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This past spring, the Charles Weidman Dance Foundation had the pleasure of supplying video footage of Charles Weidman’s Lynchtown to the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine (CNDC) in Angers, France. The video footage was included in the Dance is a Weapon NDG 1932/1955 exhibit in the lobby of the Le Quai performance space from May 16 to June 17 and was free to the public. Julia Jurgilewicz, Charles Weidman Dance Foundation’s administrative assistant, and Weidman Dance alumna Claire Westby, happened to be performing at Le Quai on May 19th with Liz Gerring Dance Company and were able to stop by the exhibit. Julia recounts her tour experience, from exploring the Loire valley to taking Cunningham class at the CNDC with Robert Swinston, and visiting the Dance is a Weapon exhibit:
Getting to Angers, France was an adventure in itself. I was able to dust off my French to change some of the dancers’ train tickets to stay in Paris for a few hours. We locked up our bags at the station, then walked along the Seine river, saw the Eiffel Tower, and got a delicious Parisian breakfast. The train to Angers yielded picturesque views of French countryside chock-full of roaming cows, ancient stone houses, and rolling hills.
Angers itself is a quaint town complete with the glorious Cathédrale d’Angers, the sturdy 13th century Château Angers, and the steady Maine river which clips the town in two. We were fortunate enough to have the first few days off to explore the Loire valley. We took a long van ride through ancient villages to the town of Saumur where we saw the fantastical Château de Saumur and explored and ate lunch at the sprawling Château Villandry.
So far this trip sounds more like a fairy tale than the sometimes grueling, hard work of a dance company’s tour, but we were not without our sweaty rehearsals and long soaks in baths. Liz Gerring Dance Company is an extremely athletic company that allows its dancers to focus on strength and endurance. The company explores non-narrative movement derived from pedestrian gesture and athletic training. The hour-long work we were performing in Angers, Horizon, is a feat of of just that, or as Robert Johnson of New Jersey Arts put it, Horizon “is a dance for heroes.”
Before rehearsals, we had the pleasure of taking Cunningham class from Robert Swinston alongside his company’s dancers. Swinston was appointed the artistic director of the CNDC Angers in 2013, where he teaches Cunningham class, re-stages Cunningham’s dances, and creates his own works. Liz Gerring Dance Company and Swinston’s company were able to show-and-tell their dances in the studio and hang out after rehearsals to compare living and dancing in Paris and NYC. I had a great time practicing my French with these dancers and seeing the juxtaposition of Cunningham and Liz Gerring’s work.
The performance of Horizon took place at Le Quai, an amazing arts space along the Maine River. The center seeks to include dance, theater, opera, world music, and more. The facilities are a treat compared to the often cramped dressing rooms of NYC theaters and there is a great restaurant on the roof of the building. Le Quai is also a hip hang out space for the community; our first day there a skateboard and tattoo festival was going on out front.
After the performance, I had some time to check out the Dance is a Weapon exhibit in the lobby of the building. It was a great exhibition with audio/video media, iconic photos, and colorful information banners. I was excited to see pictures of Charles Weidman and Martha Graham among other modern dance pioneers. Between the exhibit about early American modern dance in a home that features Cunningham’s legacy, and performing work by the next generation of contemporary choreographers, I had an array of dance influences melding to create an amazing experience.
In Liz Gerring’s Horizon, the dancers explore non-narrative, athletic movement to an original soundtrack by Michael Schumacher and set by Robert Wierzel. The collaborative nature of the work is reminiscent of Merce Cunningham’s creations that often incorporated multiple artists, from sound designers like John Cage to visual artists like Andy Warhol. The movement is both contemporary and inclusive of codified modern dance techniques. The NYTimes describes the work as “fluently combin[ing] modern technique with a postmodern and quasi-analytical scrutiny of pedestrians and athletes.” The dancers use similar theories from Weidman technique including fall and recovery, flattening and curving of the spine, and released and suspended movements. At the close of Horizon, I do a series of repeated falls across the stage reminiscent of the falls in Weidman’s Brahms Waltzes.
Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman were interested in how gravity and momentum affected movement, an idea that is explored in rehearsal for Liz Gerring Dance Company. All affectation is stripped away, and we are asked to fall, throw, lunge, run, and jump honestly. While ballet and modern techniques are inherent in our bodies, the movements are results of gravity working for or against us and how much momentum we are allotted. Sometimes we are asked to spring from one shape to the next without “winding up”, or conversely, we are asked to gather all of our energy and hurtle across the space. This cause and effect theory is intrinsic in Weidman’s “kinetic pantomime”, though he played with the order and explored reversing these properties under a narrative context.
When I was studying for my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree at NYU, I had the pleasure of performing Weidman’s Easter Oratorio and Brahms Waltzes. A great lesson I took from learning these works was the importance of timing and duration of movement. A lot of attention was placed on how long a développé or suspension took or how still we were while holding a position. Liz Gerring’s work Horizon is centered around the duration of movement and the sustaining of shapes. Often times the music is adjusted live to our performance of the work as each movement and section can vary slightly in timing. While Weidman used these methods to convey an idea or feeling, Horizon uses timing and duration to give the audience an experience similar to a natural time lapse film- abstract, evolving, and surprising.
* For more detailed information on the characteristics of Humphrey-Weidman technique, see “A Reaffirmation of the Humphrey-Weidman Quality” by Svea Becker and Joenine Roberts, 1983, Dance Notation Journal vol 1 no 1 (available on the internet at the Dance Notation Bureau Theory Bulletin Board).
The end of our tour included a train ride back to Paris where the company parted ways, some for the States and some for more Parisian nights. I was able to do some traveling through Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid. Now all back in NYC, the Liz Gerring Dance Company is now gearing up for the premier of their new work (T)here to (T)here at Baryshnikov Arts Center November 10-12th, 2016.
“…in Lynchtown (from his Atavisms suite) grim horror was the keynote. In this work, the audience witnessed not only the injustice with which a minority group of our population has been treated but also the primitive blood lust, the sadism which supposedly civilized persons reveal when a scapegoat for their savagery is found. Lynch Town strikes home, it strikes the very being of the American, for the trembling evil of the lynchers themselves and the evil of the lookers-on who share vicariously in the horrible thrill seem to vibrate across the footlights and attack the complacency of those who sit in the safety of the theater. The dancers move with racing frenzy, halting to look at death with lust and, perhaps, with fear. A figure stretches forward to get a better view of murder, and horror stretches along the invisible waves of art communications to remind the beholder that the battle for ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ is not yet won.” -From Walter Terry, The Dance in America, Harper & Row, 1956
On May 7, in historic downtown Jersey City, Tachair Bookshoppe hosted a fascinating, multimedia lecture by Dr. Jeff Friedman. “Weidman’s Lynchtown: American Dialectics, Moral Questions and the Art of Persuasion” considered Weidman’s work from a dazzling array of perspectives including Laban Movement Analysis, Piaget’s ideas on the development of morality in children, and Cicero’s importance of gesture in Oratory.
Nimbus Dance Works dancer, Yuko Monden, demonstrated movement from Lynchtown as Dr. Friedman related them to Laban’s concepts of free flow, bound flow, weight, spoking and arcing. The entrance walk of the lynch mob is an example of “bound flow”, while Monden’s final exit as she leaps off the stage is “free flow.” Using archival footage, Friedman also showed how the lynch mob’s entrance creates a “wall of movement” that physically and emotionally separates the audience from the victim.
Dr. Friedman went on to discuss Weidman’s early interest in comedy and satire. Archival photos of The Happy Hypocrite (1931) and The School for Husbands (1933) (choreographed with Doris Humphrey) were used as examples. Dr. Friedman’s comments on the social significance of satire were especially interesting.
The lecture was followed by a lively discussion on a wide range of topics including the psychological challenges faced by performers in portraying such evil, the choice of the smallest dancer to portray “the Incitor” character of the mob, how the dances in Atavisms (Stock Exchange, Bargain Counter, and Lynchtown) relate to current events, mob behavior, and how best to teach about fascism.
