Some Duos Are More Dynamic Than Other Duos…

…but dynamism is not the only worthy quality in dance. As the 2015 American Dance Festival continues this week with four commissioned duets by paired choreographer/dancers, it offers us a chance to not only see new work unfettered by economic constraints, but to consider what we value in dance art. Whether we value any particular style or content in these new works, we ought to all value the fact that artists have been able to make them thanks to the support of the ADF. Last year, the ADF commissioned solos; this year duos–perhaps next year it will be trios. The Dynamic Duos program opened last night in Reynolds Theater, and will run through July 1.

Jesse Zaritt, front, and Mark Haim premiered Golden Age at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Jesse Zaritt, front, and Mark Haim premiered their Golden Age at ADF on 6/29/15.  Photo: Grant Halverson.

I, for instance, greatly prefer dancing to talking in a dance work. Yet sometimes choreographers are able to introduce talking in ways that do not cancel out the communicativeness of the silent, speaking bodies, and combining the forms increases expressive power of both. Sometimes, though, more is less.

The program opens with a strange and wonderful work, Golden Age, by Mark Haim and Jesse Zaritt, that evokes superheroes–and Caravaggio. Roman ruins–and the city dump. The now–and the mist-shrouded past. It remarks on ever-ascendant youth, flaunting its glories over sturdy age. Mostly it manages this without words, relying instead on Zaritt’s beautiful dancing body, limber and exuberant, and Haim’s graceful, certain elegance of motion. Which age is golden, young or older, now or past? I’d see this again, except for the brutal after-effects of the heavy theatrical haze (that makes such wonderful stage pictures). More than 12 hours later, my eyes, throat and lungs still burn. Fortunately, Golden Age is highly memorable.

The same could not be said Taryn Griggs’ and Chris Yon’s Conspicuous Birds. The two dancers mimic various bird behaviors, while wearing fabulously glittering, wing-sleeved tops over dark pants (costumes by Tiny Yogg’s Ma). The lighting plays marvelously on the fabrics as the dancers move. Clearly, they have closely observed many species of birds, and many of the movement patterns are true and charming. The problem is, the movement doesn’t vary much, but it goes on for a long time. And nothing really happens, dramatically speaking.

Taryn Griggs, L, and Chris Yon in the premiere of Conspicuous Birds at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Taryn Griggs, L, and Chris Yon in the premiere of Conspicuous Birds at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

After a rousing start with the Overture to Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Small Stories fell silent. Claire Porter and Sarah Juli stood far downstage, one on either side, in satin recital gowns, alternately mouthing words as a single spot alternately separated them from the darkness. The effect was similar to a flashing ad on a web page–very irritating. Eventually the volume increases to audible, but the language remains fragmentary a while longer before actual sentences emerge. After that, the experience is like catching bits of conversation in a moving crowd, or like listening to chickens cluck and fuss while pecking for food. When it got to the stage of the movement artists mockingly mouthing the words to “Che Gelida Manina,” (Pavarotti version) and for no apparent reason pulling up their petticoats to reveal red underpants, my across-the-aisle neighbor (a man renowned for both his courtesy and his passion for music) abruptly decamped. There was nothing I valued in this piece, except for the fact that the makers had had the opportunity to try something.

Sara Juli, front, and Claire Porter in the premiere of their Small Stories at ADF 6/129/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Sara Juli, front, and Claire Porter in the premiere of their Small Stories at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

I had to stay, because I had to see what Rosie Herrera and Larry Keigwin had gotten up to together. These two are wacky, brilliant and skillful on their own–what kind of craziness would they make together? Something Wonderful has some pretty wonderful moments, and the piece begins with dancing. Larry Keigwin can move! Such a pleasure to see him again. And Rosie Herrera has an unerring instinct for both motion and stillness, and knows just where to slice with her scalpel, dramatically speaking, so that we can see the forces at work on the human heart. There’s a bit with a poem and a microphone (a little too long) that makes the analogy (perhaps too clearly) between the art-making process and the love-making endeavor that’s so smart and funny that one easily forgives its slight self-indulgence. Bruised, broken, bloodied but unbowed, these artists, tangled up in art, will dance on. In this case, dynamically.

