From on stage, back stage and the theater seats, the Performing Arts blog illuminates the intersecting worlds of dance, theater, and music.
To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View Series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, local dance artist Sally Rousse shares her perspective on the opening night of Ragamala Dance and […]
To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View Series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, local dance artist Sally Rousse shares her perspective on the opening night of Ragamala Dance and Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Song of the Jasmine. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!
Five dancers in a line on the right facing five musicians to the left; several bells hang at various lengths above the dancers while subtle smoke and lights begin to warm the McGuire Theater at the Walker Art Center. I like the lines, the minimalism. I like the small cast, the parity, the program notes that promise “feverish urgency” and “the inverted.” A teenage female mystic poet. I might like this show more than any other Ragamala Dance performance I’ve ever seen over the past 20 years.
Song of the Jasmine – a collaboration between Minneapolis’s Ragamala Dance and New York-based jazz saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa – cites the writings of 8th century Tamil mystic poet Andal as inspiration. Legend has it that Andal was a sort of foster child, found and raised from birth by Vishnuchitta, a Krishna-focused poet. Brought up with these poems, songs, devotional texts, it’s only natural that the girl would refuse to marry any mortal. Instead, she had a spiritual marriage with a deity of the lord Vishsnu and was consumed into light. Her Nachiyar Tirumozhi, the composition guiding Song of the Jasmine, was Andal’s second and final work, regarded as sacred text on par with the Sanskrit Vedas. She was only fifteen.
One stunning scene has the three beautiful Ramaswamy women in an extended trio that, in variations, seems to tell the story of a girl longing with all her heart to be united with her Loved One, the Divine: He makes her heart beat; He’s like a bee finding nectar in her flowering youth; there is no aroma to compare to that of the Divine; love has invaded her veins. I think there are snakes, too. And there is compelling floor work, drawing in the sand, writing it all down. I saw Ranee “loosening the braids of reason” and Aparna dancing the line “my vow to him courses through my body.” Then, it turns sad, there are tears of unrequited love: “while I pine and sigh for his love, He looks on indifferent.” Teen angst.
But Andal keeps her eye on the prize. Hindu religious aspirations are intense and they do not shy away from seeing their God as Friend, Mother, Child, Self or in this case Lover. Writer Priya Sarrukai Chabbria says in The Autobiography of a Goddess “Andal sings of her individual need for spiritual and sexual congress with her chosen god and of an abundant female desire explicitly sited in the body which, too, is holy.”
The performance had the traditional Bharatanatyam costuming (jewel-colored pleated fabric, bells, red painted hands and toes), and postures (bent knees, arched lower back, slight smile, expressive roving eyes) as well as the percussive marching backwards, articulate mime, and what I like to call “Indian waltzing” in ¾ time. But Ragamala is committed to dynamically weaving their classical South Indian dance form into their American existence. And so much more. I saw some interesting extensions into contemporary movement that includes supple arms and backs and a softness that took Aparna to the floor and somehow back up again like no one else but Hijack’s Arwen Wilder can do. Whoa.
Aparna and Ranee Ramaswamy’s choreography and Mahanthrappa’s jazz-Indian music drove each other powerfully and was surprisingly sensual. The drumming anchors the movements while the sax often leads the narrative. There are star turns by everyone: the guitarist, Rez Abassi, playing really weird stuff; solos for the always joyful Tamara Nadel and incredible lunges and balances from Jessica Fiala. The Carnatic Violinist, Anjna Swaminathan who has been working with Ragamala in recent years, makes it look easy. (If you’re wondering, like me, whether “carnatic” has anything to do with “carnal” or “carnivorous”, it doesn’t. But Swaminathan does play the violin like she’s hungry).
When the flutist Raman Kalya takes over for a bit it’s amazing how his positions match Ashwini Ramaswamy’s arms and torso, as though she, too is holding and playing the music.
Ashwini is a gorgeous dancer, so strong and exacting with a really satisfyingly flexible, playful neck. Rock solid balance and delightful, every single moment. Aparna — what more can be said about her as a performer? She’s confident, brave, intelligent, and in her prime, yet she shares the stage generously, with a new maturity that is alluring. Ranee, who just won a prestigious Doris Duke Artist Award, is stunning: the most present and hip, just oozing natural experience and knowing. Andal should have lived such a life.
Ragamala Dance and Rudresh Mahanthappa perform Song of the Jasmine in the Walker’s McGuire Theater May 15-18.
I would very much appreciate feedback on this year’s Choreo Evening and have been given permission by Emily Johnson, 2007 curator, to resubmit the blogging format she posed last year. sincerely, Sally Rousse What do you remember? What surprised you? Did you laugh? Did you cry? Did your mind wander? post-re-view is a post-performance […]
I would very much appreciate feedback on this year’s Choreo Evening and have been given permission by Emily Johnson, 2007 curator, to resubmit the blogging format she posed last year.
sincerely, Sally Rousse
What do you remember?
What surprised you?
Did you laugh? Did you cry?
Did your mind wander?
post-re-view is a post-performance project of Catalyst.
I am interested in what happens when audiences are invited to craft a response to a performance, especially when they weren’t preparing for that task during the show. What stays in the mind? What is recalled? What is lost? Does any of this change the relationship between “review,” “reviewer,” “audience,” and “performance?”
Now that you’ve seen the 36th annual Choreographers’ Evening, please write, draw, videotape (or anything else you can think of) a response to any one or any number of the dances you saw Saturday night, November 29, 2008.
A few liberal post-re-view guidelines:
- post-re-views can be of any length
- post-re-views can take any shape the contributor chooses; essay, quick response, prose, lists, drawings, short film…
- People are asked to create post-re-views AFTER shows
- post-re-views are not edited
- These post-re-views will be posted on the Walker’s website and on Catalyst’s website
- post-re-view-ers need not have any prior experience writing about, performing, or making “dance.”
Although there may some whimsy in FASE: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, I mostly have to add my own to this amazing, highly-structured landmark by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, first seen in its entirety in 1982. Following four weeks of Out There, a festival of the next generation of provocative American performing […]
Although there may some whimsy in FASE: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, I mostly have to add my own to this amazing, highly-structured landmark by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, first seen in its entirety in 1982.
Following four weeks of Out There, a festival of the next generation of provocative American performing artists, FASE makes a startling impression: whereas we had pieces that included improvisation, we now have precise choreography; last month, mostly young, hip things grabbing onto what may turn out to be universal themes, history vs. Keersmaeker –herself old enough to have birthed most of the Out There performers– presents simple, elegant dances, (expertly-lit by Mark Schwentner and Remon Fromont (and the Walker technicians); while most of the Out There creators reveal some level of process and development onstage, we see only the finished, pristine product by ATdK/Rosas.
Some random thoughts:
~James Sewell will love the windshield wiper aspect of Piano phase.
~I wonder if composer Mary Ellen Childs is a Reich fan? His Clapping section reminds me of her work with Crash.
~Clapping: a bit of aerobic Celtic dancing there. (“Lord of the Dance” is also in town, at the Orpheum Theater, in case you want more.)
~The other choreographer enamored of Reich’s music is Elliot Feld.
Now I am getting nostalgic of the days when I used to spend night after night watching James dance with Feld at the Joyce Theater in New York. Beautiful solos for him and for Feld’s muse, Buffy Miller. In fact, it was Reich’s music “Vermont Counterpoint” that Feld used for James’s somewhat controversial solo Medium: Rare. It had ramps and mini-trampolines and sneakers. Early non-dance by a contemprary ballet choreographer.
~ Sneakers. Are they really necessary? They look so bad. Yes, they are necessary! They must be. Someone so smart wouldn’t be dumb about footwear, would they?
Maybe I am affording Keersmaeker more reverance than I would an American choreographer, just because she is established, did that great solo work Once that is still with me, or because everything the Walker brings in from Europe is great so this must be. Am I? Okay, let’s say FASE was choreographed by a local like Debra Jinza Thayer or by Karen Sherman. Or Matthew Janzceski. I guess I would look to the performance for a moment.
In “Violin phase,” I was yearning for ATdK to break out, dance big, match the chaos and passion of the music (I saw this music performed live in November and Steve Reich was there. What a thrill! How could he be 80 years old?). I know Debra, Karen, and Matthew would. Just then, the lights (again brilliant, especially in this section) widen from the strict circle. Not the virtuosity I thought I wanted, and what a jerk I am for doubting her, for feeling sorry for her: the consumate artist takes hold and she is powerful. Yes, I thought I wanted her to straighten her crooked old neck and whip around but really I wanted this power, this other thing that knocks me in the throat.
I do think those local choreographers I mentioned would do the same for me. They are amazing movers and choreographers in completely different ways. They would not make a piece like FASE today. But if they did, I imagine I would drift away, wonder what rehearsals were like, wonder how they feel, perhaps judge them for the safeness of the concept, especially amid today’s world of irony, humor, technology, politics, etc.