If you missed Dr. Friedman’s lecture, you still have one more opportunity to attend on May 23 at 7pm at the Highland Park Public Library, 31 North Highland Park, Highland Park, NJ. For live performances of Lynchtown, don’t miss Nimbus Dance Works’ Jersey City spring season, “UNPLUGGED” May 30,31, and June 1 at the Barrow Mansion, 83 Wayne Street, Jersey City.
Words by Nadira Hall
On May 17th, 2013, dance lovers and connoisseurs will have a rare opportunity to see the choreography of Pauline Koner. Preeminent Koner expert, Evelyn Shepard, has lovingly and painstakingly reconstructed three important Koner works that will be presented at the 92nd Street Y’s Fridays at Noon series.
Dancefusion Company will perform Concertino (1955). The dance takes place in the time of the Renaissance where “a lady and her ladies-in-waiting are first at court” where they present themselves as “elegant, formal, conversational.” Next a solo reveals “the woman behind the elegant façade” and is followed by a lively dance where “the wear and tear of court formality are forgotten.”
Ryoko Kudo and Pablo Francisco Ruvalcaba of the Jose Limon Dance Company will perform Poeme (1962), a ”tender yet provocative” love duet,”influenced by Chagall*, whose women, when transported emotionally, fly in the air or soar upside down.”
360 Dance Company will perform The Shining Dark (1956), a trio inspired by the life of Helen Keller. In Pauline’s words: “ I had long been thinking about Helen Keller whose only medium of communication was movement—the manual alphabet…so I dug in and learned the manual alphabet”. The dance is comprised of four sections: “World of Nothingness,” “World of Awakening,” “Panic of Loss,” and “Remembered Image.”
While dance maverick Pauline Koner is impossible to categorize, we consider her part of the Humphrey Weidman family. Pauline Koner’s initial dance training was with Michel Fokine. Early on she pursued her own solo career, while also performing extensively with Michio Ito and then Yeichi Nimura. In the mid 1940s, seeking guidance in the choreographic process, she began a long association with Doris Humphrey. Especially memorable for her role as Emilia in Limon’s Moor’s Pavane, Koner was also a guest artist with the Jose Limon Dance Company from 1946-1960.
Less known is Koner’s association with Charles Weidman. Inspired by Abner Dean’s** drawings, Pauline became intrigued with creating a satire on “the insanities, complexities and hilarities of living.” As the characters “crystallized”, she naturally thought of Weidman. “I approached Charles with trepidation. After all he was a senior member in the hierarchy of modern dance. Charles accepted and I was thrilled.” Thus, Amorous Adventure was born. Pauline played “A Kind of Wife” and Charles ”A Sort of Husband”, while Lucas Hoving portrayed “Variations from the Norm.” After it’s premiere in 1951, Winthrop Palmer wrote: “Pauline Koner’s Amorous Adventure …was a delightful spoofing of comic eugenics and the battle of the sexes with never a moment of social significance, for which it deserves a gold medal…”
Also a noted teacher, Koner developed her famous course “Elements of Performing.” Her elegantly articulated concepts of breath, suspension, rebound, and weight could easily be part of a primer on Humphrey Weidman technique.
Don’t miss this chance to see Pauline Koner’s artistic creations. Films will be shown in the lobby starting at 11:00 AM, followed by live performance and panel discussion at noon.
Friday May 17, 2013
92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center
1395 Lexington Avenue, NY, NY
To learn more about the event, visit the 92nd St Y website here.
All quotes from Solitary Song by Pauline Koner, Duke University Press, 1989
Also recommended: Elements of Performance by Pauline Koner, Harwood Academic Publishers, 1993
*Marc Chagall (1887-1985) was a Russian born artist known for his use of many artistic mediums including painting, stage sets, book illustrations, and ceramics to name a few
**Abner Dean (1910 – 1982) was an American cartoonist who often depicted extremes of human behavior
In 1967, Charles Weidman choreographed Easter Oratorio, a beautifully simplistic and joyous dance that premiered at the Expression of Two Arts Theater in NYC. It featured multiple sections including ensemble numbers and a trio for women all surrounding the topic of rejoicing at the resurrection. In the later part of Weidman’s career, his pieces took on spiritual tones which was unique to his previous genres of choreography. He especially focused on classical music by composers Brahms, Bach, Beethoven and choreographing joyous, grand, exalting movement. His first pursuit in this new tone was Christmas Oratorio to music by Bach created in 1961 followed by Easter Oratorio six years later also to music by Bach.
