dance, music, musicals

I have often asked myself

what the point is of having visions of choreography every time I hear a musical theater song (or any kind of music that takes me to a theatrical place) if I am cut off from the prospect of realizing that choreography.

It is only recently, perhaps in the last six months or so, since working with Single Carrot on the one hand, with the Parallel Octave spoken choruses on the other, and writing poems that I am pleased with on a third, that I have some kind of an answer.

It is not possible for me to realize all the movements I imagine. Far from it. All I can do is realize some of them, and leave behind me traces that will infect the minds of other people with similar desires. What can’t be cured must be shared. What can’t be caged must be contagious. Something like that.

I defy you to listen to this (Druha Trava, “Brazos Bottom,” from Czechmate):

and not be beset with a desire for dancers. Personally, I like to imagine twins on Hoverboards, surfing the air over Malibu Canyon, but it’s your music video.


people of los angeles,

go see Grupo de Rua at REDCAT, Jan 19-23. Tickets are $30 and under.

It does not matter whether or not you are familiar with the dance world. Either way, when you watch Grupo de Rua at work, you are going to have an amazing experience. […] The only explanation for such a masterpiece is that Beltrao is a genius and the performers are superhuman. It is something so perfect, so genius and so incredible that you would surely be out of your mind to miss it.

– Nesmo Tawil’s review in New University (UCI campus paper)



A friend of mine, a dancer, was injured yesterday, in the course of an ordinary rehearsal – but what is “ordinary” for performers is extraordinary for the human body. A joint broken in three places, a cast, and a different trajectory for the next few months are the result. Thankfully, it’s not a serious injury. It’s one that someone in good health should bounce back from with time, as I’m sure my friend will, being in the best health of anyone I know. But it was a rude awakening from the dream that we work in.

I read an article on ArtsJournal a few weeks ago about dancers having a higher rate of injury than professional football players. I can’t find that link again, but here’s a longer and grim post from their ArtsWatch blog about the many things that make a career in that field tough.

It makes an interesting point about “audience estrangement” (their phrase) and the world of dance, as compared to the parallel audience decline in the music world:

Classical music critics point to audience estrangement from atonal music in the second half of the 20th Century as a reason for classical music’s decline with the public. No such claim can be made for dance. Contemporary dance has continued to evolve and produce stars. Small modern companies do some of the most exciting work in all of contemporary arts, and the field is vibrant with new ideas. More traditional companies never stopped offering plenty of classic fare.

And yet, even the top companies are a difficult sell when they tour [SJ Mercury News] outside the largest cities…

dance, theater

a dancing domestic tragicomedy

Unknown Theater, one of my favorite companies in Los Angeles, presents AN ATTIC AN EXIT through July 27: a dance event from San Francisco.

In this theatrical tour-de-force, Looney-tunes comedy meets magical realist mystery
in a single room crammed full with riddles, levitation, baking supplies,
and two meticulously explorative characters you will never forget.

This language of this blurb reminds me of some of the blurbs I’ve tried to write for other semi-surreal, multimedia, multi-element performance shows, especially the something “meets” something part.
I get it, and I automatically know vaguely what genre of work this is, and that I will enjoy it, and that it’s going to be complicated, whimsical, and really good. But I wonder if the language is communicating everything it can to outsiders or civilians – if there is a way for us to describe this kind of work more concisely. It’s difficult, when part of the nature of the work is that it includes many, many elements.

convergence, dance, poetry, rhyme

The sonnet arabesque

Yesterday Robert and I met with a composer who writes vocal and other art music, who wants to put her dissertation music together with a ballet in next year’s Convergence.

And last night I saw a performance at Butler Ballet of five short works, including Cynthia Pratt’s RAINMAKERS and Paul Taylor’s CLOVEN KINGDOM. This was the first time in my life I’d ever sat down for an entire evening of ballet. I was blown away by it. Halfway through RAINMAKERS, I had renounced words and spoken vocabulary. I’ve never had so much visual stimulus in my life. Where have I been that I haven’t seen this yet?

I have very few words about this experience, I feel like I should be dancing about it, instead of writing, but here’s a try: the conventions are so different – the lighting so aesthetic as opposed to narrative. The transitions, which I care so much about, seem so insignificant. ‘

The permeable stage, with the wings as flimsy as air, with endless streams of dancers rushing in and out.

The use of the body. The arm is the quotation mark of the word-body – it is much less significant than I want it to be.

The foot is the face, meaning emanates from there, and the face might as well be masked.

And finally, dance got there first. Before we (theater) did.

Then I got to meet some local Indy folks from the ballet community, including a gentleman who kills his own deer (to eat) with a bow and arrow, and has a quiver made out of a coyote he also hunted himself. We sat around a fire talking about fighting hummingbirds, dance, hip replacement surgery, and poetry till morning. One of the people there was writing her first sonnets. I’m going to send her these two poems.

It was beautiful to be in their home, looking at paint samples, eating leftover Dove Valentine’s chocolates with fortunes on the inside (mine was “You will make someone melt today,” but I read it at 11:50 pm) and pretending to have a place I live somewhere in this world. But I was reminded, while touching the coyote’s fur, that I never would have met these people if I were living so stably and simply somewhere. This is part of the journey. Ballet, bittersweet, and all.

If there’s anything in the world of words that can stand up to RAINMAKERS, it’s this poem. Ballet is rhyme, I think – that’s the only compliment I have for it. The repetition of elements chimes the same way.

The Windhover
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

And this link to Harryette Mullen reading THE DIM LADY., her The Dark Lady takeoff.


bodycity returns

Lake Sharp & her fellow members of the dance troupe bodycity have a dance event happening in LA on Oct 26th. Lake also works and designs clothes at Matrushka, where the dance is being performed. She’s a really great all-around artist, and my former co-producer for BRANDOHEAD. I first saw bodycity perform at the Brandohead fundraiser, which was like a mini-marathon: a piece where the members of the group talked about the troubles of cleaning house.
“Oh no! Toilet bowl!”
It was some of the funniest and simplest dance I’ve ever seen.

bodycity IX: through the Glass Mass
A harvest dance to bubble up bodies and fling ourselves, with shirt sleeves rolled and eyes wide open, into the night. Inspired in part by Halloween, private rockouts and alleyway dance-offs.

choreography by Lake Sharp
beats by Mike Meanstreetz
Josh Forbes on singing saw
costume design by Anna Magnuson & Lake Sharp

friday, Oct 26th
reception at 7pm
performance at 8pm
@ Matrushka Clothing
3822 W. Sunset blvd

dance, the chorus

Graham on the Green

Zack and I saw the Martha Graham Dance Company outdoors at the Britt Festival last night with Caitlin. It was extraordinary. The precision, the angles, the emotion – the abstract costumes. The most spectacular number was TECHNIQUE, a take on a dancer’s stretch and warmup. Zach preferred the take on Fascism, with the militaristic numbers. I know her genius is universally recognized, as a choreographer, but I didn’t realize how much it would speak to me.

A moment of focusing on a dancer’s foot slowly lowering – and realizing the gesture refers to crushing people – breathtaking.

The artistic director addressed the audience before it began, to give some context, and said, “The critics weren’t always kind to Martha. One of them wrote, after seeing her, “When I see Martha Graham dance I think she’s going to give birth to a cube.” ”

Seems like a compliment to me, of someone who doesn’t know how good what he’s seeing is. And a reminder that none of us can control audience response.

The performances were only marred by the mind-numbing number of bows they took after each one. I love OSF’s ensemble bow policy.