Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fall for Dance, September 19th

This time around I was going to Fall for Dance with my grandmother. She remembered seeing Merce Cunningham in the 60s or 70s (I don't remember which she said) and not liking it so thought she should give it another try all these years later. We met for mediocre Italian food at one of the restaurants that would give her double air miles--she uses them for all the travelling she's done in recent years and I think this next year is including Italy, India, China, and somewhere else so she needs those miles--and then walked over to City Center. It was nice and chilly Friday night--we're getting into my favorite sort of weather and I'm excited about that. I love autumn, although it's also the time I most miss living somewhere where it was easy to go apple and pumpkin picking. I'm going hiking in the Adirondaks with my father in a couple weeks and hopefully the trees will all be mid-change. But anyway...

I felt completely unequipped to watch the Merce Cunningham piece, Sounddance. I just don't get it. I mean I watched it and it was kind of like watching controlled chaos, and it was interesting at points but overall I just felt, well, baffled. And man are those costumes ugly. It didn't help that we were sitting just a wee bit too close to the speakers and the music--which I can't imagine enjoying under any circumstances--was verging on painful. Anyway, it seems clear that I need to learn more about Cunningham's choreography before I see something of his again so I'll be able to get more from it.

Next up was Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, which featured an African American man in a feathered loincloth impersonating an ostrich (but with more pelvic gyration than any ostrich could manage). It was interesting and the man dancing was certainly impressive, but I don't know that I feel much need to see people impersonating other animals with any frequency. Question though: Just how contemporary is something that premiered in 1932? Does "contemporary" refer to a certain era or kind of dance? I thought it just meant that the dance was, well, contemporary. Which something from 1932 really isn't at this point, is it?

The final bit of dancing before the intermission was from ABT, with Xiomara Reyes and Gennadi Savaliev in the pas de deux from The Leaves are Fading. I saw the full ballet with Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes (pictured) when ABT performed it last year and enjoyed it very much. I like Reyes fine but not nearly as much as Kent and have no general opinion one way or another on Savaliev (I don't think I've seen him dance much) but I felt like he was sort of stiff. Or perhaps not stiff but somehow unconvincing. Of course it's probably hard to be convincing while wearing a flowy pink blouse. Talking about making a man work extra hard.

After spending the evening thinking uncharitable thoughts about that particular look I was amused to see that Claudia La Rocco had a post up about ballet costumes in which she wrote, "anyone who has gone to the ballet with me a few times (OK, maybe only once) knows that a lot of the design concepts leave me feeling like I’m watching an extended commercial for feminine hygiene products. What’s with all the pastels??!" It hadn't occurred to me to think much beyond, "God, I hate that look," but feminine hygeine commercials certainly are an accurate comparison.

After the intermission there was a solo performance by Louise Lecavalier in an excerpt from a piece called Lone Epic that I thought was just wonderful. The program notes said that it, "explores the possibility of human emotion within a facade of presentation, recognizing that the emotions of love and loss, while intensely personal, are of epic importance." That was actually a bit more spelled out than I needed it to be for a change as the themes came through clearly. I particularly liked how the music stands and conducting were used as a "facade of presentation" (a performance within a performance) with that facade breaking down to reveal the personal emotions expressed through dance. I thought Lecavalier was a fantastic performer.

The final dance of the night was a tap performance by Ayodele Casel, Sarah Savelli & Dancers. We saw excerpts from a piece called Tap into Peace and while the tapping was a lot of fun to watch I thought the presentation was far less entertaining (particularly right after seeing Lecavalier's performance). There was something hokey about the bits of acting we saw and the setups just weren't that interesting. The dancing itself was better without the stuff that came with it.

All in all a fun night. Next up we're going to see All My Sons, which is making me very glad I found something cheap for us to do this month. Next on the to-do-list: finding a super-inexpensive restaurant for us to eat at in October.

Sounddance photo from Merce Cunningham's Web site. ABT photo is from their Web site. Lone Epic photo from here.

No comments: