Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Men In Dance - La beauté des hommes (The Beauty of Men)


8th annual Festival

October 8-10 + 15-17, 2010

I entitled this La beaute des hommes (The Beauty of Men) because it is what this entire performance embodied. Everything you have always loved about Men. Think of every man in your life. Your father, son, brother, uncle, grandfather, best friend, lover....these pieces show us every side of Men we love.

Instead of picking the pieces that I felt were the strongest - I decided to touch on them all - because art is subjective to each of us - and this event was so touching as a whole, I refuse to take away from any choreographer by judging what may be better or worse in my opinion. We must each see it through our own souls and let the art guide us.

Piece #1 - Small Spaces - Choreographer Alia Swersky w/the dancers.
As we walked into the theater - bought our tickets and walked into the main lobby- we were immediately halted by improvisational dancers who were using the lobby space as their stage. They had combinations of tumbling, flowing pieces and soft improvisational mumbling that made you just stand and stare. They used each other as parts of a puzzle, intertwining and weaving like a piece of fabric. We made our way to our seats as they danced - thinking their show was over. As we sat and read our program - my daughter exclaimed "Mom - they are dancing down the isles!". Just as she said that - all 5 dancers collected to the front of stage on the left right where we were sitting. The first dancer drew a line with his finger and said "This is my space." and then soon the rest of the dancers vocalized where their "spaces" were (one saying his looked like Nevada ahah!). Directly in front of me - there was a Space - where it seems there used to be a seat, that was removed. One dancer picked this as his Space. He stood inches from me - expanding his movements within his space, as did all of the dancers. At one point he looked at me and said "I would like to take this moment to let you know you have a great bag". It was hysterical. Towards the end of this humorous piece - the new dancer friend I had made - was in the fetal position on the ground next to my feet. He proceeded to stealthily grab my bag, he had so admired earlier - and slowly hid it between him and another dancer as they made their way out the door, on the floor - with my bag! It had us in stitches and then someone said "Reverse" they all reversed their movements and my purse was returned as comically as it was taken! These men had a great way of creating their own world and letting us be a part of it. A wonderful way to start the show.

Piece #2 "15 to 20" - Choreographer: Cheryl Johnson
The curtain opened. A youthful drummer with a snare drum sat stage left "He's cute!" my daughter exclaimed. I quickly told her to Shhh and that I'm SURE that was not going to be the last time she said that statement during this show. 3 young men entered the stage - and it was clear quickly they were tappers. They were energetic but quietly sweet compared to most tappers I have seen. They were minus the hoots, hollers and grunts that you sometimes experience. They had several solos and then combined synchronized pieces that were a pleasure to watch. The youngest - (I assumed) with glasses was quite adorable - almost seeming like the "Annie" of the bunch. His awe of what he was doing and the audience watching with baited breathe - made me chuckle. To watch a youth with so much innocence and happiness dance, it was awesome.

Piece #3 - Cypher - Choreographer: Barry Kerollis
3 dances - all from Pacific Northwest Ballet. The choreography had them all following in a circle/cypher. All men - bare chested (yes it sparked another breathy comment from my hormonal teen) in black shorts. This piece exemplified Strength for me. All men showed amazing strength in their jumps, their ability to keep the time within the cypher and their ability to assist each other. I always am amazed when men partner in dance, because it has to be so much more difficult. These three artists made the entire piece look like cake. Barry obviously chose these men for specific abilities that complimented this work - because they all meshed together beautifully.

Piece #4 - Hillside - Choreographer: David Lorence Schleiffers. My synopsis - male dancers and how they are constantly running to and from everything in their lives. My first thought was "interesting", however then I began to see between the lines. I saw relationships begin and fail during the daily "running". I saw the humor of those people we let pass us by as we are running to and from things. I saw the ability of the performers, to create one fluid piece that had so many connected moving parts. It was what a dark comedy would be if translated to dance. I need to watch that one a few more times to really GET it. I was left intrigued and wanting to talk in depth to the choreographer and pick his brain as to how close my ideas were...

Piece #5 - Breath of Light - Choreographer: Wade Madsen. Two words. "Mature Love". The lights rose to two men. This was the first real costume I loved. These two men, looked like bronzed male Gods. My daughter quickly proved the fact by saying "The one in the short sparkly gold shorts...GOOD LORD, his lines are unreal...". Aside from her teen aged gasps, I agreed totally. These two men perfectly displayed the maturity of a seasoned love. The intimacy, the pantomime of each others movements without the need for touch - but the touch was in the mind, you saw it as the energy between them. The tests, trials and disappointments you have to overcome in every long running relationship - was painfully evident. It was truly like watching two men underwater at times for me. Their fluidity and the amazing lines they created was magical. Wade Madsen showed his maturity as an artist and as a man who has loved and lost. It was one of two pieces that left me with little to no words.