Which is true of tonight. Nothing like Reich and repetative movement to get me thinking about all the things I am supposed to do tomorrow, the phone calls I have to make, the funny things we did at boarding school instead of studying. Her fouette arabesques were like the the restricting nightgown dances I made up, reversing direction, pulling me to the floor. Hilarious. Hey, ATdK is smiling. Can she read my mind? Did she go to prep school, too?
Justin Jones was excellent in the role of patient ballboy/sushi chef/custodian of the games.The boys from Brooklyn– Matt Citron and Chris Yon– were completely great: Matt’s voice in the beginning is as sincere as the butoh-baseball ending by Neal Medlyn, whose intriguing bio includes performances with unicorns. and being the Paris Hilton of Performance Art […]
Justin Jones was excellent in the role of patient ballboy/sushi chef/custodian of the games.The boys from Brooklyn– Matt Citron and Chris Yon– were completely great: Matt’s voice in the beginning is as sincere as the butoh-baseball ending by Neal Medlyn, whose intriguing bio includes performances with unicorns. and being the Paris Hilton of Performance Art (wow, last week Britney Spears, this week Paris Hilton. This blog has all the train wreck blondes. And don’t tell me to leave them alone, Campbell, because I never will).
David Neuman’s feedforward has tons going for it, first and foremost a fantastic, versatile, talented group of performers–movers and musicians alike. Let me just say right now that the use of brass instruments is highly undervalued in dance and theater.
Lily Baldwin was elfin and graceful and then fully adept at delivering text, an unexpected talent very appreciated. Kennis Hawkins was cast as what we used to call an East Block athlete, tall and horse-y, but surprising in her speed and lithesome grace.
There was a lot going on, many standout moments, mostly via the text. It would be less without the dance but the dance would be nothing without the soundscore and the text. Except for “ Oh, I think, it’s like, it’s like, like, it’s like, I think………” (I think this is the bad part, or maybe it’s just a terribly ineloquent athlete, vs, the scripted, cliche mouthpieces we heard earlier).
The MaGuire Theater looked gorgeous stripped and bare. The minimal sets (numbers, playing field tape lines) are just right: too much and there’s no room for my imagination; too little and I feel the creators didn’t care enough, ripped me off.
feedforward made me think about my own sporting past and whether it makes a difference if a kid opts for team sports or individual sports. Having grown up doing both (soccer and tennis) I have to say that I still feel a sweet tension between dancing in an ensemble (love it) and in solo roles (love it, but also cringe about it).
It’s just so good to just sit there and be entertained, without much responsibility. I have been feeling literally nauseated all week reading what I find meaningless, self-reverent dialogue about audience manipulation and the purpose of art. It exists, we walk into the building, we sit down and we see it. We spend 60-90 minutes there and we leave. And of course it’s manipulative. Maybe we should look at the manipulative. I feel pretty confident that I can manipulate the word and meaning of manipulative. blah
Thankfully, Neuman’s works have always presented us with an engaging balance of personal and universal thought. There’s humor, nature, brains, and beauty, and plenty of time for my mind to wander, which it did and that never bothers me and no can control it.
Everything you’ve heard/read about Claude Wampler’s show at the Walker is true. Or not. You’ll have to see it to believe it. Did the performance begin at the bar when a man told me he was wearing Brittany Spear’s perfume? I am still smelling it.
Everything you’ve heard/read about Claude Wampler’s show at the Walker is true.
You’ll have to see it to believe it.
Did the performance begin at the bar when a man told me he was wearing Brittany Spear’s perfume?
I am still smelling it.
Go TEAM! Hooray for a wonderful show and for not taking things so seriously, avoiding pretension. It’s probably going to be boring reading about mostly good things but I think there’s plenty to discuss or think about other than “Was it good?” and “Did you like it?” and you can go to Lightsey Darst’s review […]
Go TEAM! Hooray for a wonderful show and for not taking things so seriously, avoiding pretension. It’s probably going to be boring reading about mostly good things but I think there’s plenty to discuss or think about other than “Was it good?” and “Did you like it?” and you can go to Lightsey Darst’s review for the heated back-and-forth.
I definitely recommend seeing it (one more performance on Saturday).
Only just a bit unedited, perhaps, this play warmed me to the bones on a cold bitter night here in the heartland. Talented performers, very pleasing soundscore, sets that leave room for the imagination and movement, and, get this, a really good post show discussion. Director Rachel Chavkin was present.
Me liked the blood, of course, and the crazy, collaged accent (Scottish/Cockney/Australian/Ali G) by Todd (aka Frank Boyd) in the Christmas Carol section. I loved recalling the Twilight Zone snow globe episode and things I haven’t heard since I was a kid in Vermont: “Jesum Crow!” (see, Penny Freeh–I’m not making that up!); that Kennedy accent (even thought the actor looked more like Nixon); “I’ll punch you in the neck!”; “Have you been good?” and fundamental Christianity. One line I didn’t hear as a kid caught my ear: “‘The Rapture!’ In stores 06/06……..”
