an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

STRAVINSKY, CAGE RECONSIDERED IN FRENCH; ART VS. TV: NYC DANCE

This article originally appeared in the Culture section of Bloomberg News on November 28, 2006.

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) — Like moths to the flame,
choreographers are drawn to Stravinsky’s “Les Noces.”
Created between 1914 and 1923, the vibrant score, evoking peasant wedding rituals, was first choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska (and not equaled since).

Angelin Preljocaj’s 1989 version — called simply “Noces”
by his Aix-en-Provence, France-based company — recasts the
action as a postmodern mating dance that is a communal battle of
the sexes. It begins performances tonight at Manhattan’s Joyce
Theater.

Five women, in those chic little nothing dresses that are a
staple of the European woman’s wardrobe, face off with an equal
number of men costumed for corporate culture. The supporting cast
includes a handful of life-size rag dolls dressed as veiled
brides and some stark long benches wielded as props.

The women are feisty, to be sure, as today’s liberated women
are expected to be. Still, the men are the aggressors, their
sexual advances essentially rapes.

If occasionally the women appear to control the men, it’s
because the men are like automatons, devoid of feeling, equally
satisfied coupling with the floppy dolls in tattered gauze as
with their human partners.

The piece builds to a violent climax. Then, unexpectedly —
perhaps recalling the result of the arranged marriage in the
original — it resolves into the happy ending awaiting couples
who can reach a mutual understanding.

John Cage

Preljocaj’s 2004 “Empty Moves (Part 1)” is set to John
Cage’s “Empty Words,” which uses aleatory tactics to
deconstruct language into pure sound, shorn of intellectual
meaning: Cage is heard reciting his text in 1977 to an audience
in Milan that offered spontaneous unfriendly backtalk.

To this accompaniment, which provides misunderstood-artist
associations, Preljocaj has two men and two women perform long
strings of more or less abstract movement. His choreography,
however, is far more conventionally coherent than the Cage. It is
strictly arranged and deeply rooted in classical ballet
technique, one of the most law-and-order modes in Western dance.

Preljocaj studied for a while with Merce Cunningham, who
frequently joined forces with Cage. Here Preljocaj may be after
the miracles of randomness that Cunningham achieves with such
regularity and aplomb. But Cunningham’s intelligence and
imagination are not easily duplicated, and his methods are not a
gimmick for a single piece but the work of a lifetime.

Ballet Preljocaj is at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Ave. at
19th Street, through Dec. 3. Information: +1-212-242-0800 or
http://www.joyce.org.

Johannes Wieland

“I feel violent about TV,” Johannes Wieland declares, in
the softest voice imaginable. At a rehearsal of his new
“Progressive Coma,” which riffs on the theme of souls
“stolen” by the media, the choreographer tells a visitor, “TV
worms its way into our lives. It presents these unreal, perfect
images and makes us want to look — to be — like that. And it
seduces us into experiencing feelings secondhand.”

Dance is usually a poor conduit for argument. This piece, a
chunk of which was unveiled last season, will make its mark by
virtue of the elements that have gotten Wieland noticed on the
postmodern dance circuit in the past several years: Swift, strong
dancers who are expert at the slithery movement he devises for
them. Sexual encounters rendered as picturesque wrestling
matches. Barely mobile bodies being dressed and undressed for
both visual and erotic effect. An eerie element expressed in the
props — here, ice cubes (used singly or in glacial quantities),
surgical instruments and an ax.

The completed dance will have a strong video component,
Wieland adds, an anthology of beautiful and violent images drawn
from TV and projected onto the backdrop. He makes no mention of
the irony involved.

Johannes Wieland is at the Ailey Citigroup Theater,
405 W. 55th St., at Ninth Avenue, Nov. 30 through Dec. 3.
Information: +1-212-868-4444 or http://www.johanneswieland.org.

© 2006 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

an ArtsJournal blog