Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 25

OOooooohh…it’s finally, really spring here in the city. The tree outside of my apartment building is in full, glorious bloom and the winter jackets have officially been retired. For the first time in months New Yorkers are showing their skin to the sun and ordering their coffee iced. We are shedding the layers of mental weight that we’ve been carrying around since the final leaves dropped from the branches last year and we are walking lighter.
This mental stripping has given me a sense of renewal. A spring re-birth, if you will. I feel energized and ready. 2 auditions this week (which will, um, be the first that I have attended in over a year). Here we go…

Along with the new season come some events of interest in the NY dance scene.  Here are a couple that I will be checking out:
Danze de Contemporanea de Cuba
This company will be performing at the Joyce as part of the citywide !Si Cuba! Festival, a festival celebrating the arts and culture of Cuba. Truthfully, I have never seen this company perform, nor have I heard much buzz surrounding their work, my interest actually lies in the program that they will be presenting.  The company will be performing a work by the spectacular Swedish choreographer Mats Ek. I have spent MANY hours watching and re-watching Ek’s work on the net (one favorite being this spectacular work entitled “Wet Woman”  performed by the indomitable Sylvie Guillem). The creations of Ek are emotionally charged without teetering into sappiness, musical while maintaining organic suppleness, and wonderfully, artfully constructed. The Danza de Contemporanea de Cuba engagement will be my first opportunity to witness Ek’s work first hand. I AM EXCITED.
Danza de Contemporanea de Cuba will be performing at the Joyce Theater from 5/10-5/22.
Armitage Gone!
The infamous “punk ballerina,” as she was deemed during her performance career, Karole Armitage, will present her company, Armitage Gone!, for a 2 week program (also at the Joyce). Actually, I can only assume that you must already know about this show, as it seems to be that they have spent an enormous amount of money on promotions. Jesus! I mean, there are posters on every corner, blurbs pop up as I browse the web (Google has somehow linked me to them and their advertisements litter my screen constantly).  I have seen them before, in ’09, and, honestly, was not terribly impressed. You see, the women (at least from what I remember) TOWERED over the men. It’s possible that I’m prejudiced due to my height (5’10”) but I like a man to be at least of equal height to the ladies on stage. Height issues aside, I’m eager to see what they are presenting this year since the n u m e r o u s advertisements speak about the use of Gaga technique. I’m semi-obsessed with this technique and am curious to see it used in the context of Armitage’s fairly classical vocabulary. We shall see. Check out the website.
Armitage Gone! performs at the Joyce Theater from 4/26-5/08.

To the tune of uncertainty, I shall begin my discussion of Dance Brazil who just concluded their run at the Joyce (jeez, it’s a Joyce heavy entry today) on Sunday. I’ve always been compelled by martial arts, particularly the Brazilian, dance infused Capoeira. Hearing that the contemporary/Brazilian cultural/Capoeira company, Dance Brazil, was in town, my visiting parents and I, looking for some early entertainment, decided to go.
The company, composed of 8 super-human, ultra fit men and 4 sexy, curly haired women, were the physical representation of anatomical perfection. Part of me thinks that just being able to look at those magnificent bodies warranted the ticket price! Dance Brazil presented 3 pieces, broken up by 2 unnecessarily long intermissions. The trio of work left me asking one question in many ways: why? Why does every dance break, and, yes, they felt like dance breaks, have to have either the entire company, or a good part of it, facing the audience and executing  trite, poppy, extra smiley movement en masse. Why not utilize the polyrhythms being played superbly by the musicians? Why not just make it a Capoeira show? After all, the entire audience seemed to await the moments when the Capoeiristas took over. Their bodies, glistening with sweat and as perfect as DaVinci’s Vitruvian man, flew through the air at inhuman heights and landed with soundless ease.
I, however, did not leave disappointed, as there was rarely a moment of boredom. No, instead, I departed feeling the childlike giddiness that remains after a circus or an Olympic gymnastics exposition. Is it dance? Dance Brazil could leave the dancing behind, as it was, by far, the weakest aspect of the program. They could fly higher by fully embracing and presenting themselves as a troupe of Capoiristas. Make it the spectacle that it longs to be.  Dance=weak. Tricks=wonderful and artfully done. The capoiristas are the heart and soul of this company.
Go to see Dance Brazil for a good time but don’t expect to be moved to tears or inspiration…or at all. That is unless you yourself are one of the super-humans on your way to taking over the planet with your Capoeira skills.

