Title-ating

21 Nov

I went to another Ohio State University show this night, with the unimaginative title of Resident and Visiting Artists Dance Concert.  But there’s something to be said for a title that just tells you what it is in a few words, unfettered by flourishes trying to express some idea.  Unfortunately I was running late (not a surprise) so I missed getting into the theatre for the first piece and had to watch through a door window.  As a result of my tardiness, I also did not get a program, so as I did with the show earlier, I am going into this review with no information, no ideas, and no titles to clue me in on anything.  But there’s something to be said for that too…the idea of viewing a dance with no expectations (literally).  So it looks like I’m going to have to make up my own titles, although my reactions are of course always my own, and you better believe I believe that we are all entitled to that.  Could renaming the dances for my own purposes be potentially offensive to their respective choreographers?  Maybe…maybe not…it’s not really my problem.

I won’t review every piece (C-bus people should really go see the show on their own…it’s a really good show), just a few highlights of the group numbers to entice the imagination.  The first piece I saw through the window looked really interesting…mathematical formations, Earthy-brown costumes and lots of prayerish gesturing.  And prayer beads.  I shall call it, Goddess Hymn.  Svetlana was actually in the piece so I was mad at myself for missing the direct experience, but she had significant phrases stage left, which was the only side I could see so the glass was half full.  From what I could tell, all of the dancers were female (like that’s a surprise), but the music had soothing female vocals as well.  It was very much a “dance,” with codified movement like arabesque turns, chaînés and grand battements, and yet it was structured in such a way that gave it a real spirituality.  I don’t know if it was specific to any religion, but it felt specific to the sensations of spirituality.  I am not religious (when you have a Catholic father and a Buddhist mother, the last thing you want is more religion!), but I do consider myself somewhat spiritual.  If anything, I say yay Daoism…go with the flow and don’t ask questions because those who know the Dao don’t actually know it.  But the point is, when I see something in nature that pleases me, like a beautiful starscape or a simple oak tree, a certain feeling of spirituality is invoked because I believe those things to be spiritual, and that was something I felt a twinge of while watching this dance.

The piece right after it…er, I think…was Into the Æther (I’ve always wanted to use that symbol), and it was painted in varying shades of cool blues and set to a heinous violin soundtrack.  Like sustained, dissident notes that reminded me of one of my worst fears, which is dying in the vacuum of space.  I’ve never had nightmares of drowning or being burned alive, but somehow the image of my body floating in space is something I’ve unpleasantly dreamt of and fear for no logical reason (as if, I would ever go into space!).  Of course, the music is genius depending on who you are, but we all know me.  At the very least, the music was used effectively.  This piece had a lot of dancers doing some very turbulent and aggressive movement, synching in and out and constantly changing tempo.  This is why I was really getting the image of the sky, because to me, the sky is something scattered, especially as you get further away from Earth, oxygen and other gases become increasingly diffuse.  And yet the sky has this awesome power, arguably the most formidable influence on Earth, but it is a power that can neither be sustained nor harnesses.  It can only conglomerate and dissipate, with no will of its own.  At one point the dancers are following each other in a sinuous line like a current of air, following the same path but not in the same way, and another moment they’re all twitching before crystallizing into a certain pose, like snowflakes, and then evaporating into shapeless vapor.  It was all very atmospheric to me and the creative distance to which one is willing to go in modern dance has to be dependent upon how far into the exosphere one’s imagination goes…too bad neither distance is measurable.  It certainly gives new meaning to the phrase “head in the clouds.”

Me?  I like it terrestrial, with my feet firmly planted on mother Earth.  Hence, simple interpretations and a devout love for ballet.  And there was a touch of that, in a screwball, theatrical staging of a work set to Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals.  Despite a nefarious decision to exclude the Aquarium movement (which I can only assume is a personal attack on my integrity), this was the action-packed and comical Looney Tunes performance to the classically romantic music.  I’m not kidding…there was a classic “search” scene, complete with exaggeratedly cautious steps and binoculars, a scene with dynamite, and a Scooby-Doo style chase for the finale.  But it wasn’t just people portraying animals, because there was a turning of the tables as well because most of the characters were actually human.  So it was really like a commentary on the animalistic characteristics of people…or, people, portraying animals, pretending to be people.  You’ll have to choose your own adventure I’m afraid.  With Aquarium absent, Fossils was my favorite musically, and the premise for it was a crotchety ballet teacher, who I shall call Madame Jelena Danyushka Baraksanova, and she basically dictates a class, without words in her old school way.  Of course The Swan was included, and paid tribute to Fokine’s Dying Swan, but with the dancer *ahem* as a child, who can barely walk on pointe, and has epic stage fright, which can only be resolved by a colossal, rainbow colored lollipop.  By the end she does evolve into the more familiar swan, complete with bourées and undulating arms, but instead of the tragic end where the swan settles into that pose on the floor we all know, laying her head to rest with her final breath to trickling piano notes, this swan gets her lollipop, and we are treated to the image of an undulating tongue.  I’ve never seen a tongue choreographed into a piece before, but there’s certainly a first for everything.  P.S. Tortoises will have you laughing until you can’t breathe.

Anyway it was a fantastic show and C-bussers have one last chance to see it on Saturday, November 21st, 8pm at Sullivant Hall.  And speaking of Sullivant Hall, that building needs to get its act together.  Apparently the swan was even questionable to dance for fears that the ill-supported stage would collapse under the concentrated weight of a dancer on pointe.  First of all, that’s one of the funniest images I could ever think of (up there with a mitten exploding because a cricket set one foot in it when there were already too many animals inside) and second, that stage is ridiculous.  Why it was ever built that way, and why it apparently has no support underneath is beyond me.

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