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We are a Team Here:
"The Dance Workforce has a continuous task to locate and consume nutrient dense foods that are low in calories and hopefully low cost. Our community has an edge in knowing that high quality fuel for our 'living instrument' is important for all the reasons that produce optimum health, reduce injuries & down time, generate longer careers, and, less anxiety about doing the right things for said instrument that does not get protection from the environment via a violin case.
Manuel Villacorta's new Incan superfood protocol promises excellent results to maintenance and longevity concerns for our professional arts and sports population. He cites 21 foods from Peru that are extremely beneficial for health and wellness. These foods are Aji, Artichokes, Avocado, Beans, Cacao, Camu, Chia Seeds, Cilantro, Kañiwa, Kiwicha, Lucuma, Maca, Papaya, Pichuberries, Purple Corn, Purple Potatoes, Quinoa, Sacha Inchi Seeds & Oil, Sweet Potatoes, Yacon, and Yuca. Some of these food items we know readily and others are somewhat familiar from shopping in so called ethnic grocery stores of people from Africa, Asia, and... READ MORE
It is a very good thing that American Ballet Theatre soloist (since 2007) has written her memoir. More than likely it will be the first among many 'mike checks' on her career, personal transformation, and needs assessment. Right now the assessment her visibility connotes about dance in the USA is that the continuum for dancers of color is indeed a story of adversity and grace. To date there have been only three (3) other female African Diaspora dancers that ABT has employed. They are Raven Wilkinson (1949 - 1955), Anna Benne Sims (circa 1980 - 1983) and Nora Kimball (1983 - 1986). How's that as a record of diversity, equal opportunity and the American Way? While readers reflect on this ballet dance reality, let me add a portion of the 'backstory' to why this lack of Black females is a major platform of our cultural mores.
African Americans are limitedly involved in Ballet for extra reasons beyond the obvious of institutional racism, bias, and the Board/artistic directors' desire to have all dancers be the color of a freshly peeled apple. Even we in the business tend to fantasize that in arts and culture there are better opportunities for both employment and visibility. This is true compared to... READ MORE
Blood Dazzler is poet Patricia Smith's groundbreaking poetry collection chronicling the physical and human toll extracted by Hurricane Katrina. Smith has been honored with many literary awards and is recognized as an unparalleled spoken word performer. She collaborated with choreographer Paloma McGregor, a principal dancer with Urban Bush Women, and director Patricia McGregor, her sister, of the Yale Drama School, on a dance/theater production of Blood Dazzler. The project, produced by the McGregors' production company, Angela's Pulse, attracted an outstanding cast of dancers eager to bring Smith's people of the gulf coast to life as a labor of love. Rhea Patterson, also of Urban Bush Women and currently performing in the Broadway show Wicked, starred as Hurricane Katrina. Dazzler opened Harlem Stage's fall series with performances at the Gatehouse on September 23-25. I attended the opening night performance.
Three forces are at play in Blood Dazzler: the weather, the people of New Orleans and the government charged with delivering aid. In Smith's poetry the characters have real voices and inner lives, including that of Hurricane Katrina. It is the power of Smith's voices and the richness of her characterizations that inspire the performers in their interpretive movement and which grips the audience in this powerful retelling.
Dazzler opens with a woman– Smith -- watching the National Hurricane Center radar track the path of "a tropical depression" on television. When Smith is blacked-out to read from her poetry offstage, the stage is bare but for white siding of a small house.
In contrast to the clinical voice in the news report, Katrina is introduced as a non-quantifiable force of nature, possessed of needs, and personified as a woman. "Every woman begins as weather and harbors chaos" is the gist of Smith's prologue. Rhea Patterson portrays a deadly Katrina. In a dress that exposes her back and with a skirt of scarf-like swatches that move with the air, her back to the audience and outstretched arms, she dominates the stage house with strong, rippling movement. In Smith's chronicle, Katrina emerges as a mesmerizing pitiless diva driven to destroy to appease a thwarted sense of entitlement. In dance and projected personality, Patterson sustains Katrina as an awesome presence throughout. The audience does not need to recall extensive documentary footage to summon up the damage of Katrina; everything in the production and the performances work together to convince of the power of the hurricane and the death and destruction of lives where it struck.
