Dancing Mania

June 14, 2010

First we had La Traviata in public places, now we have The Sound of Music (Christopher Plummer called it The Sound of Mucus and he was there) popping up in train stations in Belgium and New Zealand.

A lot of people seem taken by these public displays by the descendants of the dancing maniacs of the middle ages. These dances seem to be the carefully planned expressions of spontaneous motion as joyous kinesis. I apprehend something more sinister – the imminent descent of Western Culture into terminal bathos. Of course, this decline has been underway since before the circumcision of Elagabalus. But The Sound of Music. Why?

Okay, The Rite of Spring might have been a bit of a challenge. But Tchaikovsky or even Khachaturian would have set toes to tapping without embarrassing even the most cloying sentimental. If you had to have words with the rhythm  Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Irving Berlin are atop the popular pantheon.

My biggest fear is contagion. This sort of thing could easily spread to every shopping mall in the country. Both commerce and culture could simultaneously degrade under the assault of do re mi. If this tic is confined to railroad stations we could escape without serious damage as there are almost none left in the US. I’m told the CDC is on the case. I feel better already. But what if Wagner is next.

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Pilobolus Dance Theater at the Allen Theater

March 3, 2010

The Pilobolus Dance Theater gave a single performance in Lubbock last night (March 2, 2010) at Texas Tech’s Allen Theater. The group traces its ancestry back to Dartmouth College in 1971. Its dances (an inadequate word to describe what they do) are characterized by walking running, contortions, gymnastics, dance, athletics, and coordinated movements which words can barely describe. Regardless of the words you use to covey their routines they were enthusiastically received by an almost capacity crowd.

Pilobolus presented six dances separated by a 30 minute intermission. The first dance Redline was choreographed by Jonathan Wolken in 2009 in collaboration with Matt Del Rosario who was one of the six dancers appearing in the performance. It was an exercise in rapid motion. The music that accompanied it was perfect for the action, but would hold little interest without the dancing (I’ll use dancing throughout because there is no single better word is available).

Gnomen created in 1997 by Robby Barnett and Wolken was a miraculous and gravity defying interaction of four dancers. The music by Paul Sullivan was slow, ethereal, and perfect for the incredible gyrations that were set to it. Some of the feats of movement and position require an almost extra-human combination of strength and fluidity.

Walklyndon is the company’s version of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly walks. There’s no music, just an amazing variety of silly walks by dancers wearing yellow tights and blue or red boxer shorts.

Hitched depicts a couple hitched legally (they just got married) and literally – they’re linked by arms and legs that the can’t separate , at least for a while. When they finally do they’re grief stricken and get back together. Created in 2009 by Wolken the duet is touching beyond its ingenuity.

Dog.ID also created in 2009 makes use of silhouettes and rear projection. Using just the movement of her body Annika Sheaff transformed herself in to a dog. The technique used by this short dance is a favorite of the company. One dancer is behind the screen while other is in front of it. The result is an optical tour de force.

The final dance, Rushes, was the longest of the evening, the most ambitious, and the most ambiguous. The music, ranging from dixieland jazz to Arvo Part, was nifty and the movement engaging. I didn’t quite get what the piece was about, but it was engrossing.

The Pilobolus Dance Theater presents a unique view of dance and motion. The performers Winston Dynamite Brown (great name), Eriko Jimbo, Jun Kuribayashi, and Christopher Whitney, in addition to Del Rosario and Sheaff perfectly met the extraordinary physical and artistic demands of company’s demanding vision. Their success over the past four decades is easy to understand. If they come your way go and see them.

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