Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Michi Barall's Rescue Me


(March 2010) Just saw "Rescue Me" by Charles Mee's wife - Michi Barall at the Ohio Theater on Wooster St. - between Spring and Broome - which by the way, will be torn down.

I can see the Mee influence and remember him saying something to the effect........that.... "nothing is new - how it is arranged and presented is a rehash of what already was". I will add, how it is arranged and presented is what makes it new. Someone's perspective can be new, or askew.

Aside from feeling like a high school or college play, I did like the style of it as fractured-fairy tale. Or, deconstructionismistic. But, I felt the piece was contrived. Whether it was in the writing or in the directing I don't know. The actors did not understand the timing, or simpl "timing" , and the way to deliver the humor. Each time they stepped out of the play to comment on something to the audience, or say they missed a cue, or tell the character something contemporary (about the character or himself) they did not believe it. So, we as the audience did not feel it was believable - but that they were just delivering text.

Specific. Fractured has to be specific. There needs to be timing and flow to what seems random and haphazard.

Why did it not feel relevant? Things are relevant when they present or represent something current. There was some pop music; there was some CNN take off moments at the end; there were re-creation of Elvis moments. But it didn't feel current. It felt stuck in an ancient past - that we did no care about. How could we care about the message? What was the message? Maybe that was the main problem, what did the play-write want us to take home with us?

What did I like?
The blue neon on the walls; the blue neon on the staircase upstage through the doorway; some of the idea of the CNN segment; some of the multi-media TV video of the feeling of ocean while talking about it; the deconstructive costumes; the guys first solo (one who did the choreography); and that's about it...

A friend who saw it with me said.....You know, it's hard to understand why she copied him (Mee) even to the point of offering sickenly sweet snacks. When he did that, it was at least related to the content. Another thought: Mee comments on contemporary culture and provides fresh ways to look at it; it's a culture that he knows. She on the other hand is transplanting onto a foreign culture and ancient society modern-day attitudes and styles in a way that just makes it a cheap, gimicky trick. I think your comment "self indulgent" was right-on.

FIREBACK: Ballet Corella


From the NY Times review quote:
Finally, he, his sister, Herman Cornejo and five other dancers led the first New York performance of Christopher Wheeldon’s exciting “DGV (Danse à Grande Vitesse).” Although this did not feature showoff turns and leaps, the audience, quite rightly, gave it the evening’s loudest and longest ovation. Wrong! it was not “exiting" I was there. The work was disoncertingly derivative. The movements were redundant, and the worst part of the ballet was that he had “nothing to say”. And example when bad becomes good. The good thing about the work is that it made me happy to not have to see another one of his. The audience in fact, gave a luke-warm reception and stopped clapping. There was a 3 second pause and people started to get up to leave - it was not a standing ovation. At least in the orchestra, they were already leaving.

Ballet Corella Castilla y León, from Spain

Respecting Roots: I was relieved to sees someone finally present an evening of ballet who has integrity and respect for the art form. It didn’t matter that his choreography was cluttered with steps, and more steps - normally for a new young choreographer. His spirit of joy and respect for the work shinned through. Something more important. It didn’t mater that some of the choices of what works to present were old fashioned. Old-fashioned and respecting history are two different things. Respect is an obsolete word. Congratulations for not throwing the baby out with the bathwater - and having integrity.
Cultural Roots: The best moment was the duet by Maria Pages by he and his sister, a well-known Flamenco dancer.

Gendance Interview with Ann Marie DeAngelo

1. Looking back on your performance career, what has been your most memorable moment? How did you get there?
I always look forward so it is hard to look back! But, Robert Joffrey told me he’d never use me in his company because I was too short. A few years later, as a principal dancer in the Joffrey, I was interviewed for Time Magazine - and the guy asked me what it felt like to be “short”. I said, “I never felt short”. In that moment I realized that it took unadulterated commitment, focus and great passion to get there.

2. Tell us about your involvement with Career Transition for Dancers. Did they influence your personal journey?
As a former board member for 12 years - and always working with dancers to further their careers, I was thrilled to find an organization committed to these goals and more.

3. Tell us the challenges (and any funny stories as well) about being a movement coach for Bette Midler.
I met her through Toni Basil. She was more focused in ballet class than most dancers I teach today.

4. Being a principal dancer with Joffrey was....
......was influential to my current artistic aesthetic - that of diversity and appreciation for history.

5. You play so many roles: choreographer, artistic director, producer, teacher. What’s your favorite and why?
Each role competes with each other because I love them all. But, being a multi-faceted artist is to know that you can only do all things at once, if you do one thing at a time.

6. What is your wish for the next generation of performing artists?
To be much more committed to what is needed for creating the “art” in performing.

7). Besides dance, you love…

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fragmented Acro-dance Deconstructionism

What does that mean?

Fragmented acro-dance deconstructionism is a term I made up a few years ago to describe the current trend of popular choreography, in the ballet genre. What it is, is movement that is very physical, disjointed, on-the-edge, fast-paced, over-extended, creatively inventive with body-moves and basically disconnected from any core. This type of movement is easier to do, because it does not require the same kind of technique required for classical ballet. It is fun to watch but after about 5 minutes the repetitiveness of intent out-weights the ability to hold you attention, because there is no reason behind the doing except for the sheer pleasure of distortion.

