They're back. Those enigmatic Independent Dancemakers, whose seven shows--in seven years--have regularly established new choreographic benchmarks in regional modern dance, are surfacing again this weekend, just in time to shake up everyone's ideas of what local dance should look like, act like and where it should occur.
Just don't go looking for them at Duke's Ark. The venerable dance studio--and less than ideal performance space--where the Indies have staged all of their concerts up to now was somehow unavailable for the Dancemakers this year. They relocate this weekend to downtown Durham's School of the Arts, where, judging by everything we've seen, heard and read, they're about to give regional dance another upgrade.
The most curious thing on this year's menu? The number of collaborations between locals and them folks from up North.
Once, regional dance's version of the caste system tended to keep the Summer People (of the ADF, of course) segregated from the locals. But as is so often the case in colonial environments, people on both sides got increasingly curious about the Other. Some explored, branched out; they found and then toed the line. Then some brave ones crossed. Some crossed back. Others didn't.
Over the years, companies, choreographers and dancers came to Durham and a number of them, one by one, began to stay year-round. Local practitioners showed up more frequently in classes and at performances.
The latest boundary is coming down now: the chasm between regional performance and the ADF mainstage. For the first time, North Carolina artists and companies will be welcomed this summer to perform in a weekly series on campus. (For more information, see below.)
And now, dancers, choreographers and friends, are crossing back and forth from New York to North Carolina to be in each other's pieces in months considerably cooler than June or July. Melissa Cris' friends Sara Procopio and Jessie Zaritt will appear in a new duet of hers this weekend. Regional audiences should be familiar with their names. They danced with Shen Wei Dance Arts at ADF last summer.
After working with Laura Thomasson, Independent Dancemaker number one, dancer and choreographer Jennifer Nugent, from David Dorfman's company, is coming down with the masterful Pamela Pietro to perform a new work, Peal.
Good heavens. If this sort of thing keeps up, soon we won't be able to tell the locals from the non-locals.
I can't wait.
A few snapshots from the coming weekend, when they raise the barre on us again:
Nugent was thinking about digging in, peeling back the layers of flesh and bone to find the core of the feminine. "At Hollins University, the students were working with DaVinci's archetype of man, in a circle," Nugent recalls, "and they were digging up the road where I was staying." That confluence of events and inspirations got her to thinking about archaeology. "Could I dig into my bones, my pelvis, my floor to find the answer? The answers must lie in the infrastructure of the body." Peal, the subsequent work, gets down below the clothes, the makeup and the skin to find "the deep root of our femininity."
Cris' birdseye shows what can come out of two weeks in Maine in the dead of winter. "When I created it I was working with the idea of optometry," she says. The piece grew in complexity after Cris encountered Darwin's views on optometry in the book Darwin's Worms. The resulting continuum deals with "the clarity with which you see, the image you see, and the relation of the two dancing."
Thomasson debuts a work ADF teacher and choreographer Andrea Woods made for her this winter.
In Softness, an impressionistic, fluid portrait of jazz pianist Randy Weston's work by the same title, Thomasson's movement, which contrasts sharp changes with more legato passages, translate the languid sections and crisp chord tectonics of Weston's work.
Sean and BJ Sullivan reprise ADF choreographer (and Durham resident) Geri Houlihan's In Your Dreams, which they brilliantly performed at this year's North Carolina Dance Festival, while Susan Quinn revises and extends what was already a surreal, Hitchcockian work, Fully Furnished. Fearless movement researcher Julee Snyder restages a tribute to Maciunas and New York's downtown '60s scene in Fluxus Virus, before Allison Waddell makes audiences laugh--and then think hard--about the relationships between women and food in I often imagine myself ... .
Regional audiences will also be curious to see what Thomasson has finally made of Waiting to be Served, a funny, sharp insider's look at the food service industry, where most dancers spend some time sooner or later, before David Beadle and Ray Schwartz--a volatile combination under any circumstances--host what's being billed as an improvisation with choreographers and dancers, locals and not.
How will they tell the difference anymore, one wonders. Gratefully.
The American Dance Festival has disclosed its cast of characters in what it's billing as its "International 70th Anniversary Season." Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, which astounded audiences last summer with the explosive gold rice fireworks of their Songs of the Wanderers, opens the season on June 5 with Cursive, Lin Hwai-Min's translation of Chinese calligraphy into fluid choreography.
Pilobolus Dance Theatre's obligatory weeklong run begins June 10.
Presumably, no matter our country's relationship to France at that hour, French choreographers occupy the festival's third week and begin its fourth. Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre presents a world premiere starting June 17. New York critics were impressed by the fervent, "quiet explosions" of his 2001 Ravel Project. Compagnie Maguy Marin, an ADF honoree this year, brings her troupe starting June 19. Choreographer Nasser Martin-Gousset brings a fusion of cinema, dance and pop music, La Maison, to Durham beginning June 24.
Having conquered Broadway with Billy Joel's music in Movin' Out, Twyla Tharp Dance takes Durham on June 26. Meanwhile--literally--the festival celebrates its 70th anniversary with free public performances of a new world premiere by Eiko and Koma at venues including the North Carolina Museum of Art, Durham's Central Park, Duke's East Campus, GlaxoSmithKline in RTP, and McCorkle Place at UNC in Chapel Hill.
Nrityagram Dance Ensemble visits from India beginning July 1, before the perennial Paul Taylor, whose recent works have received renewed critical attention, shows starting July 3.
Shen Wei returns on July 7 with his company to complete his Rite of Spring, a mesmerizing work we justifiably called "the one must-see of the upcoming summer" in our end-of-year, Best of 2002 review. Judging from Dairakudakan's December 2001 performance at Duke, the ghostly, confrontational allegories contained in Akiji Maro's "cheerful apocalypses" have lost little power over the past twenty years. We see the U.S. premiere of Ryuba, and the world premiere of Takarajima starting July 10.
The last week of the festival includes International Choreographers Commissioning Program, still one of the best kept secrets of the Festival, starting July 14. Tatiana Baganova whose sharp-witted "Wings at Tea" astounded audiences two years ago, returns, along with France's Dominique Boivin and Akiko Kitamura from Japan. ADF summer season 1993 closes with a world premiere by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, July 17-19.
As mentioned above, the American Dance Festival is breaking boundaries on two fronts this summer--not only internationally but regionally as well. For the first time, the festival plans to recognize and include local and North Carolina choreographers in their seasonal programming.
"Opening Acts," a series of performances running each Tuesday before Reynolds Theater mainstage performances, will feature informal showings by North Carolina companies and choreographers at Sheafer Theater, downstairs in Bryan Center. Regional artists interested in appearing in "Opening Acts" should submit contact info, a 2-year performance resume, and a 10-minute videotape sample of their work to ADF Opening Acts, Box 90772, Durham NC 27708.