Weidman believed that music and dance were one, and Easter Oratorio is a prime example of how his movement was inspired by the composition of the music. “Fugue”, the opening dance of the Oratorio, features an ensemble of dancers moving in structured sections in time and sequence with the music. A fugue is a compositional structure where a short melody or phrase is taken up by other instruments/voices at sequential, overlapping timings (think of “Row, row, row your boat” sung in a round). Weidman took these overlapping sections and did the same with his choreography; the women start moving with one theme followed by the men taking up the same or different movement overlapping the women to create a beautiful, yet mathematic assembly of elated bodies.
Though Charles enjoyed following the structure of the music with his dance, he did so in an interesting way. Margaret O’Sullivan (Foundation Vice-President and Weidman company dancer) reflects on how Charles choreographed to the music in a unexpected way. Instead of starting on the 1 of every six counts, the impetus for the beginning of the phrase was always on the 6, making the movement seem to spurt out and grow in a way the was organic with the music, but simultaneously following its own rhythm and flow. This gives the Fugue the impression of always rolling forward and creates a play between the push and pull of the music and the dancers.
In 2010, the Charles Weidman Dance Foundation partnered with Tisch School of the Arts, NYU to re-stage and perform two sections from the Easter Oratorio. Janet Towner assisted by Margaret O’Sullivan taught the Tisch dancers the “Fugue” and the trio “Branches”. The two performances of these excerpts at the 92nd St Y and at Baryshnikov Arts Center were not only the first instance of Weidman/Bach performed to live music, but also the first time the excerpts had been shown in NYC since Weidman’s death.
The trio, “Branches” features three women holding laurel branches and circling around one another in sweeping and jumping movement. Each woman has a solo moment involving the first dancer with one branch, the second soloist with two, and the final woman wielding three branches in the formation of the cross. Each solo also contributes a different mood to the piece, the first stretching and arching on the floor with the single branch pointing to the sky, the second reaching and honoring with arms outstretched in a V shape , and the third swirling and whirling in praise and delight beneath the cross shaped branches.
Elinor Rogosin in The Dancemakers: Conversations with American Choreographers speaks to how “the expression of the joy of the resurrection is the overwhelming mood in the piece” and how as an audience member, you “could have been eavesdropping on someone at prayer”. Rogosin comments on the simplicity of the choreography and the absence of acrobatic movement “creating a refreshing impact of naive expression”. When learning Easter Oratorio, Tisch alumni Elizabeth Montgomery reflects on the technique of the face and chest in order to achieve the look of ecstasy: “I remember Margaret explaining to us the intention of “space in the face;” it should be as though you’re looking past whatever is in the room in front of you, as though you’re looking out into the horizon from someplace very high. Maintaining that energy in an of itself is exhausting. Now add the jumps, hinges, and pivots, and Easter Oratorio becomes one of the most challenging pieces I’ve ever danced, in spite of its choreographic simplicity”.
“Bach’s dramatic intent in the Easter Oratorio is the expression of the joy of the Resurrection. Despite the fringes of melancholy added by the adagio, and by some of the recitatives, the overwhelming mood is one of rejoicing”. -Charles Weidman on a 1971 program
Post by Julia Jurgilewicz
“The twisted minds of bigots symbolized by twisted bodies. Dancers doubled up with rage and when the lynch mob finally dragged in its victim, they gathered about his body as if they were vultures.”- The New York Times
This past autumn, our Vice-President, Margaret O’Sullivan, traveled to New Jersey to start working with contemporary company Nimbus Dance Works. Under the direction of Samuel Pott, the company will be performing Weidman’s iconic work, Lynchtown, this winter in their NYC season February 15-17th at the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater.