The Rapture. Not a common topic. I thought it was given a pretty interesting treatment, though you could spend your whole life contemplating whether you could ever be good enough to be part of “Jesus’s army” or even his “second best army” (the ones that might get taken up once they’ve tried a little harder). There are days when I still wish I would be abducted by aliens, I mean embraced by the rapture. Calgon, take me away.
Not much more to say except that mind did wander once or twice to a Twin Cities cast. I’ll write it out later so as not to put any ideas into Saturday night’s audience.
Enjoy the rapture.
For the past few years there have been a lot of performances that explore the state of the audience, the stage, the performer(s) and perception. It’s become a trend? But maybe, like cell phones, the norm. The current season at the Walker, beginning in the Fall, seems to invite this curiosity all the more, like […]
For the past few years there have been a lot of performances that explore the state of the audience, the stage, the performer(s) and perception. It’s become a trend? But maybe, like cell phones, the norm. The current season at the Walker, beginning in the Fall, seems to invite this curiosity all the more, like a light getting brighter and brighter. So bright I’m not sure I can see it anymore.
In September we had Gob Squad: “Super Night Shot”, which I loved. There were 4 performers in-the-know out on the streets of Minneapolis with camera crews and a quest: find a suitable match for a dance/hug and a kiss with a man in a bunny suit. I don’t know why I adore this piece so, even the memory of it. Those performers were each so endearing and they withstood the mighty wind and rain. There was a lot of reality and amazing live or near-live film editing and improvisation, joy (in the cab ride back to the Walker for the end of the performance), and personal revelations.
Jerome Bel, of course, has devoted himself to the situation the theater stirs up. He is perhaps the most well-known of the performer/viewer-explorers I can think of. In “Pichet Klunchen and Myself” he delves fairly deeply into issues about dance, theater, the audience, the box office, funding, and the bargaining amongst all of those entities.Certainly
Pina Bausch has explored the audience’s role, she has challenged us, asked us to endure certain things she knows most people would not normally choose to watch. I know Pina Bausch hasn’t performed at the Walker but I can hope, can’t I?
And now Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People in “Everyone.” His interest seems to be more about identity — of performer and of audience member, but frankly, less about the audience member, I thought, despite the effort to bring us closer by placing us onstage with the performers. More on that later on.
The program notes talk about Gutierrez’s work being “born from basic questions about existence and the theatrical situation: Who are we and why are we here? What binds the performers and viewers in an attentive space of perception?” and more. If I stick to the fact that the work is merely “born” from these questions and not exploring them to their thorough end, I can be forgiving. The performers execute the tasks in a simple, real and present manner, unfettered by “technique” or idiom or style or editorializing. There is a sweetness to it.
When the singing happens, and especially the bad singing (this would be a part I would excel at) I was happiest. I think the words were “When you arise you must sing songs” which made me think we, the viewers in the attentive space, were going to finally engage with the Powerful People. We would stand, “arise,” and sing and maybe do the cool arm movement they were doing in the beginning. But no. We were never invited. I thought “Oh good! They’re being bad for us, so we can feel comfortable.” All for naught.
I don’t see how the many questions the work was born from could help be addressed by having us sit in bleachers onstage. It did nothing different to the viewing. It felt exactly as though I were sitting in a theater seat, the same distance and height away as I normally am. There are many other alternative seatings that could have taken place to alter how we experienced the work. Maybe the folks on the pillows up front have a different take.
Not too long after the singing they do impressive hopscotch yoga, jumping onto one foot and staying for about 30 seconds. And they kiss. Again, each other, not us.
The strongest moments for me were the text, the bad poetry (Gutierrez’s words, not mine). The last one, delivered by Michelle Boule, was funny, heartbreaking, childlike. It seemed like she was moved to tears. She was also the only performer that seemed real during the happy, silly, playful part earlier on.
Every performer was strong. Each performer has a very distinctive look, of certain generation, all wearing t-shirts and jeans and sneakers.
At times disappointing (how can you top “The Show Must Go On”?), and at others delightful, annoying, enlightening, I am still chewing on “Pichet Klunchun and Myself” these three days later. I’ve had to describe it to several people who could not attend but wanted to know what it was like. I heard myself say […]
At times disappointing (how can you top “The Show Must Go On”?), and at others delightful, annoying, enlightening, I am still chewing on “Pichet Klunchun and Myself” these three days later.
I’ve had to describe it to several people who could not attend but wanted to know what it was like. I heard myself say “It’s kind of like ‘My Dinner Wth Andre’ and Spaulding Gray’s work,” “There wasn’t much dance. You wouldn’t like it,” and “Brilliant!” depending on where I was on the rewind of the show and who was asking. I have no idea if what I experienced and translated is true, but for me it does fall into a small mental file of thinkers I admire. Are these people eccentric (Pina Bausch, Jiri Kyllian, Anthony Hopkins)? Is that part of the appeal?
How difficult is it for Bel and Klunchun to leave their native tongues and perform (act) in english? An odd triangle of expression.
I’m sort intrigued that writer Lightsey Darst said some of it depresssed her, while Galen Truer blogged about clowning! And that Matt Paikin preferred this show to the one many of us loved in 2005, the one he almost walked out (offended) on.
I’m going to sign off and finish watching “Withnail and I” which is highly comical and only slightly depressing.
I agree with the Melbourne critic of the current Jerome Bel show that it is potentially pretentious but ultimately soul-filling. I am going to write more later. Go ahead and use this place to comment: so many of you there tonight, laughing, squirming, leaving, applauding, thinking………..
I agree with the Melbourne critic of the current Jerome Bel show that it is potentially pretentious but ultimately soul-filling. I am going to write more later.
Go ahead and use this place to comment: so many of you there tonight, laughing, squirming, leaving, applauding, thinking………..
If context is everything–and I’m not saying it is– then then last night’s T.C debut of Faustin Linyekua’s “Festival of Lies” at the Cedar Cultural Center (smack in Minneapolis’s African neighborhood) deserves an effort to place our hearts and minds in the context of the African condition. The gorgous dancing and the physical beauty of […]
If context is everything–and I’m not saying it is– then then last night’s T.C debut of Faustin Linyekua’s “Festival of Lies” at the Cedar Cultural Center (smack in Minneapolis’s African neighborhood) deserves an effort to place our hearts and minds in the context of the African condition.
The gorgous dancing and the physical beauty of the three male dancers (Linyekula, Papy Ebotani, and Djodjo Kazadi) and the luscious body, dry delivery of text by Marie-Louise Bibish Mumbu held me thoroughly captive for 3/4 of the performance. There were powerful images (detached dolls, frames, reminding me of Debra Jinza’ Thayer’s great duet at eh Southern last month; borders of countries, coffins). I confess to losing interest, suddenly, for the last 20 minutes.
Given that the Congolese-Zaire-Belgian conflict began at least in 1960, I felt horribly out-of touch with the political history “Festival of Lies” is based on. My context this week is related to the Darfur film my cousin-in-law brought to the U of MN last week; visits with friends in the cast of “Lion King” in town this month; and my own upcoming trip to Africa in February.
Music humming, cricket-like sounds, flourescent lights, the yummy smell of fried plaintains and of incence. The plain stares of the performers, just seeing if we are watching, feeling the vibe. Are they going to shed light on the truth?
On opposite walls translations of rebel leaders from french to english (boy those dirty rotten stinking Belgians were quick to colonize the Congo, making french the spoken language!) are projected. Starting with the most recent speech by liars in 1998, it works backwards to 1960 (and then, in a quick history lesson by Faustin, to 1885, when the Belgian Congo was established) when no one could imagine the years and years of lies that would sweep the nation, turning people against each other, confusing media, international politics, and most of all Faustin Linyekula.
He doesn’t seem confused now. But his muscles, wirey and bowed, looked so complicated and intense. At times I thought of Chris Kattan from Saturday Night Live. Africa is a huge continent! People seemed to have constantly tried to take advantage of its natural resources, most especially, it’s people, or “strands of muscle” as Linyekula says.
The lies make us puppets. Who taught us about corruption?
It is chilliest (though my companions and others laughed, nervously?) when the men start leading each other by the head, gradually getting more menacing. Such a tender, beautiful gesture, taking someone by the head with two hands as though to draw someone in for a kiss, can turn ferocious, and does.
Again context: I had just taken class with Morgan Thorson, whose appealing, sophisticated movement I first got to know through Chris Aiken’s contact Improvisation classes. Thoroughly spine and pelvis driven, I thought of those two great movers (Chris and Morgan). Just then, Marie-Louise Bibish Mumbu joked “This is Africa modern dance” in her dry, french accent. It’s wonderful, slurpy, articulate, inimitable.
By the end, I felt I needed to get home. Faustin yelled out “Long Live the Losers!” and the others got audience members to get up and dance. I shrank, confused, not feeling at all like celebrating.
I don’t like liars.