Larry Keigwin and Rosie Herrera in the premiere of Something Wonderful at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Larry Keigwin and Rosie Herrera in the premiere of Something Wonderful at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

AWKWARD MAGIC: ADF plays at Motorco, through July 1

Gregory Dolbashian in Awkward Magic: Scene 1: Nailed It. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Gregory Dolbashian in Awkward Magic: Scene 1: Nailed It. At ADF  at Motorco, 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

In recent years, the American Dance Festival, like Duke Performances, has increased the number and type of venues in which it presents work. One of the less formal of these is Motorco music hall, on the hopping corner of Rigsbee Avenue and West Geer Street, in the heart of Durham’s nightlife zone. The stage is small, the room is small, and the bar is open, making for a convivial situation, suitable for lighter-hearted, even zany, dance-theater. A show called Awkward Magic opened there on the 27th, and will run (2 shows/night) through Wed., July 1. It features skits by Gregory Dolbashian, Jordan Isadore and Deborah Lohse, who are joined in some of the 10 short pieces by several other dancers.

"Within Between"; Maggie Cloud, Simon Courchel, Burr Johnson and Stuart Singer / John Jasperse. From ADF 2014.

Within Between: Maggie Cloud, Simon Courchel, Burr Johnson and Stuart Singer / choreography by John Jasperse. From ADF 2014, photo courtesy the artist.

I need to say right up front that, generally, I am not a fan of stand-up comedy, or improv, and tend to resent demands for audience participation. I’m not much on art about art (even John Jasperse’ fabulous, highly-styled work “Within Between” at ADF 2014 , with its incredibly inventive movement sequences, lost me when it dropped the drama of dance-making to close with the drearier aspects of the enterprise). I’m also far removed from the rhythms of television, and even further from the cult of celebrity for the its own sake. I fear I lack expertise in frivolity. I absolutely hate it when people call themselves “bitches.” These facts make me a less-than-ideal audience for Awkward Magic.

Nonetheless, I can enjoy a little pointed mockery of the dance world, show business and its creatures.

Although some of the skits made me cringe, I did get real laughs out of “TruDee” and her carryings on, especially her send-up of Merce Cunningham and John Cage and their love of randomness. In “TruDee: Reaching Out” Deborah Lohse, in her TruDee persona, snags an audience member for participation (I was not convinced he wasn’t a plant) in a series of actions made random by shuffling cards describing the action and choosing them randomly (I was not convinced of the randomness, either). It was a cute game, and obviously played well to a dance-informed crowd.

Awkward Magic's Deborah Lohse in character as TruDee. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Awkward Magic’s Deborah Lohse in be-sequined character as TruDee. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

The inside-joke aspect of all the segments was at once a strength and a weakness. An ADF crowd would tend to “get it” whereas a different crowd–say, one that adored Riverdance–might be mostly mystified and then offended.  It is one thing to turn the mockery on oneself, as Gregory Dolbashian does in his three skits, but Jordan Isadore’s “Thousands Place: Jody Sawyer Takes a Jazz Class” released a whiff of meanness. Set to music from Riverdance, Isadore and two other dancers (wearing white tennis-y clothes and keds) performed a mockery of Irish dancing that seemed, to my eye, lacking in the essential empathy that makes really good comedy.

Bitches 4 Ever. One of the more dancerly segments of Awkward Magic's act performed at Motorco. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Bitches 4 Ever. One of the more dancerly segments of Awkward Magic’s act performed at Motorco. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Full Scope for Soledad Barrio in Noche Flamenca’s ANTIGONA, at ADF

What a day, June 26, 2015! President Obama gave a eulogy for the Reverend Senator Clementa Pinckney that turned into a speech that will be forever counted among his greatest–and then he sang. The Supreme Court ended its big week by taking us another giant step closer to a more perfect Union with its decision on marriage rights. And then, Soledad Barrio danced Antigone on the big stage of the DPAC, as the American Dance Festival continues. Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca‘s Antigona repeats tonight, and if you weren’t there last night–well, everything else can wait. It is stupendous.

ANTIGONA begins at the beginning, with Oedipus and Jocasta. Here, Soledad Barrio as Antigona leads her blinded father Oedipus (Carlos Perez Vega). At ADF 6/26/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

ANTIGONA begins at the beginning, with Oedipus and Jocasta. Here, Soledad Barrio as Antigona leads her blinded father/brother Oedipus (Carlos Perez Vega). At ADF 6/26/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

After living 10 days of such high civic drama, no stage drama could be more appropriate than Sophocles’ ancient story of Antigone and her accursed family. Often, Antigone’s struggle to bury her brother is framed as defiance of the state, but recent events have made it easier to consider it as her demand that the state not usurp her natural rights as a human. There are, I think, a few natural laws, and one of them is that the living must be served by properly honoring the bodies of the dead. Sophocles makes a couple more perfectly clear: don’t kill or sleep with your parents; brother fighting against brother under different flags leads only to tragedy. The poignancy of Antigone’s insistence–even unto death–that brother Polyneices be accorded the same honorable burial as brother Eteocoles was made even more piercing last night by the honorable funeral so many of us had just witnessed.