Goodnight to all! Enjoy the fresh blossoms and let the spring shower you with brightness and love. Re-awaken your soul and let the warmth spark your inspiration.

Much love,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day 14: Epiphanies and Inspiration

This afternoon I was reminded of a small and mysterious wisdom given to me by a mentor from what feels like a different lifetime. Glaring at him through a curtain of frustrated tears after a fairly unsuccessful rehearsal, I recall being utterly confused as he told me, “You don’t need to try so hard.” He paused and smiled as he added “I’m aware that this makes no sense to you now, and it probably won’t for years, but one day you’ll understand.” Today I began to understand.
Rushing the music, practically racing it, is a habit I carry around next to my ballet slippers. When it’s warm and I’m moving well, the adrenaline takes me and sends me into hyper speed (as a choreographer I work with says, it’s like I’m being shot out of a canon).  Still hearing the music, I find myself on top of it and am continually reeled back in by shouts from the outside or by my own inner voice… sort of see-sawing between being on and ahead of the music. Today, after repeated reminders (and actual warnings of being slapped…really!), I stepped back and turned myself down a couple of notches. Instead of allowing the movement to drive me, I rode the music and released some of the ‘attempting perfection tension’ that seems to fuel the speed increase. Voila! Steadier, stronger, and, indeed, much, much easier.
 Just one new addition to the ever expanding list of physical epiphanies that have strengthened my fascination with the art of dance and keep me curious and searching.

Next, I have a new dance crush: choreographer Wayne McGregor. WHOA!
Not long ago Radiohead released their newest album, The King of Limbs, which was preceded by an advanced released single on youtube.com of the song “Lotus Flower”.  The video features head man Thom Yorke rocking out. I mean seriously dancing his ass off. It’s wonderful…and bizarre. Wonderfully bizarre.  Oh, and the song, it's magnificent.  Check it out.
On my initial viewing of this video I figured “Hey, Thom’s improvisational movement skills are really quite superb.” Shortly after I sent the link along, though, a dear friend of mine informed me that, had I been slightly more diligent, I may have noticed the name of choreographer Wayne McGregor listed.  This led to an in depth internet search of McGregor and his work (prompted by another dear to my heart who sent me some outstanding links). It seems that I have been missing out for a while…McGregor is the artistic director of Random Dance, which is the resident company at Sadler’s Wells in London, as well as the current resident choreographer of The Royal Ballet. He’s also set work on numerous other companies of note including the Paris Opera Ballet and NYCB.  
The work is very different, undeniably unique. He uses inhumanly talented dancers whose bodies are slithery with undulating torsos and arms atop sharp and sparkling legs. The physicality is matched with a peculiar sense of musicality and inspired partnering work. McGregor’s choreography embodies clarity and communicates an emotional depth rare to such technical work. Wayne McGregor is one to follow…and lucky for us he will be in the vicinity in the fall! Check out the website for Random Dance, it’s beautifully constructed and full of great little treats.
This is a clip from his ballet Infra.” Enjoy!

