Another long absence has come and gone. I can’t say that I’m sorry though. I’ve exhausted my writing life in many ways for many reasons. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to write; on the contrary, writing is so much of my life that I feel weird when I’m not engaged in it. But I guess what I’ve come to realize these last few months is that I require a variety in all things, writing and dance especially included. Here’s my unorthodox update/review from all the dance occurrences in my life during the last few months.
NMD Supernova: Explosions in the Bayou
I’ll start with NMD. It’s becoming a nice annual treat to see this company in HTX. I don’t have any ties to Sam, so I’m usually well behind everyone else in terms of NMD rep and current work. It’s been a pleasure to have a dash of this company, rather than a blast. Even though this program in particular was really an explosion of NMD trademarks.
I was drawn like a moth to the flame of Lorelei’s Whisper for obvious reasons. The lighting is superb, far beyond a mere technical function. It becomes a part of the entire piece in an artistic way, blending the realms of the stage and allowing the dancers to appear authentically otherwordly. There’s a lush variety in their movements and moments in between stillness. It goes without saying that I have a fondness of the myth of the Lorelei, and that myth was depicted fairly respectably here. A bit more classical fantasy could have been add though…
The main feature of the show, Supernova, was tactfully executed admist a large cluster of dancers much like last year’s headliner, Stormfront. (Personal shout-out to my TXST girl, Jade, for dancing like a beast as a guest in Supernova!) Yet I keep going back to Earth, the piece that followed and was before Lorelei’s Whisper. With all of its delights and complexities, Earth is an piece with the impact of other NMD works, stripped of the flashy lighting and projection designs. With only a single supple-footed female on stage (Terpsichore definitely blessed dancer Brittany Thetford Deveau), the men of the company threw their weight around like seasoned members of Nederlands Dans Theater. Captivating in every regard, they really worked with the dicey choreography. And I don’t even really favor male majority pieces in contemporary dance! They made me fall in love the moving male form in all of its grounded glory.
Possibly the program suffered from “too much, too soon” syndrome, as if the Noble team wanted to cram every second of the evening with their biggest, brightest, boldest work to-date. In some ways, Supernova could have been a stand-all performance, best left for another program later in the year with more space-themed pieces and after a little bit of technical cleaning up. The lighting design, for instance, could have definitely gone further. Overall, it still made for one fucking fantastic night. I wish I went twice. For more, read the Dance DiSH review here.
Engagement: Symposium of Philosophy and Dance @ TXST featuring
I can’t really say much about this event because it’s still burning a hole in my heart. I loved it beyond words. To host an array of international thinkers at my alma mater was beyond my wildest dreams. I fought long and hard to individualize my BFA so I could write about dance as part of every discipline, and to have a philosophy focused route for dance right at Comal! What a dream! Still. So here are my thoughts on the three performances.
Mark Morris Dance Group and Music Ensemble
The program included Pacific, Grand Duo, and Socrates (Portrait of Socrates, On the banks of the Ilissus, and Death of Socrates). I loved seeing their company use every bit of the PAC stage with their wisdom. In recent years they’ve built this all encompassing body knowledge that reaches far into the world of dance, beyond borders and techniques. They live it all.
Pacific was done en pointe at HB, but to have the actual company perform this piece flat made all the more sense. Grand Duo, what’s there to say? This was, and is, my absolute favorite Morris work so far. It’s so fucking funny and whimsical without being about anything in particular. It’s primal and global and proud. I appreciate every bit of his style and spunk used here. And a special prize goes to Grand Duo for making me fall in love with group circles again.
Socrates was an epic, well performed for this philosophy-dance symposium. It’s a bit on the nose with moments of overused mimicry in the choreography. A bit too silly, like a 80s documentary on Socrates with an annoying commentator in stonewashed jeans. But it’s still a piece I’d love to see again to soak up the little bits. Really, the details of MMDG are vast. I want more of these dancers.
And, frankly, I’m sick of seeing others companies dance his work. Keep bringing your troupe across America and the globe, Morris! You really don’t need to set your work on established companies anymore. Cause these dancers are there. Catch them if you can as they tour around this year. Their next full-length work is called Layla and Majnun and I’m dying to see it.
ODDT, Erick Hawkins Dance Company
Ah, Hawkins. What’s there to say about my alma mater hero. His philosophy is philosophy. Perhaps the most philosophical dancer of the twentieth century, it makes sense that we hosted the company along with The Duke. Still the night wasn’t just Hawkins-based with his ever adorned Early Floating and the ecstatic Motherwell Amor from the mind of Lucia.
The night welcomed esteemed Hawkins scholar, and my friend IRL, Louis Kavouras’ The Baseball Piece and my mentor, Kaysie Seitz Brown’s Falling Up. I’ve spend years with both of these works during Writing for Dance every semester. We taught dance majors about first function and second function elements in dance and art with these two works. And I’m glad to finally view them live.
Shay helped bring back Opening Door Dance with the luminous Above, Below, Beyond. It featured a collection of my former professors, which is one of the greatest gifts TXST’s Division of Dance has to offer students. We get to watch out professors practice what they preach. And I’ll never get tired of seeing them expand with collective wisdom and respect for one another.
I have a special place in my heart for Arcos. They are the living, breathing embodiment of Austin, a city I love to loath and loath to love. Austin is the wild child of Texas and naturally hogs a lot of the “edgy misfit” Texas talent in the dance community. I’m envious of the Austin dance community, but I’m at the same time, I wouldn’t trade our HTX community for anything.
That said, Domain really wouldn’t have been created by a HTX company. It was uniquely ATX. It can not be explained in words. You have to experience this “sci-fi transmedia experiment” in person. There’s a lot to take in as an audience member, and I can only imagine how it feel like to perform in this. I guess that’s what made it resonate with me so much. I WANTED to be on stage, a dancer of this exploration. I hate performing, but Domain was the kind of program that fizzed in my core, making parts of my body jolt in kinaesthetic response and my breath to quicken or hault at various moments. The communal semi-nude section definitely made me want to leap on stage, cast off my clothes, and bound around with others.
A beautiful inclusion of multi-gendered love stories and intimate interactions only heightened the night for me; I want more inclusive romances in ballet and dance, but not in a disenfranchised way. Since many of the Acros dancers do identify as a variety of orientations on the sexual/gender spectrum, it was entirely genuine and normal. The relationship between Jonah and B was NORMAL, and universal with its tale of tragedy and love. I appreciate the storytelling in that the most. Not sure if any of the dancers are even amateur coders and hackers, but the root plot of romance and dislocation was palpable.
(Gorgeous raw photography below by Chian-ann Lu, btw. I saw their two photographers bonding across the PAC audience, and smiled at their eager creativity to get the unique shots.)
Houston Ballet’s Director’s Choice: American Ingenuity featuring
George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Jerome Robbins’ Other Dances, William Forsythe’s Artifact Suite
The 2016/17 Season is my second season as a worker bee to the company. It’s my official season opening Rep as an intern. It’s been a whirlwind for MANY reasons.
The program, at first, sparked my esteemed questioning. I mean, Balanchine and Robbins are ALWAYS paired together like outdated wine and cheese selections across the U.S. Where’s the local brew? Where are the craft creations?
That’s where Forsythe’s Artifact Suite comes in play. Not only did the company have to premiere it at the start of the season, but they also have to immediately embody it as they will be performing the work in L.A. for the Celebrate Forsythe event, part of the Fall for Forsythe celebration in California. It’s been a damn good effort for everyone involved in this production. Artifact Suite is technically forceful for the tech and production team to my own PR/Marketing team. It’s been chaos. Sheer chaos.
First off, can we just take a moment to bask in Forsythe’s general awesome glory. He’s not just a ballet knight–he’s a 20th-century king of dance exploration. He’s worked his way well into the new era, filling his cup up with the voices of today for the future of dancers. He’s one of the least egotistical choreographers out there. In fact, I might stop calling him a choreographer all together. He’s always been something else. He’s a scientist in some ways, an engineer in others, and artist, of course, but not like a Wheeldon artist or a McGregor scientist entirely. I wish I could study at USC and get my MA from there. A word to the wise, USC students–you are blessed by the gods of dance to have a diverse undergrad dance program.
Artifact Suite doesn’t make you forget the glittering prestige of T+V though. (Personally though, I’m just OVER with seeing “perfect” representations of Balanchine works on stage. The experiment stage of studio rehearsals–with all the mistakes and discoveries–are more gratifying for me, after years of worshiping each live Mr. B. creation as a bunhead teenager.) It doesn’t even detract from Other Dances, if you’re paying attention as an audience member. Key word, IF you’re paying attention. I saw the audience shut their brain down for Other Dances, cause it’s “pretty” and the couples for each performance are “pretty.” Superficially, T+V and Other Dances have nothing to do with Artifact Suite.
Which is why I loved this mixed rep so much. It’s not just about the superficial ephemeral nature of ballet (I’m looking at you, 2014/15 HB season). There are twists and turns in the core purpose of each work, not to be forgotten or misinterpreted. The experience of observing history repeat itself and, yet, transform itself is electrifying.
T+V is a gem of the grandiose and complex dynasty that was Russian royalty.
Other Dances is a gem of the bittersweet marriage, the eternal pas de deux, between music and dance.
Artifact Suite is a gem of the 21-century undertones that boldly dig past the predecessors (I’m going off it’s abstraction Suite from Artifact for SB in 2004,and the current creative liberties companies make in this decade).
[LINKAGE TO COME LATER]