Lynchtown was first performed in 1936 as the final section of Weidman’s trio suite Atavisms along side Bargain Counter and Stock Exchange. Lynchtown depits the excitement and horror of a lynching that Charles witnessed as a child. Unlike his previous and widely enjoyed comedic works, Lynchtown drew on a darker tone and “because Weidman was generally comic, his grave works had an anger and force that strengthened the sardonic, sometimes macabre dancing”. (American Modern Dancers: The Pioneers)
Because of it’s alarmingly honest essence, universal reach, and timeless topic, performances of Lynchtown have surfaced throughout the years. Most recently, Montclair State University dancers performed Weidman’s Lynchtown accompanied by live percussionists and clarinetist in a bill paired with Weidman’s Brahms Waltzes at the 92nd St Y in April 2011. Lynchtown was also shown in 1994 at the Humphrey-Weidman Gala: Dances from Their Years Together and in 1993 at SUNY Purchase and in Taiwan, China.
When asked about re-staging Lynchtown, Margaret O’Sullivan commented that “the hardest part for dancers is allowing themselves to really indulge and enjoy the grotesque and focus on the event. The dancers never face or look at the audience and it is very into the ground in very deep, deep plies.” She compares the movement to that of animals and recalls that in her first Lynchtown rehearsal as a dancer, Charles told them to be more “lascivious” with their movement.
One of the benefits and treats of learning Weidman dances from Margaret is the refreshingly “old” method of learning everything from memory. Nowadays, dancers develop and hone their skills in reversing movement learnt from a computer screen. Nimbus dancer Elena Valls expressed how in this Weidman Foundation/Nimbus collaboration, the dancers “did not learn anything from a video; it was all [Margaret’s] memory and from watching her do the movement. That made it way more enjoyable. She noticed the smallest details, like the Humphrey foot (which we call the Barbie foot), the tension in the hands and neck, and how your eyes really tell the story.”.
The company will be performing Lynchtown in their NYC season on February 15-17th at the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater. Director Sam Pott has plans to create a new work based off similar ideas and themes addressed in Weidman’s Lynchtown. Nimbus’s future plans involve traveling to New Jersey schools to show Weidman’s iconic work and have the children create their own versions of Weidman’s dance based on ideas of intolerance and hate.
For more information on the Nimbus Dance Works NYC performance, visit their website here.
Sources: Olga Maynard. American Modern Dancers The Pioneers. Copyright 1965.
Lynchtown quote taken from myloc.gov.
Post by Julia Jurgilewicz
Last Spring, Margaret O’Sullivan worked with dancers at Montclair State University to stage the Opening Dance of Weidman’s fifty-first creation Opus 51. The process culminated in showings at the University as well as a Friday’s at Noon performance at the 92nd St Y. In May, Margaret worked with a handful of NYC dancers to teach a technique class and some of the Opus 51 Opening Dance. With so many of today’s modern dancers taking a turn at Opus 51, it’s time to give some background information on the piece!
Opus 51 was first performed on August 6, 1938 to music by Vivian Fine (also entitled Opus 51). The performance was held in the Vermont State Armory in Bennington, VT. Costumes were created by Pauline Lawrence, a former Denishawn alumnus who worked for many years with Weidman and Humphrey as an accompanist, costume and lighting designer. During the time Charles created Opus 51, modern dance had not been focusing on what we like to call “movement for movement’s sake” dancing and Charles decided to go ahead and do just that. He created Opus solely on the principle of finding elation and enjoyment in the movement. The Opening Dance was created on five women clad in long green skirts swinging their limbs in attitude positions while crossing through each other. Like all Weidman dances, the movement is incredibly musical, following the swing and accents of Fine’s music with traditional modern dance shapes.
Following the Opening Dance, men and women came together to perform the next section”Commedia”. While Weidman often formed his dancers into characters, this section focused on the exaggeration of movement performed by each character, for example “there were gestures drawn from … daily tasks of sweeping and gardening all linked together in a blizzard of movement that did not attempt to tell a history but just to present kinetically related gestures” (Don McDonagh The Complete Guide to Modern Dance 1976).