Here’s to Thom, Wayne, the amazing people in my life who send me inspiration and a lifetime of epiphanies!
Love and light to all,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 5

Have you ever noticed how we revert back to our insecure, praise hungry, 10 year old selves in ballet class? I mean seriously people! My heart still thuds heavily, perhaps even audibly, in my chest when it's time for adagio and I forget how to breathe... did I mention that I have been doing adagio nearly daily for some twenty odd years! My side extension will NEVER be high enough, my feet look a disaster, is the ground actually moving because my supporting leg will not stop shaking, and, dear lord, have I actually gained a pound after being on this vegetable only diet for over a week?!? Ughh, dancer neurosis. When a teacher gives me a compliment I'm practically flying for the rest of the day, if I get a correction I'm reasonably pleased, but if nothing is said, well I may as well quit dancing altogether!
Ok, ok, its not that bad and, frankly, I am not a ballerina for a reason. Truth be told, after working out the weather from my body, class was quite nice, even therapeutic. I've been in class consistently for the past month or so working up to the beginning of this project and, by god, it's actually effective (not really a surprise...). The ballet, the vegetables, and the theraband are all doing their own individual jobs.

Each month I plan to place a focus on a dance technique that I am not terribly familiar with. I'll read about it, take classes and, basically, use it to help break my habits and inform my work as both a dancer and as a choreographer- oh yes, I'll tell you all about as well. This month: Gaga (no connection to Lady Gaga for you non-dancers).

Gaga is the movement technique established by Ohad Naharin and used by the Batsheva Dance company of Israel, among others. Truthfully I have already dabbled in the technique but wanted to study a little bit more seriously. More about this later...I'm off to class. If anyone has any information about where I can take Gaga classes in NYC (other then Peridance) please let me know.

Stay warm and dry!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 4- Eiko and Koma

About 12 years ago I was introduced to the courageous and unique dancing artists Eiko and Koma. Fascinated, I followed their images on a 15" screen as they performed  "River," a performance piece set in a naturally occurring body of water. I recall being enamored by the connectivity between the performers themselves and the natural surroundings that were so integrally part of the work. It made an impression. I've thought about them quite a few times over the years but never had the opportunity to see them live until Saturday evening.

Stepping out of the elevator on the 6th floor of the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) on Saturday was a bizarre experience. I had been here before for numerous rehearsals and was expecting to walk into the same lobby space…not so. The open, light, spastic energy that usually lived here had been replaced by a heavy, deeply calm atmosphere. Voices were hushed, visitors drifted doggedly in and out of the studio spaces and a pensive mask seemed to be the dress code. I had made the journey all the way to BAC on 37th and 10th to see “Naked: A Living Installation” by the living, butoh-esque legends, Eiko and Koma (though they do not refer to their work as Butoh out of respect to their teacher Kazuo Ohno).  

