This country mouse has something to say…

19 Oct

So I’m not really a country mouse, and despite the fact that it’s a gorgeous, sunny and crisp but not too chilly October day, it’s freezing inside my house, which makes the typing process a miserable one.  But with some Turkish music playing on iTunes, here I go.  This afternoon I came across an interesting article in the New York Times (via clouddancefest on twitter), about a new series that the writer of the article described as “reality ballet.”  The word “reality” has developed an extremely negative connotation for me given the surplus of low-grade, poorly produced, inferior television programs that makes me want to run for the hills.  Thankfully, reality ballet was not entirely an accurate description.  To me it sounded more like copious amount of raw footage, and I don’t see a need to attach the word “reality” to it all.  Not to mention, “reality” has become a deluded concept to audiences today (because I sincerely hope we know better!), and I don’t see anything misleading about rehearsal footage.

The “copious-amounts of-raw-footage” became 15 Days of Dance: The Making of ‘Ghost Light.’  I’m really loving the inspiration for the piece, described here in an excerpt from the article:

“Ghost Light” is named after the stark, romantic image of a bare bulb left burning on a deserted stage. Set to Aaron Copland’s “Music for the Theater,” the dance, which was presented as a gift from the city of Buffalo to the people of New Orleans, has a vintage quality, with dancers costumed as flappers and hobos.

“I was thinking of New Orleans and how it has such a deep sense of its own history and jazz,” Mr. Reeder said. “It’s one of the reasons I went with an old Americana feel of vaudeville, burlesque and the whole ghost-light vibe.”

Attention grabbed!  I like flappers and hobos, and an antiquarian aesthetic.  I also love me some Copland, although I’m unfamiliar with this particular composition.  The piece is choreographed by Brian Reeder, who apparently has to pull his pants up a lot because he doesn’t wear a belt and isn’t very nice at times.  I don’t know if I like that, and he criticizes some of his dancers by telling them “you guys would make a horrible true Bournonville pas de trois.”  That’s kind of mean…but he says that he has to go into a zone, and I suppose an intensely creative mind can’t always control the output.  After all, nobody can spew sunshine all day.  I might be able to…but I have the mind of a child.

Anyway, the project was spearheaded by Elliot Caplan of Cage/Cunningham and Beach Birds for Camera fame, who wanted to document the entire process of creating a ballet.  Although it kind of bugged me that he said “ballet is the basis for everything in dance,” which I find to be unfortunately Eurocentric, I do appreciate his desire to document the choreographic process (even if I think documentation of dance isn’t THAT decrepit).  The fact alone that the entire she-bang is eighteen hours of footage is enough to make one salivate and squee in delight.  But that also means it’s not the kind of thing that would be shown on television, and although portions of the film will start showing this Thursday at the New York Library of the Performing Arts, hosted by Caplan himself followed by a discussion with a panel of some of the artists involved.  The entire thing will also be available for private viewing at the library.  Fantastic.  But what does that mean for the rest of us?  This is a huge problem I have with the dance world…it’s this idea that New York is apparently in an artistic bubble, and there doesn’t seem to be any consideration for those outside of it.  I’m not suggesting that I, personally be given access to such a collection but I can’t help but feel forgotten whenever I hear about the exciting things that are being done and are available to the residents of New York.  It reminds me of the “top trickling down” economic model that I once studied in an anthropology class (ANTHRO 597.01, conflict in developing nations), and the conclusion was that it was elitist and NEVER worked.  I find it ironic that Caplan made a comparison between going to the movies and seeing dance, when movies are always available to the people while dance simply isn’t.  If you grew up in Columbus, Ohio, there is so much you would never see in regards to dance because things aren’t readily available or performed often.  I’m not saying we should sit on our asses and wait for the advertisers to flood us with images and commercials, but we have to be met half way.  Otherwise, how can we find things we don’t know exist?

Perhaps my complaints are preliminary and it will be available for distribution (more than likely not for home viewing because the price would be astronomical) at the very least at major universities.  I actually discovered that Ohio State has a pretty interesting collection of things, like footage of famous dancers like Arthur Mitchel coaching Agon, Maria Tallchief coaching Allegro Brillante, Melissa Hayden coaching Stars and Stripes, Suzanne Farrell coaching Momentum pro Gesualdo and Movements for piano and orchestra.  Although that stuff is locked away in a sekret part of the library that I’m sure takes fingerprints and retina scans to access, but at least it’s there.  I just hope this new series will be available in some capacity.  Dance has this massive challenge of constantly trying to reach new audiences, but they can’t sit on their haunches and expect that people will automatically find them.  Rave Motion Pictures has made a start, and does live broadcasts of ballets around the world, but one or two a year isn’t really going to get the job done to create more public interest.  This year we have a Mariinsky Swan Lake coming up at the end of the month (although the website can’t seem to decide if the November 1st show is 1:00am or 1:00pm), and I remember a year or two ago we had a Royal Ballet Swan Lake too.  But for some of us, it’s like inoculating a fatal disease.  We really need more to survive and NOT Swan Lake! 

Anywhodle, be sure to read the entire article if you’re interested and a sucker for punishment, or you live in New York.

Brian Reader Puts it Together and Elliot Caplan Films It

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