The narrative develops chronologically and psychologically through episodic vignettes. It is mostly the narrator's voice we hear, telling the stories of the characters throughout, but at times the performers speak themselves to tell their story. When words fall silent and we hear sound -- wind, storm and the occasional strain of jazz clarinet.
The white wall exterior opens to reveal the inside of a modest home. As the family crosses back and forth collecting belongings to take with them on the road, Katrina lurks around the outside frame like a slithering black flame. In the performers' activity and gestures, we feel conflict. "The man on the TV say go," says Smith, narrating. "Go, Uh- huh. Like we got wheels and gas. Like at the end of that running there is an open door with dry and song inside." "He act like we're supposed to wrap ourselves in picture frames and bathroom rugs, then walk the freeway, racing the water."
Smith portrays people for whom living with heavy rains and storms are a way of life. They leave their dog Luther B., with food chained to a tree until they return. "He gon' be all right. He done been rained on before." Luther B. danced by Eddie Brown, tethered and twisting in the wind, hands bound upward like a hanging body, becomes a returning character until he is "leveled with the mud." As storms rains down, and the flood waters rise, the dancers enact the devouring waves.
The stories in Dazzler of people losing their lives commemorate the fates of real people -- a mother losing a child to drowning because she was carrying two other children; thirty-four residents of a nursing home who were abandoned to die. In the section 34, each of the trapped nursing home residents has an end-of-life story of faith, abandonment, disbelief, suffering, or defiance to tell before finishing on her/his back facing the sky. Liz Mitchell gives a stand-out performance as elderly wheelchair bound Ethel who died when she was left for days in the hot sun outside the New Orleans Convention Center while being assured that help was on the way. One of Dazzler's trusting souls, not one of its caustic disbelievers, Ethel looks up toward "her Savior" and as she fixes on the sky, her limp hollowed out body rises on its "ghost legs" until Katrina swats her to the ground.
After the rains, come depictions of hunger, disease, heat and homelessness. As a counterpoint to the devastation, Dazzler uses some of the government's own communication to capture paralysis and callousness in its responses to the disaster. Disengaged email correspondence as officials observe the gathering storm plays out on a screen. In two darkly comic sketches, "The President Flies Over," and one of Laura Bush addressing relocated Katrina families, Smith uses material from the Bushes' speeches to display their awkwardness and inability to relate to the families' plight.
Smith in Blood Dazzler does not lay any further blame on the state or federal government for the destruction and suffering caused by Katrina. Instead, she takes the tragedy to the mythological level. This may have been a false turn because it undercuts the real-life people and drama she has created so meticulously.
The segments telling of Katrina's tragic flaw as a nature deity nevertheless create vivid theater. The hurricanes, all named for letters of the alphabet, are siblings. Here, the dancers are in a vertical line of brazen poses, and as they are named and characterized, they come forward to display the storm feature in which they specialize. "But none of them talked about Katrina," Smith relates, "She was their odd sister, the blood dazzler." Betsey, elder sister, tall with aristocratic bearing, played by Tiffany Rachelle Stuart tells Katrina, "You got no whisper in you, do you girl? The idea was not to stomp it flat, 'trina." "All you had to do was kiss the land with your thunderous lips and leave it stuttering."…. "I too enjoyed playing God for a minute. But unlike you, rash gal, I left some of my signature standing. I only killed what got in the way."
Betsey's reproach wounds Katrina, and in Patterson's performance we see her ego deflated. Before Dazzler concludes, Katrina comes to awareness of how hunger for recognition and the brew of feminist and family issues fed her fury. "I was a rudderless woman in full tantrum," she says, "throwing my body against worlds I wanted. I never saw the harm of lending that ache. All I ever wanted to be was a wet, gorgeous mistake. A reason to crave shelter."
