by Byron Woods
You understand, this just doesn’t happen. After a certain point in their careers, two dance headliners just don’t share the same stage on the same night.
But the occasion isn’t just the opening evening of the 2011 AMERICAN DANCE FESTIVAL. It’s something of an early retirement bash honoring director Charles Reinhart, whose long and storied career draws to a close this season. The night’s also a benefit for a new scholarship and commissioning fund established in his name and the name of late co-director Stephanie Reinhart.
That’s why we’ll see performance artist JOHN KELLY give modern dance a distinctly commedia dell’arte turn in a staging of MARTHA CLARKE’s PAGLIACCIO, and SCOTTISH DANCE THEATER get down and dirty to A Perfect Circle and Nine Inch Nails in the combative/collaborative duet, DRIFT.
HUBBARD STREET DANCE CHICAGO’s large ensemble will confront us with the emphatic iterative bodies seen in a half-hour, five-sequence excerpt from OHAD NAHARIN’s THREE TO MAX, set to music by Brian Eno, Lucky Ali, Rayon and Seefeel. Our own AFRICAN AMERICAN DANCE ENSEMBLE will honor Reinhart’s legacy with a high-octane dance and drumming section from their work, HONORING THE LEGACY. And dancer, actor—and uncanny impressionist—MARK DENDY will convince no less a legacy than MARTHA GRAHAM to say a few words appropriate to the occasion.
And after all that, we’ll drink a toast to the guest of honor at a post-show reception in DPAC’s Star Terrace Lobby and Skyline Lounge.
The $125 ticket is pricey, but it includes the show, an exclusive meet-the-dancers dance party afterward with live music, free drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres—plus a documented $60 tax deduction back your way.
More after the jump.
If it seems counterintuitive, think it through again:
You’re a world-famous dancemaker. Your work influences a generation of post-modern choreographers, across Europe and in the U.S., in their thinking about minimalism, music, gender roles and the tensions between the most exacting of movement aesthetics and the lived, physical experiences of the artists embodying them. Your work occasions festivals in Europe, and Brooklyn Academy of Music presents your company eight times over the following quarter-century.
Yet the two largest modern dance festivals in America never do. Until, that is, the ADF surprises you in your 29th professional year with the ADF/Scripps Award for lifetime achievement, a check for $50,000—and a headline slot in their 2011 season.
Assuming you accept, which would you present at ADF? A recent piece representing the culmination of a major part of your creative research (STEVE REICH EVENING)? Your latest works, in which you launch into bold new inquiries into the relationship between music, sound, movement and meaning (THE SONG or EN ATENDANT)?
…Or would you choose instead to present your professional company’s first work, the one that convinced the rest of the world of your genius—back in 1983?
ROSAS DANST ROSAS certainly doesn’t look like a 28-year-old dance. In it, a quartet of women (which may include de Keersmaeker herself on Saturday night) enters a choreographic labyrinth which articulates and explores, at some length, an almost mathematically precise series of variations on the everyday and the needful. Rising from rest or struggling to find it; perpetual transit and perpetual waiting; embodied sexuality and its display (both willingly and otherwise); the facts of physical labor, tension and exhaustion—De Keersmaeker confronts us with an alternative history, one in which humans whose lives are tightly circumscribed still find ways to express their individuality, their responses to the conditions in which they live.
Granted, at a little under two intermissionless hours, ROSAS DANST ROSAS may be something of an endurance piece for performers and audience. But the conclusions this meticulous work reaches ultimately have to do with human resilience.
Remember that ad campaign where people and their look-alike pets made us wonder exactly how little evolution had taken place between the two? That’s probably as useful a starting point as any for this twisto dance/cabaret inquiry into just what it really means to “bring out the animal” in ourselves.
After atonal Swedish chanteuse Yulia Girtz’ intentionally dismal bit of…doggerel at the opening, she puts on a full-head latex horse mask—and is joined by a group of people in street clothes and animal masks. There's a woman with an ibis head; guys with masks for a panda, hog—and a really sinister-looking rabbit.
What ensues is a dance-party version of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights (not Martha Clarke’s restaging of it several years back, but the original painting, which featured a number of human figures with animal heads), replete with an uneasy striptease in the midst.
At length, some people unmask and engage in duets of opposition, before Girtz’ horse-headed MC briefly engages in equestrian stand-up comedy.
In a sequence seemingly devoted to the workaday, six animals which could be waiting for a bus become part of an obscure machine on stage. But a full-fledged descent into writhing, low lit, floor-level angst awaits us after alleged character introductions—and, apparently, further de-evolution.
Unanswered questions: Do Berg and Graf’s points about inhumanity and dehumanism support the time their ensemble takes to make them? Or is the ennui we experience at places part of this work’s point itself?
The uneasy jokes and seemingly inexorable descent into the grotesque suggest that humans look to animals to excuse their own bad behavior. At points here, the animals appear to reply, “Don’t look at us!”