…I have a blog to write.
So strange that I actually turned down the chance to talk about the Momentum Opening Night with real live people at Town Hall so that I could instead sit here in my dining room with my cat and type about the Momentum Opening Night. Being an audience member in this day and age is a funny thing.
Anyways, the Walker didn’t ask us to muse about the distancing antisocial effect of blogging and technology… They asked us to write about the show we saw! To kick off a conversation with more people out there… So that’s what I’m going to try to do. But wait, what’s this youtube button up here? [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll2kajMH2u0&mode=related&search=[/youtube]
Neat. Can you see that? It has nothing to do with the show tonight but I think it’s really great.
Okay. So let’s do this thing…
Tonight was the opening night of Momentum 2007, featuring the choreography of Justin Jones and Maggie Bergeron. I’ll go in chronological order.
First up, the SCREEN/the THING by Justin Jones. I really like Justin. He’s a super nice guy who didn’t react badly at all when I accidentally spit carrot in his hair. That said, I read his blurb in the Walker’s Momentum brochure last week and I had absolutely no idea what the show would be about. Something about geometry and physics and I couldn’t understand it at all. I felt bad about this for a minute because I’ve been in the dance world for quite a while and like to think that I usually “get” dance, but now I felt pretty stupid.
And then I started to think that perhaps I wasn’t supposed to “get” this. And then I started to wonder, if that was the case, what the point was of making the piece, then… what’s the point if even the supposed “insider” doesn’t understand what’s going on? This was all before I saw the show and I’ll admit it: I was worried. I knew I would have to write this public blog thing and if I didn’t understand or like the show and wrote that here, then… as Noah said at one point, they know where I live.
Well, I am going to be brave and say that even after seeing the show I still didn’t “get” it. I don’t understand what it had to do with geometry or physics or anything at all. I could not see any story, per se, nor could I see any emotional theme or intellectual idea that they wanted to share with us, the audience. The context for the show felt closed off from our understanding… intentionally, maybe? I’m not sure. Is it abstract dance for the sake of abstract dance? I don’t think so, but perhaps? I’m not sure what Justin and his company of very talented dancers intended.
But you know what? Despite this, there was a lot of stuff that I really respected and appreciated. I think Justin did a great job of taking quirky gestural movement vocabulary and forcing it to be precise and focused and direct — I am tired of seeing most of the quirky jerky movement that seems very popular these days, but I think it’s mostly because it is usually performed with a sort of “I might have fifteen years of dance technique, but I just can’t be bothered” attitude. You know, sort of bored and loose and sloppy. The performers tonight committed to the movement and performed it beautifully with a clean directness that I used to associate with the ol’ Jazzdance days. This was the number one reason that I appreciated Justin’s choreography tonight.
Then there are other moments and qualities that I will remember: the use of the Chariots of Fire soundtrack (I couldn’t decide if they were being ironic or sarcastic by using that and I really hope they weren’t… I am also getting a bit sleepy about pop culture irony… and I really love Chariots of Fire). I also liked the wiggly twinkly fingers, especially the serious and curious way that Kristin Van Loon did them towards the end. I really liked Karen and Morgan’s haircuts and the way that Karen is able to move so damn fast that you feel like maybe she’s dancing under a strobe light. I liked Elliot’s limp because I thought it was a really skillful character portrayal, but then I found out he actually broke his toe. My pre-pregnant mind and senses really liked the powerful blast of sound at the beginning of the show, but the pregnant mind was reeling from it because I was feeling protective of the little unborn child inside me (it’s a boy!) — strange how his presence is affecting what I like. I loved the bold beginning… nice! I liked it when the clouds of the Southern were lit (pretty!) but I wasn’t sure why that choice was made and what it had to do with what was happening on the stage at that moment. I loved the two dancing ’80s fairies.
So there were a lot of components that I liked and appreciated, but I have to wonder: Was I supposed to find more? Would that have been better? Or does it matter? Who was this for? What did the blue line mean? Why only half of the gorgeously painted backdrop? What am I missing? Would I have liked it less if this had been brought by some out-of-towners that I didn’t know and already like? There is obviously an intelligence and aesthetic decisiveness at work here, but I want to be let in more!
Please discuss. Or move on… and moving on…
The second half of the evening was House/Home by Maggie Bergeron. (As a side question: What do you think the use of slashes in titles says about our art and artists these days? I honestly have no idea. Discuss.)
I was excited to see this show because I saw a short piece of Maggie’s YEARS ago and thought it was really lovely: cinematic and romantic and human. I was curious to see what she would do with more funding and more time. Overall I came away with the feeling that she is still exploring, still trying on different styles, still finding her independent voice. That’s just my hunch, but there it is.
The piece opened with a really gorgeous image of normal-sized women squashed into super small farm buildings (or oversized women in regular-sized farm buildings?)… kudos to Russell Colliton for his design on the set. The women slowly emerged as Hannah Kramer entered the stage. Kudos are also due to Sarah Baumert for her beautiful costumes… I want that green one when you’re done and I don’t have a belly anymore. Oh and the music was very cinematic again… great job Chris.
I was super excited about the journey we were about to take together! But… unfortunately I felt let down after the first few minutes. After that initial exploration of the houses breaking down, the dancers began dancing around the set pieces… not interacting with them at all, just doing pretty dancing around them, and the set pieces might as well have not been there at that point. I wasn’t sure how this related to what had just happened, and it was jarring for me. Did they not see their houses anymore? Did it not matter? After creating such a solid world of disruption and decay, I felt confused about why these women were suddenly young beautiful 20-something modern dancers. We went from something very theatrical to something very pretty and abstract and I couldn’t see the ties between the two worlds.
The dancers did a nice job of dancing, but I wanted to learn more about these characters, their emotions, what are they feeling and going through? Are they glad that they are no longer restricted by the buildings? Are they sad/mad/confused about the destruction of their homes? I am tempted to explain away my reaction here as just being one of personal preference (I guess that not every show has to have characters and emotional responses to things), but I think that, through the theatrical set and costumes and lighting, Maggie did set up an expectation about where the show would go. She very quickly created a world for us, which is GREAT, but I unfortunately didn’t see that world carried through the rest of the piece. The dancers did occasionally return to their farm structures, interact with them for a bit, and then go back to dancing around them. It just wasn’t fully integrated together, which was too bad.
So that’s my general take on House/Home. I encourage Maggie to keep making stuff, to keep exploring. She has an impressively strong eye for creating theatrical design and images and is also able to make lovely movement. I hope she keeps pushing to find how these things intersect… how can she make the movement and dance vocabulary serve the story, or vice versa: how can she make the theatrical devices and story better serve the dance?
Does that make sense? Enough to discuss at least?
Okay, it’s late and I need some sleep. I am happy to continue this tomorrow if anyone wants to. And please, Maggie and Justin, please know that I know this is only my opinion… and you know where I live.