What makes one of the classics of dance theater, a 23-year-old fusion of theater, dance and music based on Hieronymus Bosch's famous triptych, a work in progress?
Since 2005, the shape of a possible New York restaging space got Clarke thinking about big changes in the work. Her physical vocabulary—and tastes—had changed. Plus she'd learned a lot about aerial choreography after the 1984 original, which flew angels and demons onstage—and over the heads of the audience.
The restaging deal fell through. Then ADF said go for it.
The opening Garden of Eden section has been almost completely rechoreographed, to new music by Richard Peaslee. There are "a lot more flights." And Hell's gotten a lot bigger, in a work Clarke hopes will prove "a richer tapestry than the original."ANNA HALPRIN
A Buddhist sand mandala is a study in stillness, a remapping ritual that resets the levels of order and chaos in the cosmos. Anna Halprin's mandalas move. It's appropriate, since they're formed when hundreds of dancers and non-dancers create them by running, walking, standing or sitting. Each participant brings two things: a prayer for peace and renewal, and someone whose name they walk (or stand) in. Community members can take part in this unique ritual, for free, by showing up at Duke Gardens' South Lawn at 3:30 p.m. For more info, consult www.americandancefestival.org.AFRICAN AMERICAN DANCE ENSEMBLE
Just back from masterminding the 30th annual DanceAfrica Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music—where a scholarship was established in honor of his 70th birthday—Baba Chuck Davis shows no sign of slowing down. His research into the akonting, West Africa's precursor to the banjo, initiated a collaboration with Rhiannon Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops on a new ballet fusing African music and dance with bluegrass music. Wintertime audiences caught a glimpse of BlueGrass/BrownEarth—and perhaps we will as well, in a concert presenting works based on Nigerian and Guinean dance forms, and his trademark, audience-uniting exhortation: "peace, love and respect for everybody." Ago!RUSSIAN FESTIVAL I:
Tonight's show is likely to raise the question "Are all reconstructions really a good idea?" A relentlessly abstract—and endless—combination of murky lights, eerie yells and grainy forest video rendered Nostalgia "a choreographic Blair Witch Project" when we saw it in 2004.
Thankfully, what we've seen since is a lot better. In Waiting, a group finds it takes a lot more than flinging off old peasant garb to discard a culture's ideas on gender roles, sexuality and romance. And the tantalizing glimpse we've gotten of The Other Side of the River depicts workers in a hotel laundry, borrowing guests' clothes to try on better lives as well. At one point the characters redefine irony by using irons to outline their hazy dreams in floating lines of steam, before two guests smoke and toast with their backs to us—while sitting on the shoulders of the laborers who get the scraps they pass down.RUSSIAN FESTIVAL II:
Call Iguan Dance Theatre's quirky 40-minute work "A (not particularly) intimate evening with the Sims." Nina Gasteva (who facially resembles Twyla Tharp) and Michail Ivanov's deliberately mechanized domestic movements seem almost lifelike, to an electronic groove recalling "Pass the Dutchie." Ultimately, we learn that spontaneity, sensuality—and everything but chilly intellect—have actually been displaced in a character on stage.
Our version of performance artist Vladimir Golubev's solo show, Non-solo, came without subtitles, so we're not exactly certain what we saw. A laconic, scruffy young man combined (apparently) sit-down comedic monologues with nifty accordion work and fairly fluid choreographic gestures. We're told it's a satire on acting, and is up for Moscow's version of the Tony, in a solo career after nine years with the Chelyabinsk troupe. But for now the best word we can give you is this: a lot was still lost in translation at press time....PILOBOLUS
Did you catch their appearance at this year's Oscars? Happy Feet, indeed. The perennially popular modern dance company continues reinventing itself as Robby Barnett invites Inbal Pinto (who dazzled Durham audiences with Frieda and Rosa, her 1998 foray into absurdist Victoriana) and Avshalom Pollak on the world premiere of a work still untitled at press time. A new Michael Tracy duet sets Manelich Minniefee and Annika Sheaff to music by Calexico and Gustavo Santaolalla. And we get to hear what's been on Jonathan Wolken's iPod lately with B'Zyrk, a new sextet set to music by Leningrad, Paul Cantelon, French film composer Jan Tiersen, Tin Hat Trio and the Tiger Lillies.EIKO & KOMA
Though Eiko & Koma have made a career of abducting audiences into a totally different time zone with their Butoh-based, glacially paced performances, they've actually had others on stage with them before. Anna Halprin collaborated with them on 2002's Be With. Since 2005, their Cambodian Stories have featured students they've met in that country; its most recent version closed in New York at the end of May. (Regional promoters: When will we see them here?)
Now they have started setting their duets on others—17-year-old Chakreya ("Charian") So and 18-year-old Setpheap ("Peace") Sorn, who also worked on Cambodian Stories. But those who've already characterized Grain, which they'll present here, as "serene" should actually see the work in question. This tale of fertility rites—and marital rape—is about as serene as a car crash unfolding in extremely slow motion. The suspense steadily increases as cryptic images gradually convey the discord between husband and wife, before a shattering, grotesque conclusion.
The night also features Quartet, a world premiere the masters have created in collaboration with their new companions. It should be a memorable evening.HUBBARD STREET DANCE CHICAGO
Festival goers will likely remember Hubbard Street's 2004 ADF appearance—for better and, possibly, worse. Formidably trained and physically expressive dancers took the complex mechanics of Ohad Naharin's Tabula Rasa in stride, before decanting SF/LB, Daniel Ezralow's sucker-punch send-up of corporate culture—and meditation on 9/11.
Then Rooster managed to offend women and trivialize the Rolling Stones simultaneously.
