foot in mouth: March 2010 Archives
Every couple of months for a few days, English becomes a foreign language. I slip along its periphery: coffee with foam milk in place of latte. If I have time, I can wait for the words to make their way home, but I didn't, in the middle of the night, for this Larry Keigwin review.
I might have said that what gives this comedian choreographer promise--not yet realized, but I believe it will be--is the thickness of his description. He likes topical dances: about social situations or behavior such as the frenzy of daily life and what Starbucks has to do with it, or the hair's breadth between hostility and tenderness in mattress love. These worn subjects have enough history in dance (not the coffee, for example, but the urban pulse, sure) that Keigwin can create the weave between dance convention and social convention that gives the work density and heft. Or could, anyway. So often the problem with young choreographers is they work either social commentary or dance invention but not both at once or, better, both at once and in relation to the other. Keigwin has all the balls; now he just has to keep them all in the air at the same time.
Here's part of the review that comes out tomorrow (Friday) in the Financial Times:
Larry Keigwin understands that the comic is only a beat away from the serious: we laugh because we aren't expecting the swerve. In the all-male pas de trois from the libertine Mattress Suite, Aaron Carr signals his dopey enthusiasm for whatever the other boys in underpants have to offer by bouncing on a mattress, his arms hanging loosely at his sides. The audience lets out a sharp laugh, surprised to find "jumping for joy", that ham-fisted figure of speech, come to life and simultaneously reduced. If Carr jumped higher or pointed his feet, the joke would evaporate.
Created in six parts from 2001 to 2004 with dancer Nicole Wolcott, Mattress Suite marked Keigwin's arrival on the choreographic scene. That the longtime dancer could succeed with such an exhausted genre as the romantic dance, parodied or not, made his debut especially impressive.
Keigwin is not always so successful. Caffeinated, the opener in his first solo outing at the Joyce, takes on too slight a subject - the jagged pleasures of a coffee high - to sustain a dance. The season premiere, Bird Watching, needs either to respond more directly to the long love affair between birds and dance - Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty's bluebirds, La Fille mal gardée's chickens - or to create a richer human cognate of birdy behaviour, as Merce Cunningham does with Beach Birds. As it is, the dance neither responds nor invents enough.
Still, Bird Watching reminded me why Keigwin's work excites people - why presenters have lately showered him with commissions. It's not just that he is funny. He also.....
For the whole review, click here.
The Lyon Ballet is here--at the Joyce, with a great program that feels as if it's made for New Yorkers (no Eurotrash, for example, or almost none). It includes Cunningham's Beach Birds, which the dancers do with loving conscientiousness, if not quite the amplitude and eccentricity of the late choreographer's own, soon to be "redundant" (as the British put it) dancers.
Anyway, here's the first few paragraphs of the Financial Times review coming out tomorrow:
The Lyon Ballet gives the ubiquitous category "contemporary dance" a good name by doing something else. The company's repertory is distinguished not by attitude - complacent gloominess, say, or cool sexiness - but by language, startling language.
The programme at the Joyce this week concludes with Maguy Marin's cutesy take on Sisyphus, in which people roll the rock up the hill not because that's life but because they are obsessive-compulsive. But the evening begins with Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe. Typically American in their strivings, these choreographers do not care what the movement says, they care what it does. Advocating nothing, they offer the vast, disinterested freedom of art.
In Forsythe's 1996 Duo, Dorothee Delabie and Amandine François appear on a pitch-black stage lit by a single fluorescent tube. In sheer black above the waist, the women's pale breasts stand out in the gloom, as does the S-curve of ballet lines - one arm overhead, a leg crooked behind. Forsythe takes the classical torso's basic torque and, like an accordion, expands and compresses it into various patterns and rhythms. The effect is mesmerising.
Where Forsythe emphasises the body's unity, Cunningham celebrates the independence of one part from another. In the 1991 Beach Birds, he does so via the quirks of birds. Transposing the vibration of wings to lower leg, and bird-hover to dancers facing each other in stillness, he awakens us to the creatures' strange beauty, and to our own.
In one of many trios that form serendipitously in this translucent, spacious work, two dancers gently push and pull a third into various positions while carrying on a duet between themselves. The third dancer does not partake in their twosome, though they form a trio with him. He has one role: belong. They have two: take care of him and love one another. Cunningham conveys all this in an avian instant.
When the late choreographer's orphaned company completes its final world tour in 2012...
For the whole thing, click here.
A gorgeous eccentric tableau--formed and dispersed with animal swiftness--in Cunningham's Beach Birds, one of his most spacious and translucent works. Photo by Jean-Pierre Maurin, courtesy of the Lyon Ballet.
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