While for me the mythological drama did not add to the depiction of Hurricane Katrina, Smith's gift for creating stories and voices truly inspired the performers and audience, and is extraordinary wherever it touches down.
There is much to admire in the Francesca Harper Project, which performed at Joyce Soho June 4th, 5th and 6th, 2010. Harper, the principal choreographer and dancer, is a statuesque, forceful presence, who radiates not only power, but gentleness and positive energy. The company members are attractive and accomplished, and visually present a variety of shape, size and ethnicity. Most important, they dance with energy and full-out commitment. Also very full is the dance vocabulary, taken from ballet and modern techniques, mostly Horton-derived Ailey. In addition there are influences from Elizabeth Streb, Balanchine, and even Broadway shows, as the dancers reminisced autobiographically a la A Chorus Line while their greatly enlarged images were projected on a backdrop screen.
Japanese culture is built on an elaborately developed reticent ritual perfected over a long history. Ritual prescribes behavior and prevents spontaneous outbursts that might become violent. Both extremely gentle and moderate behavior and the fierce destructive attitude of a Samurai warrior are parts of the Japanese temperament. Anthropologist Ruth Benedict reflected this dichotomy when she titled her book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.
These contradictory feelings and temperaments permeate Japanese life and art, and especially the contemporary post-war dance genre called Butoh.Kazuo Ohno is a major figure who invented this dance form. When he died recently he was a hundred and one years old. For him war began with WW I. Later he experienced the devastation of WW II. Those bombs that hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki created a deep awareness in the culture of how life can disappear in an instant leaving grotesquely frozen dead bodies and a lifetime of suffering for the survivors. This all left a mark on Kazuo Ohno's new dance expression.
In spite of their well-defined native culture, the Japanese are also flexible and can quickly absorb foreign behavior and art forms. To a great extent that characterizes the development of the Japanese aesthetic of Butoh, in response first to German Expressionism and subsequently to American modern dance and even European ballet.
The October 5, 2010 performance of Sankai Juku at the Joyce Theater resonated strongly with the audience. It is the best known Butoh Company here and also all over the world. Perhaps the western influences in Butoh resonated subconsciously with familiar meanings and emotions in the audience. While the specific dramatic meaning of a Butoh episode is largely incomprehensible, the emotional intensity it communicates is universally understood. Sankai Juku's performance of Tobari was presented without intermissions and executed with extreme discipline; the unusually bizarre and striking elements were tightly structured and controlled. The length, continuity and slow tempo of both movement and accompaniment captivated the audience.
When the curtain went up, the stage was seen to be covered with white sand. It is the custom of Sankai Juku, wherever they perform, to cover the stage with soft white sand that has been gathered in that particular locale: presumably Hudson River sand in this case. Centered in the middle and surrounded by the sand, a large mirror-like gleaming black oval sparkled. It created a separate but contiguous space that looked like a dark water-filled pond. The lighting and costumes were unusual and powerful; there were many circular spotlights, flickering lights, semi-darkness and occasionally full illumination. The dancers are all male, with heads shaved and the entire body covered with white rice powder. It is an unearthly image, as if the human body were inhabited by life and death simultaneously. Often a long gauzy white skirt was worn, reaching the floor and hugging the lower body, or whirling outward as the dancer spun. At other times the costume was a simple white loincloth giving maximum exposure to the dead-white skin.
Sankai Juku takes its themes from nature, from darkness and light and from birth to death. The performance built upon itself continuously from beginning to end; an intermission would indeed have weakened its effect. The complete title of the piece, very aptly chosen, was TOBARY: As if in an inexhaustible flux. Through the unaccustomed movements and the unearthly imagery, the choreography created a strikingly original physical philosophy of existence. The use of the body was given a writhing, twisting, squirming and wriggling quality that nicely combined strength with feathery lightness.
