Recently in dance Category


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Yesterday, I finally got the opportunity to see Pina, which I have been waiting for since December. I was not disappointed in the least.

I saw the 2D version, so I couldn't say whether the 3D aspect was used effectively, but I don't really care for 3d, so that was a feature, rather than a bug.

Overall, I thought it was brilliant. I am not a dance connoisseur, modern or otherwise. I had not heard of Pina Bausch until I first saw the trailer for the film. That being said, it really spoke to me. The dance was a constant juxtaposition of the graceful and the awkward, the beautiful and the homely.

The version of The Rite of Spring that basically opened the film was a violently powerful display of sweat and dirt and fear. It set the tone for obvious effort and exertion.

One thing that struck a chord with me was how many of the movements and gestures reminded me of things I do when I'm feeling a little silly. Pina took that silliness and pushed it to the edge, stretched it, exaggerated it, and it became art.

The soundtrack was also a big winner for me. I think it was the use of Jun Miyake's "Lilies in the Valley" in the trailer that first grabbed my attention. It all really worked.

One more thing: I don't know much about Wuppertal, but man, I really want to ride on their tram now. Wouldn't you?



Dancing in the Dark

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Japan's Wrecking Crew Orchestra performs an amazing routine with the help of a darkened stage and costuming that features electroluminescent wire. It's like watching something from a video game or a sci-fi film.

(via BoingBoing)



Giselle 1943

Giselle 1943 featured magnificent dancing, wonderful costumes, and powerful sets. Unfortunately, the story did not work very well with the setting changed.

Rather than just being "a nobleman", Albrecht becomes a Nazi officer. Rather than just "peasants", Giselle and her fellow villagers are the doomed Jews of a European ghetto. No one is spared in this ballet, for instead of a group of Wilis (the spirits of young women who died before their wedding nights) the spirits of the second act are the Jewish community, who are gunned down before our very eyes. In light of this, Albrecht's grief seems more like self-pity than real remorse, and Giselle's forgiveness seems strange. Not only did Albrecht betray her (inadvertently, yet coldly causing her death) but he was a part of the appartatus that was brutally destroying her people. I found myself cheering when Albrecht was gunned down at the very end. "Serves you right, you bastard!"

The other incongruity was that after the Jews are gunned down on stage, and then rise up to dance as spirits (or zombies?) the music had some strangely happy sounding moments, that didn't match the action on stage. Certainly no one looked happy, but rather as though they had been sent to a concentration camp and gunned down in cod blood. So where do the tra-la-la themes come in?

However, when I looked past the troublesome plot points, and looked at the dancing on it's own, divorced from any plot or storyline, it was captivating. Traditional ballet with some modern dance type moves mixed in for spice, it was a satisfying visual spectacle. The ensemble was lithe and graceful to a man. The corps de ballet had plenty to do, beyond supporting the principles. The choreography alone was worth the ticket.

If you want another view on the production, Tom Strini provides it in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal. A pretty good review, although I had to laugh at this line, "Pink has set his "Giselle 1943" in an anonymous central European state occupied by an oppressive foreign army. Of course the army will read as German and the citizens as Jews, but they are not specifically identified as such." Um, gee. Who else could they be?



Getting to the Pointe

A Midsummernight's Dream at the Madison Ballet was very good. Of course, it rather helped to already be quite familiar with the story. Watching the ballet was somewhat akin to watching a silent movie, but without the helpful title cards to explain the action. Everyone on stage did a valient job of getting the main plot points across, but Shakespeare without the words can be tricky. When Hippolyta and Theseus show up for the wedding, it is the first time we ever see them, and without knowing the play, I imagine it could lead one to ask, "Who are these people? Where did they come from?" (And why is everyone in the woods?)

Comprehension of the plot aside, the dancing was beautiful. The corps of tiny faerie children was sweet and non-annoying, since they were mostly compentent and not just adorable. The adult cast was also a treat to watch. The show, however, was stolen by Elizabeth Schweiger in the role of Puck. And rightly it should be since, hey, it's Puck! She made for an energetic and androgynous sprite, full of mischeif and fun. Granted, in Shakespeare's play Robin Goodfellow is rather a randy little imp, and far from androgynous. However, performing sans dialogue, I think that the slight, sleek physical appearance helped convey the...Puckishness of the character. Had a male been cast in the role, the larger, more muscular physique and the obvious "ballet bulge" would have had him too similar to Oberon, with little to distinguish the two faeries.

The matinee was full of children; many little girls dreaming of becoming ballerinas when they grow up. It also seemed very appropriate to see A Midsummer Night's Dream on the very first day of spring (Happy Vernal Equinox, everyone!).

On question, though. I know it was a matinee, and I know this is Madison, but don't people dress up for anything anymore?



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