This season, artistic director Jim Vincent's Palladio is a tribute to the 16th-century Italian architect of the same name. Chicago Tribune critic Sid Smith called last month's world premiere "a work of fatalistic intensity ... but beautiful and impassioned," with a "breathtaking finale."
Most stirring of the works we previewed? Susan Marshall's Kiss, whose two lovers struggle to overcome the forces pulling them apart—bungee cables set apart from each other—to Arvo Part's haunting music. Most erotic? Jirí Kylián's Petite Mort, whose couples turn to sharpened steel—fencing épées—to intensify the love play.SHEN WEI DANCE ARTS
If you want to find out how Re—, Part I, the symbolic, shattered chronicle of Shen Wei's return to Tibet after long exile, continues, you'll have to ask Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, who premiered Part II in March, in Montreal. The conclusion, we hear, details Mr. Shen's subsequent travel to Angkor Wat, Cambodia's sacred complex of temples, in search of spiritual renewal.
Perhaps we'll see it next year. In the meantime, a mere masterpiece—and something of a victory lap for the painter/sculptor/choreographer.
If you have—or haven't—seen The Rite, prepare to be fascinated. Shen took Stravinsky's original score for two pianos and, in vividly reimagining it, made it his own, without the pagan ritual narrative that has dogged choreographers since its creation.
We've called the result an unlikely mix of organic movement and architecture, compared its structure to a culture—either of cells or people—developing and behaving according to pristine, if enigmatic, rules and principles. Four years after its debut, a chance to see it live remains one of the "don't miss" moments this summer.ARGENTINE FESTIVAL I/II:
Grupo Krapp was documenting a sketchy small-town dance hall on the saddest Saturday night on record in their rude, ribald dance theater farce, 2004's Mendiolaza. Near the end, two beery drunks howled about their one great, former love to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." The Beatles haven't sounded the same since.
But the company (whose name derives from Samuel Beckett's famous play) has been a lot more sardonic in other works. Which face will they show for their return to Durham?
Later that night (in a second show requiring a second ticket), Contenido Bruto (Gross Content) presents one of the more challenging evenings of the summer.
Though Kevental is said to contrast between the mechanics and the sensuality of the body, the dancers' olive-drab trenchcoats and brusque manner suggest a surreptitious, paramilitary note from the start. Hasty maps and plans, chalked out under searchlights, suggest a resistance in a country under siege. When specific body parts are slowly, carefully manipulated under spotlight—in an otherwise darkened room—the procedures too easily recall those performed on the desaparacidos, and others in places besides Abu Ghraib. But exactly how does this company cross the language gap? And can it maintain such a level of intensity for the entire work?ARGENTINE FESTIVAL III/IV:
On the night of a summer thunderstorm, two women and a man stay up late, moving through the implications of their shared relationships as they move through the ramshackle rooms of their time together.
Llueve (It Rains), Prado and Estévez' hour-long play, conveys one of the strongest senses of place in all the works we previewed. It also contains moments that shock, in a pensive work that may raise some of the summer's most pointed questions about relationships—provided its many pauses don't get too pregnant.
In the second, separately ticketed concert, Mercado plays in the digital sandbox in Plano Difuso (Diffuse Plane), amusing himself and us as he explores the relationship between performer and digitized setting—sometimes not dissimilarly to Amy Yoes and Mark Haim's technochoreographic fusion last summer, Guide to Southern Trees. After that, Grupo Krapp's Luciana Acuña restages Susana Tambutti's The Stab. This campy, comic burlesque of gender roles on film recalls the Patti Smith quote "Every woman/ is evasive"—that is, when it isn't apparently taking notes from a lower-brow ditty by Robyn Hitchcock. The Stab's manic physical energy, penchant for quick-change and mileage on props alone recalls—of all things—Jim Carrey in The Mask.PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY
By now it's industry wisdom. Taylor basically makes three kinds of works: pretty, dark—and ugly. Which one's the world premiere, De Sueños?
Your guess should weigh a soundtrack including music from Juan Garcia Esquivel, the mestre of '50s lounge music, and murdered Latino superstar Chalino Sanchez. It should consider the Carl Jung quote in the playbill: "So difficult it is to understand a dream that for a long time I have made it a rule, whenever someone tells me a dream and asks for my opinion, to say first of all to myself: 'I have no idea what this dream means.'"
And since Taylor tries to achieve some balance in his concerts, reflect on the other works scheduled: the serene, balletic Arden Court, and a more exuberant Esplanade.PAST/FORWARD:
In one concert, two concepts the 2007 season seems to be about: Reconstructions of classics paired with a world premiere by an avant garde eminence grise.
Helen Tamiris, from the first generation of modern dance, staged works set to black protest songs from the 1930s. But what exactly will our present culture see when ADF students reconstruct potentially the most dated work of the summer, her 1937 suite, How Long Brethren?
Rodger Belman, who danced with Laura Dean until her company closed in 1995, will reconstruct Dean's driving Sky Light, influenced by African and Arabic dance motifs, to live percussion accompaniment.
But sustaining dance involves sustaining the people who create it. After a 34-year absence, Rudy Perez, a founding member of the Judson Church movement, has been invited back to present a new work at ADF. Just curious: What took so long?MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP
One question about Morris' ADF appearance: How did he find the time? In January he premiered the Italian Concerto at his new Brooklyn dance center. (Critics praised his musicality—but remained divided on his own appearance in the work.) May saw his staging of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice at the Metropolitan Opera. Last month, Looky debuted in Boston. Later this summer, his evening-length Mozart Dances opens in London and New York.
Critics have praised the wit in each of his works here. His Italian Concerto contrasts hula quotes, full-tilt bop and mock menace (from his own on-stage solo) with Bach's classical reserve; while the Grand Duo we saw in 2000 seemed a comic mime of Lou Harrison's Bartok-flavored music.