The first dancer to appear on stage when the lights came up was standing motionless. Then his knees and torso bent slightly and he lifted an arm high, crooked like a tree limb, and moved one finger. A second and third dancer arrived, both with arms lifted; one moved fingers and hands, while the other in a large rounded movement created a fist. This was a typical progression in Tobary : slow, precise, controlled and infinitesimal. This gestural play unfolded slowly as more dancers arrived and the group moved around very quietly on bare feet, with bent knees and twisted bodies. Occasionally their hands became predatorily claws.
They changed formations as changing numbers of dancers appeared on stage. One group returned with very large earrings that contrasted strangely with the bald head. The lifting and pointing of a toe was a dance event, perhaps accompanied by a dancer turning slowly around his own axis. All of these various movement parts were skillfully woven together, creating a perfect harmony as the movement never stopped. Clearly the dancers represented the inexhaustible variability of change that still always remains the same. The action became more complicated; dancers fell on the floor and lay in a stiff pose, open-mouthed with one leg shooting upwards. But the harmonious flow of the whole was never broken. The movement, the slow musical accompaniment and the otherworldly scenery created a hypnotic effect. The audience watched in complete silence, mesmerized, and I felt myself transfigured and transported to a mysterious realm.
There are ideas for which there is no verbal explanation; they exist only and entirely as a feeling in the body. Such an idea is physically perceived through muscular empathy and visual immediacy. It goes beyond ordinary logic, transcending its rigid rules and reaching for the impossible.
Company founder, dancer and artistic director Ushio Amagatsu, in an interview translated from the Japanese, explained the basis of his creation through the meaning of the word tobari. In ordinary usage it refers to a thin veil that partitions a space. Its symbolic meaning encompasses all tenuous distinctions between closely related realms: the moment between day and night; between life and death and perhaps resurrection. It is a time that we are aware of, but in our present awareness we grasp it as a reality coming to us from the past. It is like the interwoven time and space implied when we look at the stars and know that their twinkle is from the past though we see it as a present occurrence. It is a cultural affinity for all-inclusiveness that allows for perceiving and accepting reality from conflicting perspectives, a perspective that is unfamiliar and difficult in the strictly linear thinking that is more familiar to us. Amagatsu finished his interview with a remark that illuminates his creative drive: "For me, impression is more important than comprehension." The striking impressions Sankai Juku create in Tobary remain with us and we remember them clearly, even though their complex meanings remain beyond verbal explanation.
The Canadian choreographer from Montreal, Paul-André Fortier, danced his 30 minute solo 30x30 on 30consecutive days at 12 noon in New York City from July 16-August 14, 2010. The solo, performed outside at One New York Plaza, was part of the River to River Festival and was co-presented by The Joyce Theatre and Arts Brookfield Properties.
At the Wednesday, August 4 performance, the weather was steamy and windy. Fortier's stage space was defined by a square taped in white, and he performed to all sides of the square – no designated front. He wore a white long-sleeved shirt, black pants, black socks, and black shoes. The accompaniment to the dance was ambient city sound – an occasional siren, cars squeaking and screeching, wind whipping around the tall buildings, a helicopter flying by, cell phones ringing, and people chattering. The audience was mostly sitting on the stone tiles adjacent to the performance square, but some were also standing or sitting on the ledge of a planter. There were audience members who had clearly come to see the performance, and others had just happened upon it. Some were eating lunch; some were walking by and then stopped for a minute or two to take in the unusual event; one person dozed off and on; several took photos; a maintenance worker swept up trash. There were both children and adults of various ages, and even a dog on a leash.
