an open forum for dance in slc

Archive for October, 2011

tomorrow! tomorrow!

october mudson is tomorrow it’s true

and it’s a monday in the fall. and it’s free.

what excuses could you possibly have for not watching these new works

click here for the details

Ballet West’s “Dracula”

Ballet West’s newest production “Dracula” could be the newest tradition for the Halloween season. Although it is no “Nutcracker” – there are too many fangs and not enough tiaras to claim the hearts of ballerina wannabes— the ballet, with its’ luxurious sets and costumes and its’ fast pacing, will withstand time.

To say that Ben Stevenson’s “Dracula” is endearing insults the concept that this is a scary ballet, but the production certainly has moments of quaintness. The pyrotechnics which Ballet West has been talking up so much turn out to be nothing more than four poofs (admittedly, they are very loud poofs) of smoke and light. The ‘spectacle’ occurs at a dramatic moment when tittering is not appropriate, and yet there were definite giggles in the audience. The flying tricks, also highly anticipated,were slightly more successful. The dancers were swept into the air a little bit slowly, but that suits the classical form just fine. Although far from juvenile, the sometimes faltering techniques are a welcome reminder that “Dracula” is a ballet, not the newest Spiderman production.

Stevenson throws away anything extraneous in the plot of the original “Dracula” text, written by Bram Stoker in 1897. He jettisons many minor characters and subplots and the resulting storyline is easy to follow and proceeds speedily. Stevenson holds true to the text though in the ambiguity which addresses the sexuality implicit in Dracula’s actions. Stoker writes:

“(Dracula’s) right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white nightdress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man’s bare chest which was shown by his torn-open dress. The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten’s nose into a saucer of milk to compel it do drink” (Stoker, Bram. “Dracula”. p. 313).

The physical forcefulness and the suggestive descriptions allude to a perverse sexuality. Stevenson translates this text into movement by having Dracula straddle his bride-to-be Svetlana. He writhes over her body just enough to be as vague as the book, leaving the audience to interpret the action as sexual or merely forceful according to their own predilections.

Where the above instance of choreography seems safe, Stevenson’s other artistic choices are modestly in good taste. The corps de ballet is blank-faced group of women in organized rows with epaulment choreographed to the last finger. Dressed in a material that seemed to pull at the air as though under water, they fill the stage for most of act 1 with slowly descending battements and the most elegant zombie walks ever executed. Dracula’s chocolate brown cape creates a dark hole amongst the vampire brides when he spreads out his expansive wingspan. Although the production is predominantly outfitted in shades of brown, black and white, it is richly vibrant, a gothic magnificence.

To be truly frightening, the ballet would have to leave behind tradition of the art form and look to current cinema for fright tactics. Instead, gore is used sparingly and scares are all in good fun. Zombies maintain an ethereal quality so beloved by patrons who mark their ballet seasons by reprisals of “Swan Lake.” Like a roller-coaster ride where you scream with a smile, “Dracula” makes blood-sucking look like a good time.

Sofia Strempek is a BFA candidate at the U, she writes for the Daily Chronicle and interns for loveDANCEmore

tEEth’s Home Made

Last night, Portland’s tEEth, a self-styled contemporary dance and performance art company lead by Angelle Hebert & Phillip Kraft, brought “Home Made”, to the Rose Wagner. The engagement (presented by Dance Theatre Coaltion) continues today and Saturday.

“Home Made” was an hour long love-dance from hell, which began rather innocuously. A naked man and woman tousled with a camera under a silver silk sheet that blanketed them and the rest of the stage. The scrim flickered and what the camera saw was projected on to the back wall. The audience was taken for a ride —mostly sweet and a little suggestive — up and down legs, arms, backs, and buttocks. This live video play, was scored by mostly sung live accompaniment from another male-female (Luke Matter and Cali Ricks) pair standing stage left.

After returning to the opening shot, where the two dancers stared into the lens as the crowns of their heads connected, the camera flickered off. Some tricks of light and fabric comprised a transition, where the
dancers dressed and made shadows as they stood up one-by-one under the semi-opaque drape. The blanket was removed and they were revealed, slowly turning in a tight embrace. We were no more than ten or fifteen
minutes in, and several drastic shifts in tone had already occurred —from the playfulness of a couple and a camera in bed, to the backlit Las Vegas formality of Nikolais or Pilobolus — and now they were unmasked finally as real people, and sent into a kind of wooden, self-destructive expression of heterosexuality that everyone who
watches much dance is pretty familiar with. I was impressed that they had taken the audience through so many habituated ways of seeing dance in such a short time. It kept us in suspense about who these people
were, but it also kept me interested.

Then, abuse. Angry, brittle partnering, with lots of grabbing and dragging of mouths and jaws ensued. They took off their clothes and continued with the same. There were microphones to be wailed into, to be smashed into bodies, and to be manipulated by an unseen sound mixer. The dancing developed abusively and formally; the man (Noel Plemmons) got tangled up in cords and the woman (Keely McIntyre) did a kind of broken doll grande allegro around him. At one point the manipulated sounds from the other couple, the
musicians, broke the collective focus on the dance, as they seemed to kiss, microphones both ostensibly in mouth.

There was much more sound and fury that I could try to recall. At some point they ended up putting their clothes back on and standing in a pool of square light to suggest a posed photograph of a couple. I kept wondering what I had missed. Yes, relationships between men and women can go very bad. I already knew that. But I wanted to get to know this couple particularly, and I never got to. The choreography was more concerned with some other agenda I never really felt invited to. I heard the unpleasant noises and saw that the music and the dance
had been integrated to some effect. I saw, that almost as though it was an obligation, breasts and penis had each been manhandled at least once by partners’ hands. All of these things seemed like goals being checked off of a list. And yet, as hard as both the very competent performers were working, I didn’t know who they were supposed to be or why this was happening. I was left to wonder why the dancers had submitted themselves to this.

Sam Hanson holds a B.U.S. from the University of Utah and choreographs/performs throughout SLC.

maybe we should do this

let’s pretend that loveDANCEmore was more tech savvy than in fact it is.

and in that imagination would it be worthwhile to podcast the sort of things we normally write down.
sort of like this: http://www.chirbit.com/NewYorkLiveArts

would that be a good idea?
seriously, i’m asking

because sometimes it’s hard enough to go to events let enough make time to listen to previews and reviews and all kinds of views on them. but maybe listening to them is valuable in a different way.

coming up

previews abound in slc:

ben fulton has written one for tEEth’s “Home Made”: http://m.sltrib.com/sltrib/mobile/52732623-81/dance-dancers-hebert-plemmons.html.csp. you can read more about the company here: http://www.teethperformance.com/

kathy adams has writen one for ballet west’s “Dracula”: http://nowsaltlake.com/articles/view/4300

will you be writing a review about one? both? e-mail them to [email protected] or comment on posts about them if you have your own thoughts.

remember those reviews could appear on the blog and/or in the print journal.
volume 3 of learning to loveDANCEmore is themed “Everyone’s a Critic” and will be released in a few short days at Mudson. pick up your copy there on Oct 24 @ 7:30 OR look for it at your dance dept, local performance venue or library.