Peptito Jimenez stretches the boundaries of flamenco with his gasp-inducing dancing as Eteocles. At ADF 6/26/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Peptito Jimenez stretches the boundaries of flamenco with his gasp-inducing dancing as Eteocles, at ADF 6/26/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

The terrible stories of Antigone and the Rev. Pinckney and the others of the murdered Emmanuel 9 are not parallel, but there are enough commonalities to make the ancient fresh–again. Artistic director Martin Santangelo adapted and created this Antigona for Noche Flamenca after realizing how the story lived on in the struggles of Spanish families to properly bury their dead left in mass graves by Franco’s murderous forces. It is impossible not to think that the manner that the Rev. Pinckney and his parishioners are being honored in death does not contain an element of expiation by officials of the state (the state in the broad sense) for all the murdered black people left to rot in nooses or stealthily buried without care or prayer by their murderers, while the state denied the people’s natural rights and blinded its eyes. Our American tragedy has been playing out for centuries, but as the President said yesterday, maybe now we can see. Antigona commands us to look.

From whatever path you enter the serial carnage of Antigone, it’s a story that explodes inside you. Translated into flamenco, it’s a 90-minute series of detonations that go on and on in the mind. Noche Flamenca has given it the full operatic treatment, with singing that pins you to your seat, music that raises the hairs on your skin, masks that will haunt your nights, and dancing that makes the supertitles supererogatory. The production contains many energizing surprises, thanks to the influence of consulting director Lee Breuer (the Living Theatre, Mabou Mines).

Marina Elana as Ismene in Noche Flamenca's ANTIGONA, at ADF 6/26/15. This adaptation includes a Master of Ceremonies, performed by Emilio Florido, back right. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Marina Elana as Ismene in Noche Flamenca’s ANTIGONA, at ADF 6/26/15. This adaptation by Martin Santangelo includes a Master of Ceremonies, performed by Emilio Florido, back right. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca last appeared at ADF in 2006, and in 2009 were on stage at Carolina Performing Arts. Both times I’ve seen her, I’ve sensed that Barrio’s emotional force, although tremendous, was not being given full rein. In Antigona, however, she has the scope for her stunning power. Her Antigona dancing the scene with her sister Ismene (Marina Elana) was one of the most searing expressions I’ve seen on a stage. As always, Antigona realizes at the end of this fruitless encounter that she is all alone–not even her sister will stand with her. She will do the right thing, alone, and she will die. It is all in the ferocious dancing. The entire cast is great, but special mention must be made of the incendiary Juan Ogalla, who danced Haemon. Like Barrio, he combines sculptural form, forceful polyrhythmia and emotional veracity into each sizzling dance.

The superb Soledad Barrio dancing the title role in Noche Flamenca's ANTIGONA at ADF 6/26/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

The superb Soledad Barrio dancing her mourning in the title role of Noche Flamenca’s ANTIGONA at ADF 6/26/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Flamenco dancing is not something that can be done at this level forever. Don’t miss your chance to see these dancers, for whom “awesome” is the correct descriptor.

You may also wish to purchase tickets for another Antigone coming soon. Carolina Performing Arts has booked the new version starring Juliet Binoche for October 9 and 10. Friends who saw it in Paris called it “devastating.”

mhdekm

A topnotch WordPress.com site

peter harris, tapestryweaver

TAPestry And DESIgn

Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Grand Duke" -- Director's Blog

a countdown to the next performance, March 30 - April 2, 2017

Backstrap Weaving

My weaving , my indigenous teachers, my inspiration, tutorials and more........

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Not At Home In It

collections/connections

inkled pink

warp, weave, be happy!

warpologynotufos

Projects finished or in process by the Warpology studio

Peggy Osterkamp's Weaving Blog

"Weaving should be fun!"

SHUTTLE WORKS STUDIO

Studio Life of a Weaver, Spinner, Dyer

This Day in North Carolina History

The people and places of the Tar Heel state day by day.

Linda Frye Burnham

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Art Menius

Roots Music, Culture, and Social Change

Mae Mai

Boldly going where no cellist has gone before...

The Upstager

All the world's an upstage.

Literary Life in Italy

Looking at Italy through literature

The Five Points Star

Cultural criticism, news, schmooze and blues radiating from Durham, NC

Silvina Spravkin Sculptor

A sculptor who makes her art in different media, such as marble, stone, and mosaic, in Pietrasanta, Italy

The Reverse Angle

Just another WordPress.com site

%d bloggers like this: