It’s understandable that modern dance aficionados might have paused when considering the touring version of COME FLY AWAY, choreographer Twyla Tharp’s evening-length tribute to musical legend Frank Sinatra which closes a stand at Durham Performing Arts Center on Sunday.
As mentioned in our preview, Tharp had already gone to the well three times with Ol’ Blue Eyes between 1976 and 1983, reconfiguring various groupings of his hits that she’d choreographed into what ultimately became one of her most widely interpreted—and controversial—works, Nine Sinatra Songs. Its seven duets conveyed a range of relationships from elegiac to openly abusive, including an interpretation of “That’s Life” whose depicted violence was so realistic that Mark Morris responded by yelling “No more rape!” before storming out of an American Dance Festival performance of it in 1984.
Others were offended, not by one, but two self-congratulatory recap sections in that piece—one at midwork, the other at the end—that merely reiterated peak gestures from the sequences preceding them. While that sort of self-quotation might not call that much attention to itself in an evening-length ballet, Nine Sinatra Songs lasted all of 28 minutes, victory laps included—both of which were set to (what else?) "My Way."
So the thought did cross my mind: If Tharp was already challenged to fill a half-hour Sinatra tribute in the early 1980s, what awaited audiences in this full-length work which had garnered mostly affirming—but far from unanimous—reviews in New York last year?
As the production unfolded, the gratifying answer soon became obvious: an even stronger show than the one that played Broadway in 2010.
It will no doubt raise some eyebrows that Tharp has fundamentally retooled this show after its New York bow, trimming what was a two-hour, 34-song filibuster into a tight, intermissionless 80-minute touring version. But closer comparison of the two productions reveals that, in excising 12 numbers from the New York production—and adding five new ones to the mix—Tharp has managed to address many of the reservations lodged over the Broadway version.
Exclusive video footage from the world premiere of THE UNCOMMITTED by PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY at the 2011 American Dance Festival. Taylor has dedicated the work to departing ADF president Charles Reinhart. The Paul Taylor Dance Company closes the 2011 ADF with performances at the Durham Performing Arts Center through Saturday, July 23.
Regular viewers will note the brevity of this entry when compared with the eight other video previews we have produced during the 2011 ADF season, and the one company-produced video we reposted, Emanuel Gat's "trailer" for BRILLIANT CORNERS.
Taylor's company restricted our finished video preview of THE UNCOMMITTED to 30 seconds, permitting us to film no more than three minutes of raw footage over the course of the 28-minute work without seeing it beforehand. The results appear above.
Exclusive video footage from the world premiere of LIMITED STATES by SHEN WEI DANCE ARTS at the 2011 American Dance Festival. The company performs at the Durham Performing Arts Center through Saturday, July 16.
Its name is LIMITED STATES. Rumors concerning a video component designed by the choreographer are now confirmed, and parents in the viewing audience may want to know the new work involves nudity.
But the big reveal—thus far—is that patrons who attended his company's two performances of a work called STILL MOVING in June at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art may have gotten more than just a glimpse into the work that's headed our way. More on that in a moment.
For the most part, the information available at this point leaves us with an intriguing array of question marks. We've learned that a New York-based media design firm, FAKE LOVE, is credited with "video projection: effects and production." After digging a bit into Fake Love's track record, we found a group whose “experiential designs” have involved projecting arresting visuals onto a cloud of 500 balloons for a Microsoft rollout, CG-enhanced media support and commercials for fashion designers and high-line cosmetics, the History Channel and Google, as well as atmospheric animated and video backdrops for Girl Talk and Phantogram’s concert tours. Particularly given Fake Love's trippy clips reel, in this case the term "effects and production" leaves plenty of room open to interpretation.
LIMITED STATES is divided into three movements over 65 minutes. The first, “Dimensions,” is set to an intriguing soundscape including Rossini, NOAA weather reports, ethereal, ambient audio by Asher Thal-Nir and decidedly minimal percussion by Jarrod Fowler.
The second movement, “0-11,” honors the 11 years founding company member Sara Procopio has danced with Shen Wei since her first work with him (as an ADF student) in 2000’s NEAR THE TERRACE. Her solo is set to the controlled feedback of noise composer Daniel Burke’s group, Illusion of Safety.
Burke is also credited for the music in the final section, “Internal External #2,” which we've learned is based on a similarly-named piece that concluded Shen Wei Dance Arts’ evening-length performance, STILL MOVING, in the courtyard of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in June of this year.