The dance fit beautifully into the city surroundings. Fortier moved with a fluid, natural rhythm, showing terrific stamina in dancing for 30 minutes in direct sun at close to 90 degrees. Repeated movement motifs included: swinging arms that accelerated and decelerated with the wind speed; a hail and farewell-like gesture with an uplifted arm; a 1st arabesque-type movement with crisp vertical and horizontal lines; an unfolding and giving gesture with the arms; karate-like arm movements accompanied by sharp audible exhales; and a repeated movement of dropping his head and picking it up with his hands as if it were not attached to his body, and then running. There was constant strong contrast with changing levels and moving at different tempos. Perhaps my favorite moments of the dance were two that reminded me of tight-rope walking, and specifically the great tight-rope walker Philippe Petit. At one point Fortier looked as if he were trying not to fall off the edge of a building looking down over the edge and out as Petit did in preparing for his tight-rope walk between the Twin Towers. There was another moment in which Fortier appeared to be walking a tight rope with intense concentration as he placed one foot carefully in front of the other. The dance ended with Fortier repeating his hail and farewell gesture with the right arm up over his head as he approached the audience on each side of the square and looked different people in the eye. He then backed up out of the square to much applause. How wonderful to see dance out in the environment of the city, becoming part of the landscape!
Too many times, I attend modern dance performances and see that the audience is largely made up of other modern dancers plus a few friends and family members. This insular experience of modern dance where dancers are mostly dancing for each other separates dance from the general public. Taking dance out of the theatres, to people who might not make a visit to see dance in a theatre is an important part of developing and continuing to develop pubic appreciation for the art form, which will strengthen and deepen its significance in our culture.
For its eleventh showcase for new Asian dance, Yangtze Repertory Theater of America offered a trio of world premieres. This edition called Bubbles: Variations in a Foreign Land opened on September 17th smack in the middle of New York's East Asian community at Flushing Town Hall's spacious auditorium in Queens. Three works by young Korean transplants to the US with three quite different approaches to dance composition made for a varied evening.
In All My Socks Have Holes Eun Jung Choi used a multi-media approach to revealing how longer-term expat's memory transforms itself over time. As primary illustration she became narrator who began to tell of being in the US as a student and hearing news that her parents at home suffered severe injuries in a car accident. Several restarts of the story were each subtly different and formulated in increasingly removed language. She began the piece with partner Guillermo Ortega tossing her wool socks with large holes, per her descriptive notes to symbolize holes in how events are remembered. Choi is a formalist by training and here tended toward an abstract vocabulary. So while it was tempting to match her movements with the specificities of the text and notes, it became a frustrating exercise. One motif stood out--her arms locked in a rigid oval that after several twists became a self embrace. Ortega's more angular oval was more amenable to fluid passages. Often they stood angled against each other, but this served to emphasize Choi's lack of emotional content. One moment when the two were seated together blowing bubbles may have contributed to the evening's subtitle, Bubbles. Toward the end the dancers changed from a casual green dress for her and short-sleeved patterned shirt and maroon slacks for him to aqua stretch versions of same. Throughout Federico Restrepo's lighting, a video counterpart to the dancers greatly enhanced the presentation. Alban Bailly contributed a sound score resembling electronically enhanced seagull cries and occasionally joined Choi and Ortega in a pose. But ultimately there were not enough ideas to sustain the thirty-five minute length.
Eunhee Lee tried for less in her sketch Mothers, but achieved more. Three ages were on view beginning with a young girl in a spiffy white dress sliding backwards across the darkened stage. As she passed the projection light, her silhouette briefly traveled across the rear as well. A young mother (Lee) wore a black top and hiked up red skirt. She is joined by a chunkier dancer in white dress who represented her mother in this trio. In this piece men and women voiceovers in Spanish and English about love and motherhood plus Grace Jaeyun Shin's video on similar theme almost overshadowed the dancers. But with Lee's vocabulary and concepts in line with Movement Research, the overall feel was relaxed and natural. A few moments in quick tempo provided welcome contrast from Lee's mostly languid concept to show the interrelatedness and role exchangeability among the three women onstage. Toward the end there was a moment of pure joy with shots of Manhattan Chinatown grandmothers playing cards outdoors.
