Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall for Dance, September 21st (by way of self-indulgent rambling)

What I'm enjoying most about the Fall for Dance festival is the opportunity it gives me to see all sorts of new things and figure out what I'd like to see more of. I've been watching dance on what amounts to a semi-regular basis for such a short time. Two years ago I could have fit everything I knew about dance on a 3 x 5 index card (one side of a 3 x 5 index card). Knowing that Balanchine was the answer to a particular Cranium trivia question was a total accomplishment for me. So almost everything I go to see is still new to me. And as a result, I don't know what I'm going to like or dislike; it's a constant process of discovery. Sometimes--often, really--even after I see something I don't quite know why I feel the way I do about it. I wind up feeling like my reaction is a puzzle I have to work out. Which is why I write about the performances I see on this blog. The writing forces me to think about things more clearly. And knowing that other people will be able to read what I've written forces me to be at least somewhat less muddled than I would be if I were writing in a journal that only I would see. So it's all part of some self-assigned learning experience or personal improvement project or whatever, I suppose.

Anyway, I'd never seen any of the performers that I saw Sunday afternoon and the only choreographer I was at all familiar with going in was Christopher Wheeldon. I've seen a few of Christopher Wheeldon's ballets now, but I'm still not quite sure what I think of him. Generally speaking I'd enjoy less partnering and more women dancing on their own two feet, but I don't dislike his work. His choreography is beautiful and musical and he seems to avoid the most obnoxious of cliches. So all in all I find his ballets that I've seen perfectly pleasant. But at the same time I don't find myself anxious to go see more. Perhaps I just haven't seen the right Wheeldon piece yet. That's perfectly plausible paricularly because what I've seen has been kind of same-y. The pas de deux from Rush didn't really change that. It was lovely--although that costume did nothing for Alison Roper-- and I really liked both Oregon Ballet Theatre dancers, but it didn't seem particularly different from what I've seen from him before. I understand that the pas de deux is atypical with reference to the rest of the ballet so I wish I could have seen the whole thing.

I liked watching Madhavi and Arushi Mudgal and I loved how the dancers were also involved in creating the music with the bells they wore. Whenever I watch Indian dance though, I'm ready for it to end before it actually ends. There are all kinds of storytelling elements, right? But they're completely over my head. And Sheron Wray was a wonderful dancer but the piece she did, Harmonica Breakdown, didn't really leave an impression on me. So the middle section of the program left me feeling fairly neutral. I had stronger reactions to the first and last performances though.

, which came last and was performed by the Hofesh Schecter Company, was the first piece I've seen so far during the festival where I couldn't wait for it to end just so I could stop watching it. But that wasn't the universal opinion by any means. Much of the audience clearly loved it and while leaving I heard people talking about how much they had liked the first and last dances. It can't have helped that my viewing situation was less than ideal--for this final dance only I was behind a woman taller than myself and had trouble seeing part of the stage around her head--but I just found the whole thing almost entirely uninteresting. I don't know why other people enjoyed it while I was so unentertained. And I couldn't even tell you precisely why I didn't think much of it.

The other piece that I had a strong reaction to was the first, Les Chambres des Jacques, performed by [bjm_danse] Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, which I thorougly enjoyed. The program notes say that it's, "an exploration of the inner life and drama of the individual dancers." I'm not sure that came across, at least in the excerpt we saw, but the dancing was just so much fun to watch. I particularly liked the solos and how individual the dancers, who I though were wonderful, seemed. And it seemed to me that Aszure Barton along with the dancers created a very particular sense of a community in which the dance took place. I also loved the music. The performance made me want to see more of the company and more of Barton's choreography. And after all, that's what the festival is supposed to do isn't it?

Rush photo from OregonLive.com. Les Chambres des Jacques photo from the New York Sun.

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