A lover of dance actor friend of mine described such a piece of choreography they saw, as having great body-movement, but that it wasn't dance. What? They are moving but no one is relating to each other, the audience, the music or to any clear artistic intention, a reason to be doing. Nothing has been said, no message communicated. The duet for example, seems romantic but there is no inter-connection between the two dancers, and is not going anywhere.

Ah! You meant choreography - Choreo which means "steps" and Ography "the relationship of steps to space". So, you are saying that because there is no movement in space, and no connection to each other or to the music, and that there is no story or higher-minded poetic message trying to be communicated - that what we are watching is not dance? Yes, she said.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thoughts on 9/11

The detachment of American arrogance:
Today is a day that everyone is remembering where they were on 9/11. I for one, forgot it was 9/11 and made an appointment at the MAC store at 11 a.m. They didn't exit 9 years ago, and I decided not to go, and stayed home for the ceremony.

And so I sat and reflected where I was nine years ago - on the corner of 6th Ave. and 11th St. in Greenwich Village near where I live - coming back from voting. A woman pulled me aside and said "Look, that plane just went into the World Trade Center!". I looked and saw this sliver of a slit up top of the building with a bit of smoke going out the bac, but it actually didn't look like a plane had gone in it, and my first thought was, "Gee, what idiot would fly through the WTC"? Not for a second did I think any of it was true. None the less, I did see that low flying plane going I walked back to my apartment and immediately went to finish an e-mail "Someone just flew through the WTC" I wrote, and proceeded with my day. A few minutes later I decided to go down to the street as I heard some commotion and when I got there people began to assemble on 6th Ave. Still, no one was going on. I rushed upstairs and turned on the news, but there was no news about what had happened yet - so I went back down to see what the what was. Then the 2nd Plane hit and by then it was clear that something very bad was happening. People thought we were being attacked and were at war.

What was I thinking?
The only thought that came to my mind was "This is the beginning of the End". And what that meant was, this moment was the beginning of the end of everything we new and were about before. Nothing would be the same after....our safety, the way we did things, structures, new forms coming into being, belief systems....all would change.

But, where were my concerns?
But where was my concern as the buildings fell? I happened by a dancer I had known who worked with Billy Forsythe in the Frankfurt Ballet. In fact, we were both in the company at the same time. I was annoyed at the fact that this guy, who was American but had most of his career as a Forsythe "muse", could not get a grant from Career Transition For Dancers, because he hadn't worked in the US for something like "at least 7 years" as per the organizations by-laws. I ventured back up stairs in the midst of all the confusion to call the Ex. Director of the organization to see what could be done about it, "Its just not fair!", I said. My concerns were for a dancer's survival. Dancer's die two deaths, one when they stop dancing, and the other. The body fails but the spirit lives on, the choice for a dancer is already made for them. Until, as my sister says, "they make a body that lasts forever". Death was in the air that day, in many ways, on all levels.

And now St. Vincents has been put to death, the hospital where there were no survivors brought. And an imprint in my mind that will never die. Photo's plastered all over the walls looking for "missing persons" as if they were pets. That indeed was and still is a sad memory.

A New Marvin Hamlisch Song


A New Marvin Hamlisch Song

After the Career Transition For Dancers benefit Gala last year, Marvin Hamlisch called to congratulate me on the evening, and to say that he wanted to use these two fabulous young ballroom dancers I had on the program, Alexandra and John, on one of his events (it was actually their first big performing experience, and have since been on those dance shows et el). Anyway, I thought it was a prank call because he didn’t say so-and-so gave me your number! As I listened to see who was pretending to be Marvin until finally he said that he liked that I used a clip of his music (the clip was from A Chorus Line) in this great "opening film montage". The montage was about the history of American dance in a 3 1/2 min. with the theme "everybody's doing it". The clip was from A Chorus Line...... IT was then that I realized it was no prank call. "A couple days later I got up the courage to call him back --- "You know, A Chorus Line is a brilliant classic but it is basically about dancers trying to get into a show. What about writing a piece or song that is about the trajectory of what happens after - dancers stay in the field, they move out of the field but whatever we do (and some don't actually stop), but whatever we do do, we never stop being dancers. The dancer is alive in us always. I am a dancer dancing when I'm moving or not, I am a dancer dancing even when I stop." And, that is an empowering thing that we dancers need not forget.

The song, turned out to be one with Lyrics by Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes, and called "I'm Really Dancing". It will be performed on the upcoming CTFD Gala, Marvin will be playing and it will be sung by our evening Host, Angela Lansbury, along with guest artists Charlotte d’Amboise, Bebe Neuwirth, Ann Reinking, Desmond Richardson, Chita Rivera, Randy Skinner, and Karen Ziemba. The musical arrangements are by David Caldwell, who I worked with in China (see our T-Shirts below that he designed). And, I will choreograph the number using a mix of talent as I always do that includes ABT II; the World Cup All Star New Jersey Cheerleading - or as I call them the Cheerleaders; a wonderful baton-twirler/dance Natalie Enterline, a talented young dancer who can do all styles of dance including gymnastics, Capoiera, break dancing and hip hop, that was in my piece out with NCI (National Choreography Initiative). Ben Needham-Wood.

My writer for this year, JoAnn Young who wrote Marvin's last show (and also the TV special on Liza Minnelli last year) describes the song as a light-hearted anthem that captures the upbeat physicality of dancers that lasts a lifetime. But, I would have to say it is a tongue 'n cheek take on our profoundly felt inner dancer. We all have an "inner dancer", by the way....

David and Me: The shirts say Musical Director and Choreographer in Mongolian & Chinese!

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