Piece #6 - Me Over You - Choreographer: Eva Stone. Using the famous Female Diva piece "Pas De Quatre" - Eva brilliantly translates this classic estrogen filled, diva-esque into what would have been the perfect comic male version. All men - clad in white, one even strutting around in a white tutu. I was impressed at the amount of commitment with both their dancing and their commitment these men had. One dancer, who had shorts on - was especially humerus. There was nothing "safe" about any of his solos - he took every line and movement to the teetering edge. I appreciated the absolute abandonment these guys had - diving into the Diva roles of original dancers, Gahn, Grisi, Cerrito and Taglioni. This piece - was surprisingly long but lovely and had quite a bit of technical difficulty, peppered into the comical portions - that created wonderful bursts of laughter and chuckles from the audience.

Piece #7 - Ascent - Choreographer and performer: Jason Ohlberg. One word. BEAST. Jason is a beautiful beast of dance. His ability to show strength but vulnerability in one movement was amazing. This piece said so many things to me, but what stood out was the brute strength that comes out of overcoming pain. He was so involved in the journey of the peice - it was almost as if whatever inspired the creation of the dance, he relived everytime he performed it. He filled the stage with such brute strength, at points it even overflowed. The tests and tribulations in this piece were so evident but so severe it almost left me afraid to ask why...

Piece #8 - Monster - Choreographer: Olivier Wevers. It seems I have been on a role with this One word exclaimation thing so here it goes. This piece left me officially SPEECHLESS. Thats right, it took me a good bit to find words for this piece. Unlike me, my daughter had plenty of words throughout the performance like "Lucien is my new favorite dancer" and her ending statement:"That is the best piece I have ever seen in my life". From the mouth of babes. The piece was an excerpt of a 3 part series that will premier in January with Olivier's new company Whim W'Him. The piece explores the different "monsters" we encounter at times in our lives. Just before the dancers began - a voice came over the speakers and stated that the following dance was dedicated to the families of the youth that took their own lives as a result of bullying against homosexuals. This touched me deeply because my brother took his own life in a similar situation - so at that point - "they had me at hello". The two dancers had grey shirts (much to my daughters dismay lol), blood red shorts and matching socks. The simple but dramatic costumes really made the piece complete. Both men used the subject matter and choreography like veterans, when neither seem to be pushing even 25. I read a dancers review ( where he reviews the same show and said he would like to ask Lucien "how it feels to have super strong, obedient legs". I laughed when I read that because its true. When I watched this piece - Lucien especially made me think, for a split second, that I could dance. For a fleeting moment he shares the exhilaration with you. But the moment I dreamily saw myself doing a perfect Develope (Carla Korbes-esque) - I was jarred back to reality the first time the dancers used their hands to hide their faces. That was the part that kept making the entire piece so real to me. How tragic is it to have to hide what you are, what or who you love - because you live in a world that refuses to let you be who you are? This piece was a constant struggle between these two men, trying to find themselves, helping each other but then hurting each other - each at one point had a moment of aloneness that was excruciating. I must emotionally prepare myself for the other two Monsters that Olivier has up his sleeve...

Piece #9 - Carveresque - Choreographer: Donald Byrd. I know I have only mentioned a few dancers - which doesn't seem totally fair - however I must announce that the PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal was the solo dancer in this piece. First of all - we went randomly to this show - not with an agenda to see any one person - and we certainly weren't aware this piece was part of the show. The 40 something retired NYC Ballet dancer stood stoic on the stage in loose fitting jeans, a T-shirt and athletic shoes. My daughter - stunned to silence. This is the director of the Ballet school she attends. This is the man she hopes to one day DANCE for in his company. She talks about him like "the all powerful OZ" at times - it makes me laugh. So this was a defining moment. To see this person she held with such regard - dance. I didn't know who to watch - Peters dancing or Madison's reactions! The art of Donald was a lovely mix of modern lyrical steps mixed with Peters strengths - classic ballet combinations - and they complimented each other greatly. Peter Boals porte bras are flawless even in his retirement. The placement of his head, chin, neck, breastbone, and arms - are just textbook. It was like a classic Balanchine dancer in jeans! All at once my daughter was able to put together what her teachers are drilling into her about the upper body presentation and how important it is. Overall - it was inspiring to see him dance and impressive to see he still had it.

Piece #10 - Frattura - Choreographer: Deborah Wolf. 5 dancers in dark red velvet pants poured through an open space in the curtain. The piece had a reoccurring pushing and pulling action that gave it great depth. The first thought that came to mind with this piece is that of a third eye. I felt as though it was a very spiritual journey. At once point it almost seemed like each many was a different stage of one man - and with each movement, constantly evolving. The music was was simple and striking. A beautiful ensemble of men overall.

My recommendation - see and support this program. It shows again this weekend - however not all the same pieces are showcased. About half of them are and half are new!

Rating: ***** - a gorgeous display of Men in Dance.