After an interlude of bizarre Mazurkas performed by men and women, the finale “Spectacle” culminates in a circus-like performance of understated gestures and modest bows. After all this miming and unexpected grotesque movement, the Opening Dance seems out of place with its normalcy, leading one to believe that he set the stage with a conventional modern dance to make his audience feel comfortable before exposing them to his crazy collection of pantomiming oddities.
Opus 51 exemplifies Weidman’s new take on what modern dance could be as well as introducing us to his incredible use of “kinetic pantomime”. Kinetic pantomime left representational miming behind by taking normal, human gestures and continuing them throughout the rest of the body. “He simply followed the trajectory of a gesture as it metamorphosed into a whole skein of movement that suggested bits and fragments of characterization as it progressed but did not tarry or linger over any” (McDonagh 112). In the video documentary “Charles Weidman On his Own”, Charles is shown teaching a group of dancers kinetic pantomime. They start with “picking strawberries” to the left and right of themselves and then suddenly switch to sitting, legs splayed playing a violent game of jacks. In retrospect, Weidman’s kinetic movement is what contemporary and theater dance is leaning towards in today’s dance world; spontaneity, unpredictability, character play, and enough normal or pedestrian movement to be recognizable to audiences.
After learning and performing the Opening Dance, I asked MSU dancer Marissa Lynne Aucoin about her experience with Weidman repertory. After expressing her enthusiasm with learning the dance and the challenges of Weidman technique I asked her the million dollar question: “Is it important to continue the teaching of Weidman technique to today’s dancers and if so, why?” to which she responded “clearly I am very adamant about the continued teaching of Weidman technique. It is such an integral part of the history of modern dance and holds a direct relation to many of the principals used by choreographers today. Continued teaching not only ensures that Weidman’s technique and repertory are preserved but provides moderns dancers with a stronger technical foundation and more humanistic approach towards movement.”
What surprised and thrilled me about studying Weidman’s Opus 51 is how similar it is to the work I want to both dance and create: mixing character studies with strong technique; however, what made we want to applaud Charles myself was that it’s creation created controversy and discussion. Among his odd caricatures of “Commedia”, he also threw in some mocking of what American Modern Dance was at the time which was applauded by some and looked down on by others. “Opus 51 caused a controversy between one faction who took it as an insult and another which delighted in this ribbing of Modern Dance, but it …restored the American contemporary dance to its original exuberance– the joyous rebellion rather than the propaganda tool” ( Olga Maynard American Modern Dancers: The Pioneers 1965).
It goes without saying that Opus 51 is relevant and relate-able to the modern dance we see today, and that it did what most contemporary choreographers strive for: to surprise it’s audience and spark them into discussion. Thumbs up Mr. Weidman. The fifty-first one is apparently the charm.
American Modern Dancers: The Pioneers by Olga Maynard, 1965 (New York Library for the Performing Arts)
The Complete Guide to Modern Dance by Don McDonagh, 1976
To purchase the video documentary “Charles Weidman On his Own” go to http://www.dancehorizons.com.
Post by Julia Jurgilewicz
The CWDF Board of Directors is comprised of Weidman alumni from various moments on the timeline of the Weidman legacy. One of our beloved members, Thomas McNally, has built quite the resume in his years involved in the modern dance, art, and culture scene. In addition to performing with the Humphrey Weidman Group in the early 1930’s, he has been an accompanist for Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins, Jose Limon, May O’Donnell, and at the Humphrey Weidman studio. In recent years he has taught music at LaGuardia Community College and the Brooklyn School of Music, played organ at Lower East Side Trinity Church, sung with with the Collegiate Chorale, and participated in poetry readings.
This past June, Tom saw the reconstruction of Charles Weidman’s Fables for our Time performed in the Mary Anthony Dance Theater Studio Showing. This is what he saw.
