Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Meditation on Hip Hop

Last weekend, ADF presented RUBBERBANDance Group from Canada.  The choreographer, Victor Quijada, grew up in LA, and has been influenced by hip hop styles from an early age.  He also has classical training, both in ballet and in modern/contemporary dance, and his choreography brings all these types of dance (plus a few more) together.  Here's the first part of my review:

What is the expressive potential of hip hop?  What underlies the movement vocabulary of break dance?  Is there a theory of syncopation, of inversion?  Montreal’s RUBBERBANDance Group, directed by choreographer Victor Quijada, raised some of these questions for me in their presentation of “Loan Sharking” at the Durham Performing Arts Center June 24-26.  Billed as a company that blends hip hop and contemporary dance, RUBBERBANDance’s influences actually reach much wider, including ballet, capoeira, and various forms of improvisation, including contact improvisation.  Rather than infusing contemporary dance with blasts of the high impact flashiness that has come to be associated with hip hop, Quijada is creating a hard-to-pin-down style that indicates a deep investigation into the particular nature of hip hop, into the elements that set it apart or connect it to other dance forms.

Read the rest of the review here.

Although I couldn't really go into them in the review, I found myself really taken with the questions about the expressive potential of hip hop.  Perhaps because Quijada was incorporating hip hop elements into a style that was so different than how we usually experience hip hop, I couldn't stop thinking about what those elements are, and what they could express.  Most often, I think it is the kinetic power of hip hop that is at the forefront--the pace is usually fast, the movement is powerful, often aggressive, and there are sometimes impressive "tricks" incorporated--headspins, flips, freezes.  As a viewer, I get involved in the high energy, the rhythm, my sense of awe at the power, coordination, and daring of the dancers.

But what if hip hop was used to express more than power, speed, or aggression?  What could an inversion mean? (An inversion refers to "upside-down" poses, shapes, movement.)  A metaphorical turning something or someone on its head?  Looking at the world from a different angle?  What about the ease with which Quijada's dancers rise up, rebound from the floor?  Resilience?  As I watched the performance, I kept writing down things like redirect, deflect, replacement--words that suggest subversion, defense, turning an attack into a more positive force.  And the solo I describe in the review, where it appears that the woman is "scratching" the movement, as a DJ would scratch a record, speaks of endless repeat, rewind, replay.  Or even revision.  A starting and stopping, segmented, fragmented flow, a distorted narrative.  

Maybe I am reading way to much into all of this, but all of these characteristics tell me something about the origins of hip hop, and the people who developed it. Started in urban centers as a counter-culture street dance, hip hop grew into an alternative to actual fighting, although it often retains a "battling" structure and a competitive nature.  Redirect, upside down, deflect, rewind, replay, revise, fragmentation.  Are these characteristics inherent in the form or is my hindsight knowledge able to write these interpretations over a convenient surface?  At any rate, they speak to me of resilience, creativity, rewriting the conventional narrative.  I'm not suggesting that Quijada was intending any of these meanings or interpretations, although he may have been, but his work certainly got my curiosity going.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dance for Camera

A little intermission from the ADF reviews--
During the last semester, I was taking a course called Dance on Video. Dance for Video, also known as Film Dance or Dance for the Camera, is a growing genre within the dance world. This is not performance documentation, but rather the creation of dances specifically to be presented on film, rather than on a stage. It really is a whole separate world! The role of editing becomes a secondary (or, in some projects, a primary) choreographic task, as making "film sense" is often different than "dance sense."
At any rate, my final project was a dance film called "And in the morning..."and you can see it on the UNCG Dance website. Some of my classmates' films have been posted there, too.

This is such a growing genre that ADF curates a Dance for Camera festival, and this year, celebrated the launch of a new Journal of Screendance. I had the pleasure of seeing some of the films screened this year. Particularly great, I thought, were "Advance," by Mitchell Rose, "Box," by Ivan Rubio, "Let's Dance," by Malia Bruker and Oscar Molina, and "Derriere Elle," by Natalia Sardi and Laida Aldaz. If you get a chance to see any of these someday, I recommend them!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dendy Dancetheater

Mark Dendy brought his company, Dendy Dancetheater, to ADF to perform a new work (commissioned by the ADF), "Divine Normal."
Read my review here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak at ADF

Last year, I wrote about Inbal Pinto's choreography for Pilobolus, but this year, I had the opportunity to see work for her own company.  The Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company performed "Oyster" at ADF June 17-19.  It was a surreal, whimsical work, truly strange and haunting.
Here's an excerpt from my review for World Dance Reviews:

"On Friday night, I happened upon a strange, sad carnival that was somehow part of the 2010 American Dance Festival. The wind whistled, a bell jingled, and a cast of knobby-kneed men, human marionettes, an organ grinder, wind-up ballerinas, armless dancers, and a two-headed man hobbled, slouched, and tiptoed through. The Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company performed the evening-length work "Oyster' (1999) at the Durham Performing Arts Center (June 17-June 19). Inspired by a short story by Tim Burton, this darkly comic and touching performance also had a touch of Edward Gorey in its dimly lit and grotesque aesthetic.
Pinto's and Pollak's whimsical choreography takes the form of a series of vignettes that feature ballet, mime, modern dance, physical comedy and acrobatics. The twelve dancers appear as multiple characters, clothed in extravagant and fanciful costumes; their faces are painted white, with doll-like make-up, and their hair stands on end. Strings of lights frame the stage and the performers' door to the "circus tent", which is built into the back of the stage. Despite the carnival atmosphere of "Oyster," there is a quietness to the performance, as if these characters might always communicate without saying a word."

Read the rest of the review here.  And don't pass up a chance to see something by this group.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kate Weare and Monica Bill Barnes

Kate Weare Company and Monica Bill Barnes & Company shared a program this week at ADF, and I highly recommend both companies, but particularly Kate Weare.  Her work was very intimate, deeply invested in the body and relationships, and inventive.  
Here's an excerpt from my review:

"There's a surprisingly narrow distance between victory and despair, between strength and vulnerability, between intimacy and violence. Kate Weare and Monica Bill Barnes, good friends and colleagues, traced the dimensions of these spaces in a shared program at the Reynolds Industries Theater this week (June 15-16). The two companies presented wildly different works, but shared a similar intensity and commitment to the performance.

The Kate Weare Company presented "Bridge of Sighs" (2008), a work for two men and two women. In the opening image, a man and woman (Douglas Gillespie and Leslie Kraus) stand facing each other, a small distance between them. Slowly, she raises her head to look at him and then suddenly, sharply, smacks his chest. A held breath of a pause and then a tumble of stomps and slaps, using all possible body parts to pummel each other. Their tangled steps create a ragged tango in the silence."

Read the rest of it here. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

African American Dance Ensemble at ADF

The first performance of the season!
Read my review of the African American Dance Ensemble, directed by Chuck Davis here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

ADF returns

I'm getting ready for the new performance season of the American Dance Festival. The shows start this Thursday and run through July 24. Here's the line-up. I'm looking forward to many of the performances this year--many of the companies I have not seen before. I'm also quite excited to see Rosie Herrera again. She's an acquaintance from Miami who presented an astonishing dance-theater work in the Past/Forward concert last year, and has been invited back for a concert of her own this year. Here's my review of her work from last summer.
Like last year, I'll be reviewing these concerts for World Dance Reviews, along with a colleague, Ali Duffy. I'll be the "official" reviewer for the first part of the season, through June, and then the last few performances at the end of July.