The rest, we learn at DPAC next Thursday night.
When a film studio foregoes all previews of an upcoming release, that usually conveys a certain lack of faith in the finished product. This week, we'll find out what a similar circumstance means in choreographer EMANUEL GAT's case when his company performs during the American Dance Festival at the Durham Performing Arts Center.
The festival scheduled no photo shoot for Gat. There was no need for one, since the company wanted no press photography of any kind taken of his latest work, BRILLIANT CORNERS, which premiered two weeks ago in Vienna.
The company has made its own trailer for the work. For three minutes we watch a cascade of partial body shots while dancers are apparently warming up: socializing, stretching, sitting, doing neck rolls, walking, rehearsing moves, gazing up at the lights.
All of that is followed by 50 seconds of the full ensemble in what appears to be actual dancework. More accurately, it's 15 possibly connected clips of the group, ranging from less than one to 7 seconds, shot from various angles, while a single, ambient passage suggesting chamber music for long strings plays in the background. See for yourself:
It's a decent commercial. It establishes a certain ambience, even generating a sort of suspense, before providing a series of brisk—but fragmentary—glimpses of the ostensible performance itself. And all those camera angles are just there to let us know that more action's going on than any one vantage point could hope to capture.
The quick edits flit from place to place: look here—no, here! To see all the camera sees, we'd have to move as fast as Gat's dancers, or faster. Our point of view is as kinetic as the dance—if not more so...
Yes, the trailer is quite impressive. And with only it to go on, we'll just have to wait and see how it syncs up with the actual experience of the dancework when Emanuel Gat Dance presents BRILLIANT CORNERS, Thursday through Saturday nights, in DPAC.
Exclusive video footage from the world premiere of SERAPH, a collaboration between the dance company PILOBOLUS and the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab, at the 2011 American Dance Festival. Pilobolus performs at the Durham Performing Arts Center through July 2.
New video preview of the dance company Evidence performing a section of Ronald K. Brown's new suite to Stevie Wonder, ON EARTH TOGETHER, at the 2011 American Dance Festival. The company appears with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company through June 25 at Durham Performing Arts Center.
Exclusive video preview of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company performing a section of Donald McKayle's RAINBOW 'ROUND MY SHOULDER at the 2011 American Dance Festival. The company appears with Evidence through June 25 at Durham Performing Arts Center.
I believe I’ve stumbled upon a late-breaking conspiracy theory—so please say you heard it here first:
A Vast (or, possibly, Half-Vast) Right Wing Conspiracy is actually funding the revival and tour of that touchstone 60s rock musical, HAIR.
Impossible, you say? Hard to believe? Beyond the realm of possibility? Yes, I thought all those things, too—once.
But then I saw the touring version this week at Durham Performing Arts Center. And then I started connecting all the dots…
Let’s dispense with the disclaimers up front. According to the old one-liner, if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t there. To tell the truth: I wasn’t. In addition, Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot’s iconoclastic musical has had two full revivals—and a handful of self-styled “concert” presentations—in New York after the original cast first bowed there in 1967. I’ve seen none of these iterations. Indeed, the only production I had seen going into this performance was a Burning Coal Theatre staging last fall—one that I wasn’t as taken with as reviewer Kate Dobbs Araial. (No slam there; critics regularly agree to disagree on the merits of a show.)
So, here a national, professional touring version had the opportunity to make the first case for this musical with a viewer who still had pretty fresh eyes for the work—and next to nothing in the way of preconceptions about what it actually did in a darkened room.
And by the end of the evening I was wondering exactly when HAIR had been hijacked by the Conservative Cabal.
The Durham Performing Arts Center was energized Friday night with the North Carolina homecoming of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Cunningham founded the company in 1953 at Black Mountain College in western North Carolina; he died a year and a half ago, and his will outlined plans for a final two-year tour for his company, which will disband for good in December. Though turnout on Friday night was modest, those who did turn out were treated to a spectacular farewell for the storied troupe, which will perform one final time tonight.
The first dance, Duets, featured pairs of male and female dancers who took the stage in turn, moving in and out of synchrony, accompanied by a percussive score by Cunningham’s longtime companion and collaborator, John Cage. The musicians took advantage of DPAC’s elaborate sound system, sending skittery, trebly clicks and bass thumps 360 degrees around the space.