Jung Woong Kim picked the theme of life from conception to birth seen from the vantage of the parents. Atop three dancers, bass player Joshua Morris lay with his golden bass making a crest as stand-in for a mother's characteristic later-term bulge. As the performers gradually extricated themselves, movements were mostly slow and deliberate. Kim, in white top and white quilted pants by Laura Quattrocchi, frequently leaned shoulder to shoulder against Marion Ramirez in the reverse of Lee's costume. Joshua Bisset in dark blue tunic over black pants added a third compositional element for Lee's combinations and interactions that often achieved great beauty. In one interesting sequence to represent movements inside the womb, the three dancers trotted in a circle, each in turn collapsing at the touch of the preceding one. Here Lee as director didn't or, wasn't able to get his same released fall and springy recovery in his colleagues. Morris added interesting accompaniments in this largely silent piece but Restrepo's combination side and focused lighting truly made this piece shine.
Luana Haraguchi presented a lecture demonstration in Hawaiian Dance at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City on August 4, 2010. She was accompanied by one adult, Rose Golez, and two children, Katie Sauer age 6 and Brigita Bryant age 10 – all accomplished Hula dancers. They wore skirts or dresses with bell-shaped skirts, leis around their necks, and wreaths of leaves on their heads, with bare feet. Hula is included this summer at the National Museum of the American Indian because Hawaii being a part of the United States means that its native people are Native Americans, explained Haraguchi.
Haraguchi began by teaching us all the word Aloha that, depending on context, means hello, goodbye, love, and breathe of life. One can only wish that every language had such a glorious word. She explained that there was no written language on the islands of Hawaii many, many years ago so that family genealogy, history, and legends were passed down through Hula. It is the hands that tell the story, much like sign language. Hands together in front of the body, opening out and up refer to the sky. Hands together then opening straight out refer to the land. And wavy arms in front refer to the ocean.
Haraguchi also introduced some of the percussion and wind instruments that are used to accompany Hula: gourds with seeds that rattle, a rock on a string that whistles when twirled, rocks used between the fingers much like castanets, and a bamboo instrument that one blows. Singing also accompanies the dances, and Haraguchi sang with each dance segment.
The Hula dancers presented two dances, with the audience learning a dance in between the more formal presentations. The dancers and audience members worked with a basic foot pattern of stepping on the right foot with the left foot touching in front as the right hip extends right. Knees are soft and bent at all times. The steps are reversed and then repeated. In the dances shown, while another step pattern might be interjected, the dancers keep returning to the basic pattern. The movements are fluid, with accents here and there, but nothing sharp or too direct. It has a feel like the rippling of the ocean.
There were two camp groups at this lecture demonstration along with around 40 other people of varying ages spread out in the rotunda of the museum. Haraguchi directed groups of the camp children to stand up and learn parts of one dance, inviting other audience members to join them as they liked, although only a couple of non-camp children from the audience did. The foot pattern was the basic one described previously with arms added in to tell a story -- one arm lifted at a time, and then two, softly opening and folding. (Frankly, I would like to have understood more clearly what the dance meant.) Haraguchi corrected the children saying, "Do not forget the feet as you concentrate on the arms!" She also noted that hula is "simple to learn, but difficult to master." The children she brought with her have already been studying for several years.
At the end of the session, Haraguchi took questions from the audience and participants. One student asked if she had been doing the dance correctly. Haraguchi answered, "If it was from your heart, then yes." Another child asked what kinds of costumes men would wear to dance the hula. Haraguchi replied that today men wear shirts and pants, but many years ago, they would have worn the same costume as the women – an intricately designed skirt.
The lecture demonstration seemed to captivate the audience, both children and adults alike. I enjoyed seeing the educational format with much give and take between performers and audience. In this type of setting, one can learn and be a part of another culture if only briefly, instead of merely looking at it from the outside.