They came, they saw – and, judging from their words – they were impressed. Below are a few favorite observations from reviewers at last weekend’s performances of Merce Cunningham’s masterwork, in a setting that (if we might boast a bit) will likely never be topped.
“Cunningham’s dance has the fascination of an underwater dive,” wrote Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed. “Ninety minutes is a long sit for an abstract work in which nothing repeats and nothing is predictable. And Cunningham doesn’t obscure the slow passage of time. Digital clocks face the audience, ticking off the seconds.
“But that only makes the sensation of an oceanic adventure all the more realistic. A chronograph is a diver’s lifeline because one experiences time differently when submerged. Underwater, one is alone with one’s senses. You bear your own wondrous or terrifying witness.
“That, the wondrous part, is what happens in Ocean.”
In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay, who has seen Ocean performed in four different settings since its 1994 premiere, wrote: “Amid these dances it’s possible at times to see strange seabirds, shoals, boats, mariners, modernist takes on imagery from the “ Odyssey” and “ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” though they don’t cohere. There are more marvelous things I can’t explain: scenes that make me feel these dancers are coping with the tilting surfaces of mighty waves, others where they seem to be submerged beneath the surface and others that make me see precisely how far above the water this flock is flying with wings outstretched, occasionally shifting its formation.”
Rebecca J. Ritzel took a more plainspoken approach in the Washington Post:
“An honest invitation to one of the three sold-out performances here this week could have gone like this: “Hey, want to go out to the quarry this weekend? A lot of people in lilac spandex are going to dance to an orchestra’s rendering of singing whales, crashing icebergs and barking seals. And it goes on for 90 minutes! With no intermission!”
Does it sound interminable? Or fascinating?
For 3,600 people over three nights, most of them from the Twin Cities, the answer is the latter. They are willing to pay $50 and drive 180 miles round trip to watch modern dance in 50-some-degree temperatures, exhibiting the kind of fortitude you expect from Minnesotans when the Golden Gophers play the Wisconsin Badgers.”
And here’s a great piece from the St. Cloud Times‘s Adam Hammer, covering all that went into setting up this monumental production; plus another nice “color” piece (as opposed to a review), from Jeff Severns Guntzel at from MinnPost.com.