A soft-spoken woman dressed in all black invited visitors to move from the lobby into the main studio in small groups.  As she opened the door, warm air thick with humidity met my face and bare arms reminding me of a visit to an underground cavern. The room was divided by a neutral canvas curtain spotted with dark feathers and fist-sized burn holes. It fell from the ceiling to the floor and created a delicate barrier between the outside world and that of Eiko and Koma. Traveling this temporary corridor, I was aware of unevenness with my footfalls and heard crunching, I looked down to see salt crystals blanketing the floor. I turned the corner and entered the intimate performance space: one row of benches and a row of floor pillows which were just feet from the bodies of Eiko and Koma.
The scene was surreal: two seemingly ageless, sexless bodies, one lying supine the other on its side, in a nest of feathers, straw, soil and salt. The soil created the base, the first layer of the nest, and spilled out to touch the feet of those seated on pillows. The connection to the organic element of soil seemingly invited visitors in to become part of the fragile scene.  Straw was layered on the soil and a mess of feathers and salt gently covered the top. Tiny drops of water fell from the darkness of the studio ceiling making hollow thuds as they reached the ground. Small black sculptures made of paper (?) and resembling spiders perched about the overhead lights obscuring the soft glow of orange, blue and green and creating a mottled effect ominously shadowing the figures.
Initially, the bodies looked like statues. They were covered in powdery, white paint which gave the illusion of stone instead of skin. Both were extremely trim and, as the light fell on to protruding bones making shadow filled crevasses, they resembled piles of sticks strewn atop the nest. Slowly though, as I became aware of movement, the forms of Eiko and Koma, that at first appeared almost alien, began to morph. The stone transformed to flesh and I was entranced by the delayed movement- at times so slow that the rise and fall of the breath coming in and leaving their bodies seemed rapid.
Their bodies, while seemingly at rest, were constantly working, always engaged in some way. Each shift and breath was intentional and controlled, even the movement of the eyes. At one brilliant moment, Eiko opened her eyes, the lids lifting slowly to reveal deep, unblinking pools of black obsidian. They caught the light and reflected it back out as her weight shifted and her face rolled towards the ceiling. Her long black hair was now disentangled from the feathers that it has previously been indistinguishable from. Particles of black dirt stuck to the white painted flesh and the imprint of straw remained reminding us that under the paint existed living, human flesh.
As Eiko stretched her long delicate fingers across the nest and her hand came to rest in Koma’s hair I felt like a voyeur. I became aware of the new visitors peering through the holes in the canvas, their eyes falling on the intimate scene in the warm room. Her touch seemed to rouse him from the psychological distance and he responded by reaching a large, masculine hand with outstretched fingers in her direction and then letting it settle to the floor. The back of her knee reflected the greenish light and his foot noiselessly disappeared into the pile of feathers and soil. Eiko and Koma were physically touching but disconnected, it was touching and as a viewer I felt disconnected.
With “Naked: A Living Installation,” Eiko and Koma have made a hauntingly beautiful environment that left me feeling meditative. It is eerie, embryonic, sculptural, sensual and staggering.
Eiko and Koma will be performing “Naked: A Living Installation” at BAC through April 9th. It’s free and worth the westward walk. Check it out!
Love and light,

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 1

Here we go.

What a perfectly suitable April Fool's day for all of us in the city. A fresh dusting of snow was waiting to greet us city folks as we set about our days letting each of us know that our dreams of the Spring are still just that- lovely! I must admit that I was feeling the weight of the descending sky at first, but managed to climb out of bed, and out of my mental gloom, early enough to eat breakfast before running off to rehearsal. So Day 1 of my project began.

I left my apartment, trudged 6 blocks down the street in the rain (thank god the air had warmed a bit and the snow shape shifted) and took the train to rehearsal in Bedstuy. On Nostrand I ducked in to Dunkin' Donuts for some gourmet cafe, climbed the 3 flights of steps at Restoration Plaza and deposited my boots and umbrella. I found a square of sunlight on the gray marley and let my body sink into the floor as I took in the trace scent of sweat and started to wake up my body.  For some reason dance studios always have a different feel when it rains, the floor gives more resistance, the muscles are unpredictable, the windows fog and the work can become heavy...and it did. Psychologically heavy, physically light. An interesting rehearsal. But rewarding.

After rehearsal: yoga, home, dinner. Now to finish the biography of Jerome Robbins, Dances with Demons: The Life of Jerome Robbins by Greg Lawrence. One of the goals of my project is to read at least one dance-related book each month. I've been sawing away at the Robbins book for over a month now...it's excellent though. Look for a review soon!

Last, a quick rant about dance in New York:
The company I was working with today is currently in what I'm referring to as a creative/developmental stage (though I'm aware that this sounds fairly pretentious), meaning that we're building new repertoire and, basically, learning how to work together as a company. Working like this is a luxury that, in my experience, is seldom the case for small dance companies in the city (and may I say that I am elated to be in a process of this type). Much of the time, due to lack of funding, inability to secure space and near impossibility to gather a group of insanely busy dancers in a room together, companies come together as briefly as a month before a show and expedite the process. Unfortunately this form of working tends to be sadly ineffective and, by cutting out the full process, choreographers and dancers alike never become fully absorbed in and embody the work thus resulting in a LOT of crap. Or, um, perhaps that just my problem...

Day 1 has ended! The first of many dance filled days. I leave you with a quote that exemplifies my journey: In dreams begin responsibilities. -Yeats

Love and light,