Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Different Vocabulary

Yes, its Sunday. But we get no day of rest. Even on Daylight Savings Time!

Nothing new today. Review and remount.

So SONNETS. We last left a quintet of neo-renaissance couples scurrying offstage as the last strains of Spanish Court Music filled the hall. We now hear a sonnet being read and a lone dancer comes onstage. She is not wearing shoes. And why is she not wearing shoes? Because she is a modern dancer.

Now, get ready to hunker down, because this is a very complicated section.

This long solo deals with sonnets 1 -17. These are the "procreation" sonnets. They set up all the major themes of the sonnets to come, but they can also be taken as a group unto themselves. They are pretty much told to to get someone to see the world in a larger sense than their own restricted vision. "Go have children!"

The dancer, Andrea Feier, is a good (great) friend of mine. And coincidentally (not), she has two small children. That is one of the resons I chose these poems for her. Now, Andrea is not a member of the San Diego Ballet, but she is a frequent guest artist. Our mission is to give our audience the best in classical and contemporary dance. So the idea of modern dance sharing the stage with ballet in the same piece, doesn't faze me.

During her career, Andrea not only danced with Paul Taylor, but was an artistic director of the American Dance Theatre for the Deaf. So this gave me an opportunity to expore a new movement vocabulary... American Sign Language. Now, I knew right away that I didn't just want someone signing the poems. We used ASL (and a hybrid of ASL that deals with Song/Signing) to come up with a movement skeleton. And then we took each sign as a springboard for movement that could then become a dance. AAs the movements are performed the poems are narrated.

Now there is also a music component. The music that accompanies this section is ceremonial Korean tune. It is very contemplative. In her later career, Andrea has become involved in Yoga and such. One of her strengths as a dancer has always been a true dramatic sense. Not in the terms of those old overacting Boshoi dancers who layered angst on top of movement so that their grimacing is more distracting than their dancing. No. Andrea can focus the drama of the movement and phrasing, so that you still feel that you are watching the dance.

She also has a quality that many dancers don't understand. A true dancer is more interesting when they are dancing (even if they are dancing standing still) than when they are not. Lots of dancers are more interesting (more human, more multifacteted) when they are not dancing. When they are just talking to you. When they get onstage, they lose dimensions. They are "doing steps" or "becoming an instrument" or "a character", but they lose their depth as a human.

Dance should make people bloom. Not become less than they are.

So after this solo (Thank you Andrea), back come the court dancers. But they are now "on the green."

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