Jennifer Grissette, Leigh Matthews, Stephen Galloway.
The Forsythe on view today is the one who took off from ''France Dance,'' created in 1983 for the Paris Opera Ballet, and from ''Gange,'' created the same year in Frankfurt and later recycled for the Joffrey as ''Square Deal.''

There's the rub. Much of Mr. Forsythe's present work is a recycling of itself. And after one has admired the difficult and aggressive partnering, amazing directional changes, the attack of the women's toe work and the off-balance dynamic of Mr. Forsythe's approach to the classical ballet idiom, one admires it less when a style becomes confused with a language.
At his best, Mr. Forsythe knows how to create for the specific dancers at hand. In ''France Dance,'' he picked out still relatively uknown French dancers like Sylvie Guillem and choreographed for their bodies and polished technique.

Seen at the City Center, the otherwise impressive Frankfurt dancers (engaging in their tribal counterculture postures in works like ''Skinny'' and ''Same Old Story,'' repeated from last year) took second place to the peformance of Sabine Roth. Miss Roth is a dwarf and an eloquent actress, and her height was used in ironic contrast to the cutouts of buildings and monuments that she moved around constantly - Donald Trump fashion. These cutouts were of the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Tower of Pisa, the Parthenon and so on. There were also big cutouts of animals, some prehistoric, and since the movement themes were based on fragmentary gestures from George Balanchine's seminal ballet ''Apollo,'' the work obviously had something to do with history.

What is history, what is dance? Mr. Forsythe likes to take a problem from his readings in literary theory and use it as a springboard for a ballet. Many of these issues, however, have already been examined by experimental modern-dance choreographers in the 1960's, and the use of permutation in movment to test perception is not an end in itself. If I sound disillusioned, I am not. I know Mr. Forsythe can do better.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Neuroscience meets improv on TEDxMidAtlantic.

I particularly like the Future Questions slide:
What is creative genius?
Why does the brain seek creativity?
How do we acquire creativity?
What factors disrupt creativity?
Can creative behavior be learned?
My questions are:
What is virtuosity?
Why to we learn dance and music by copying rather than creating?
Why are dancers and musicians not encouraged or trained to become composers earlier, if ever?
Why do some people take improvisors less seriously as performing artists?








Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Dancing The Formation of the Alberta Badlands

In 2010 I went on my first trips to Dinosaur Provincial Park. There are so many fossils, in some places you can't help but step on them.

Ericka is a guide there. My theory is that she is also a dancer in southern Alberta. She talked a couple into helping her recreate the formation of the badlands....

1.
Glaciers grew and advanced, scraping off most of the top of Alberta down to just above the cretaceous layer. The layers here were deposited by the Bearpaw Sea and its tributaries.


2.
Glaciers melting as they advance...


3.
As the ice advanced, a massive chunk fell off and was left behind.


4.
When the ice melted, the water mobilized.


5.
But it got trapped in the area of the Red Deer River and started swirling.


6.
Eventually it found a way out and started rushing through the badlands, beginning to carve through the layers.



7.


This dancer took his role very seriously and dramatically took off running through the badlands.





 Fin.

Monday, 11 June 2012

dance (is) everywhere

Recently a friend of mine sent me a link to a dance film called Girl Walk // All Day. The video is basically a girl dancing her way through New York City, ultimately asking people to dance with her. It's rather charming, entertaining and infectiously optimistic. It called to mind book I read a couple of years ago called Dancing in the Streets - A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich. A scholarly book, it offers insight into what civilization loses whenever it gets too uptight to participate in dancing in the open with its fellow man.

I can't find it now, but somewhere in my old Dance Ink (now 2wice) magazines there was a quote that struck me years ago. One of the interviewed choreographers said something like,  

"The world does not need to see more dance. The world needs to dance more." 
 
At the time, I was an aspiring choreographer, aware of the declining audiences for performing arts, contemporary aesthetic dance being at the bottom of the pile. The statement startled me, and still does. Like other young choreographers, we were trying to create work with the idea that would be seen by others. Young dancers were wondering why they had never heard of Martha Graham until they were 18 and in university dance programs. We were trying to promote concert dance attendance and understanding to the larger public, and this statement shot through to my impressionable core. Now of course I understand that it was meant to be inflammatory and challenging to the dance establishment, and also challenging to the artist ego, something that evaporates when one dances with others just for the sake of it.

Some of the best experiences I've had dancing have been outdoors or in public spaces, especially those that move through the street. Rather than site-specific outdoor pieces where people can come watch, traveling dances give people a fleeting glimpse of something they probably wouldn't bother going to the theatre for. The implication is that people can follow along if they have the time or interest, or even join in.

In and around New York City, Jennifer Monson has fostered what she calls migrations. Often following specific paths of birds, but sometimes water, she is often democratic in who she invites to participate, especially since they are usually over a period of 24 hours and are as much about offering the opportunity to contribute to a collective movement migration as they are about the location, the passing landscapes and architecture, and symbolic pathways. The fact that they are sometimes done in remote locations or in the middle of the night with essentially no audience is fascinating.


As scholars of dance, we learn the difference between dance as ritual and dance as performance. There are fusions of these where dance rituals are performed as a presentation but the difference is still clear. Ehrenreich's terribly interesting book takes this much deeper and looks at how trends in spiritual practices and politics affect our attitudes about the body, and therefore dancing. During times of extreme repression, dancing (as well as other expressions) are forbidden. Ironically, some religions continue to use dance (or movement) in ritual and prayer to achieve what might be perceived as a spiritual state. Religious intent aside, Ehrenreich implies that these sorts of demonstrative acts of collective movement turn out to be a neglected barometer of the health of our societies throughout history. (see Neo-Tarantism, Quebec protests, cowboys, Lindy Hop, stomp dance)

Girl Walk // All Day is a joyful performance to watch. It is not a complex artistic commentary, rather it is a bit of a measure of our current society using dance as a barometer. She comes across varied attitudes toward her public display, and it's great to watch as she moves through iconic landmarks and diverse neighborhoods of New York City and their own various dance rituals.