A Review of Mary Anthony Dance Theater Studio Recital
June 23, 2012
On a recent June evening of an unseasonal New York City hot spell, a recital in Mary Anthony’s studio confirmed the vitality of Charles Weidman’s unique endowment as dancer and mime. There were even echoes of the Denishawn tradition that spawned the establishment in New York City of his choreographic style along with that of his partner, Doris Humphrey and the revolutionary technique and performance of their fellow at Denishawn, the incomparable Martha Graham.
The program opened unconventionally with Alexandra Len’s Where the Light, with emphasis on the “where” of the title for before dancing in the dark, Miss Len distributed miniature flashlights to the audience who not only participated in the performance, but defined the dance at whim. Within the first half of the program, there were two echoes of Denishawn. The first was a piece called Dual, implying duet, by Amelia Dawe Sanders to music of Philip Glass. The Denishawn feature was a bolt of scarlet cloth in which the two principal dancers were at times separately enwound. Occasionally free of the cloth and tussling to claim it, the piece echoed the famous Soaring of Doris Humphrey- her opus involved a large square of colored fabric as a constraint in a charming dance for a quartet of females.
This dramatic Dual was followed by two excellent solos, each danced expertly. Incident, danced and choreographed by Delia Cadman to the music of David Lang, was economical and intense like all effective modern solos and commanded the audience’s attention. The equally fine and effective solo which followed was entitled Soft Shock by choreographer Emma Lee and danced by her to the music of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Following these solos in the first half of the program were two small group dances. Cross Currents, choreographed by Lina Dahbour to an extended piece by Beethoven, was the second echo of Denishawn, acknowledging composition with props. The props consisted of several pieces of wood placed on stage before the dance began. In the course of the dance, any of these props were picked up by one of the three dancers and disposed of choreographically. Finally, one dancer left alone on stage incorporated a number of the props, acquiring them and then freeing herself while dancing. Perhaps this movement came from a study in abstraction? Speaking of abstraction, the second of these group dances, I Would (excerpts) choreographed by Rachel Cohen, exploited every conceivable movement of the five dancers on stage. Considering the elaborate vocabulary, one would like to see the complete work of which this was a selection.
Performed Saturday night were three of the four programmed 1947 Fables for our Time, inspired by James Thurber’s similarly titled collection and choreographed by who else–the outstanding, preeminent genius, the American mime and dancer, Charles Weidman. The music was by Freda Miller, the narration by Kian Ross and Mary Anthony, costumes by ex-Denishawn dancer and pianist, Humphrey-Weidman moral support, spouse of Jose Limon- Pauline Lawrence.
“The Unicorn” featured Jennifer Deckert as the wife, Andre Megerdichian moving lyrically in a fine approximation of Charles’ role as the Husband, Mary Staub as the Psychiatrist and our own Craig Gabrian as the Policeman. In “The Moth and the Star” Daniel Lupo played the young Moth and Fred Timm the Old Moth. In” The Courtship of Arthur and Al”, a jarring production for 1947, the Pretty Little Beaver was Rachel Cohen, Arthur was portrayed by Fred Timm and Al’s Playmates were Eva Hansson, Olga Mikhaviova, and Stephanie Van Dooren. The role of Al was danced very well by one of the tallest (is not the tallest) of male modern dancers Pascal Rekoert, doubling as videographer for the night. On this occasion the spirit of Charles was alive and one could almost see him, wearing handsome, formal, 19th century garb and hear him chanting his hail and farewell “Carry On!”
The last piece of the evening was a delightful surprise- a reconstruction choreographed by our presiding hostess, Mary Anthony. It was entitled Lady Macbeth, to music of Debussy and danced by Mary Ford who, for herself and the applauding audience, profusely acknowledged the choreographer. All these years, Mary Anthony has been working to preserve the tradition of early modern dance in our capital of much modernity in the arts. All the performances of the night were excellent and contributed to the glimpse of Charles’ characteristic deft and penetrating evocation in miming and dance. Thank you Mary Anthony!
Interested in reading James Thurber’s “Fables for our Time”? Browse here.
To find out more about Mary Anthony Dance Theater you can visit the website here.
Post by Julia Jurgilewicz