October 31, 2006
Reader Amy Reusch asks: aren't all ballets by now-dead choreographers "covers"? Apollinaire answers.
Reader and dance videographer Amy Reusch sent me this comment last night in response to my call out to choreographers for a night of Dylan dance "covers."
Regarding "covers," I think that's pretty much all we see in the ballet world when we watch the work of a dead choreographer. I mean, aren't we seeing a cover when we watch "Swan Lake"? Is the Paris Opera's "Jewels" close enough to the original not to be considered a cover? Perhaps. But "La Sylphide" is definitely Bournonville's cover of Taglioni, right?
Yes! I think we could consider any piece of repertory that has survived its original cast a "cover."
The advantage to the term is, it's playful: "Cover" allows the current rendition of the dance some breathing room from the past and emphasizes the dancers' interpretive powers. At the same time, the tag reminds us that all of this play started somewhere.
With 20th century repertory, that somewhere is usually well documented: there are specific steps to do. For older repertory, there's a spirit to honor--though its exact nature is open to interpretation. Some interpretations, whatever the circumstances, will be wretched--file under "Dylan-Tharp musical."
I wouldn't mind a Dylan Fest--like the Stravinsky Festival?-- except I'm generally not fond of choreography to lyrics.
But, Amy! What about Balanchine's ''Liebeslieder Waltzer'' or "Who Cares?," with Gershwin tunes shadowed by Gershwin lyrics? What about all those Mark Morris dances? For example: "New Love Song Waltzes," to the same Brahms love songs as Balanchine's "Liebeslieder"; "Gloria," to Vivaldi's praise song to God; the country-western romp "Going Away Party."
You're right, though: dances to song are hard to pull off, particularly in pop, with its intelligible and thus dominating lyrics. I've seen my share of fiascos.
Songs actually behave the same way as a lot of dances. More than telling a story, they set up a situation or lay down an emotional landscape. A dance to a song can do that too, but it needs to acknowledge the song's occasion, or you get Twyla Tharp's "The Times They Are A-Changin'."
In "Like a Rolling Stone," one of the two dozen songs in "The Times They Are," the vengeful singer exults in the downfall of a hipster-princess who used to "Let other people/Get [her]/Kicks for [her]." Or, if you prefer, the singer really wants to know--because it's his question, too-- "How does it feel?/To be on your own/With no direction home/A complete unknown/Like a rolling stone."
In any case, Tharp couldn't care less. Her method is to select iconic images from each song and string them together into a single, dopey epic.
For "Like a Rolling Stone," she extracts "rolling" and "stone" to set the dancers bouncing on black Pilates balls. It's a two-fer. They're both the rolling-stone hipster and "the jugglers and the clowns" doing tricks for--well, not for her because there isn't any princess here, but for us, I guess, or for the circus ringmaster and his blue-eyed son (nudge, nudge) at the center of this nonsensical oedipal drama. In any case, the story has stopped mattering.
Tharp reminds me of a demented ninth grade English teacher. She hunts down every Symbol and sends it flying.
So, yeah, if the choreographer takes a dunderheaded approach, dance to song is a bad idea. Otherwise, the weave can be rich and satisfying.
Posted by ascherr at October 31, 2006 3:01 PM
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Post a comment
Tell A Friend
Eva Yaa Asantewaa
has written dance journalism and criticism since 1976, published most notably in Dance Magazine, Soho News, The Village Voice, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Gay City News, and on her own blog, InfiniteBody.
is a regular contributor to Danceviewtimes and San Francisco magazine, and has contributed to many other publications. He was a Rhodes Scholar same time as Bill Clinton. He lives and dances in Berkeley.
AJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Rebuilding Gulf Culture after Katrina
Douglas McLennan's blog
Art from the American Outback
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Public Art, Public Space
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Special AJ Blogs
June 14-20, 2007
which is it for classical music?
July 23-26, 2006
critics in a critical age
May 14-17, 2006
an online public conversation
December 12-16, 2005
classical music critics on the future of music
July 18-22, 2005
conversations from the road
June 22-July 3, 2005
a public conversation
March 7-11, 2005
classical music critics on the future of music
July 28-August 7, 2004
Sam Bergman on tour with the Minnesota Orchestra
February 9-16, 2004