Hubbard Street's Winter Series was a memorable showcase; the five or six thousand people who saw the Company's four performances in Chicago this December, like those who will see them in January and February on an extensive tour of the U.S. West Coast, had a chance to enjoy everything that makes a Dance Concert successful. Winter Series was a display of intricately woven choreography, a textured and complex fabric made out of an uncountable series of beautifully focused performance moments. Most of all, though, the choreography of Winter Series achieved something remarkable, and probably unintended. The program showcased an invisible and misunderstood force in the visual world of choreography; Hubbard Street's Winter Series was a master class in how to use music in Dance.
Fleshquartet is a Swedish musical group that has been making and releasing original music since 1985, and after a quarter of a century they still manage to be unique in all kinds of ways. For one thing, they're about the only five-member quartet around; they perform as a string quartet with a percussionist, and their music covers a lot of territory on the imaginative sides of both pop and classical. If you have even the least bit of resistance to everything mandatory and formulaic in musical success, you just have to like them. Their Facebook page is enigmatic and mostly in Swedish, their records aren't at the U.S. iTunes, the bio at their site is only in Swedish, and the press kit at their site consists of a single photo you can download. One more thing, in an apparently complete and inspiring defiance of everything that could be called "branding", they go by two names, "Fleshquartet" and "Fläskkvartetten".
The Joffrey Ballet performs Human Landscapes at the Auditorium Theater through October 28, and it's a journey through three very different, and very compelling works --- different, compelling, and a little surprising. It's never surprising when the Joffrey is really accomplished in what they do, and it's never surprising when they seem inspired and convincing. What is surprising about Human Landscapes is that the Joffrey weaves a really strong sense of conviction into this show, to go along with their trademark professionalism and inspiration.
Robert Poss is a forward-leaning composer because he's such an innovative guitarist --- he's been called a "guitar genius" by Tape Op Magazine, and an "enormously underrated guitar theorist" by producer Steve Albini, who observed, "the way he structures the song around the drone instead of finding a drone to fit into the song I think is wholly unique." Most people first heard of him after he and Susan Stenger founded Band of Susans, whose music Robert Palmer described in Rolling Stone Magazine as "soaring sonic architecture", and since 1995, he has composed extensively for Choreography and Film, continuing to explore the myriad possibilities of a musical universe that few can navigate the way he does.
Settings: Music for Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry is Poss' latest release, newly available as a digital download at sites like Amazon. The album is a fourteen track collection of Poss' newest work, most of it originally composed for choreographers Alexandra Beller, Sally Gross and Gerald Casel. Settings opens with three tracks written for Alexandra Beller's "Other Stories", which her company, Alexandra Beller / Dances, is presenting in seven performances this April at New York's Joyce Soho, with Poss performing live.
"One of the things Alexandra and I have in common, one of the many," Poss says, "is that we operate in the realm between 'high art' culture and 'popular culture'. We're not afraid to be brainy and cerebral, but we're also not afraid to get down and dirty." That's only one of the dimensional spectrums that Poss' music, and Poss' approach to Music, explores. A few times through Settings: Music for Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry will reveal many more.
Katie Graves and Matthew McMunn Dance will be featured this weekend in Blunt Object Theatre's Shakespeare, I Love You: Pericles, a really unusual, multidisciplinary performance of Shakespeare's play. Graves and McMunn choreographed the three part work as a quartet (in which they perform with Josh Anderson and Adam Gauzza), set to an original score by TOOM (Mason Thorne). They join four theater companies (they're the only Dance company), each performing one of the original work's five acts.
Graves and McMunn have choreographed a movement-based presentation of Act II (which is also the title of the work). They abstract Shakespeare's writing into movement by dissecting its structure, utilizing textual images, and navigating both written and implied events from the play. McMunn described their approach to the project: "We take the repetition in Shakespeare's language, and we use that repetition as structure." The first section of the work is a solo by McMunn, as Pericles, stranded on an unknown shore. In the second section, McMunn dances with Anderson and Gauzza, while the final section is a duet (danced by Graves and McMunn).
The original score is by TOOM, who the choreographers worked with over several months. Graves and McMunn describe the process as a collaborative back-and-forth where TOOM would send musical ideas to the choreographers, revise them with them, and then join them at rehearsals to focus the final score.
For more information on the other companies joining Katie Graves and Matthew McMunn in Shakespeare, I Love You: Pericles, there's more at Stephen F. Murray, The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company, Equity Library Theatre Chicago and Blunt Objects Theatre.
At 4dancers.org, one of the best (and one of the fastest-growing) dance sites around, Johnny Nevin takes a careful look at the multi-year collaboration between noted New York choreographer Alexandra Beller and the innovative composer Robert Poss. Beller's "Other Stories", their latest collaboration, is an intriguing example of how two remarkable artists manage to harmonize the creative imperatives of Choreography and Music. You can read more about Choreography and Music: Alexandra Beller and Robert Poss at 4dancers.org and at the Huffington Post.
4dancers.org is a great, broad-based dance site that brings together a number of different perspectives on the world of Dance. Johnny Nevin has joined the site as a monthly columnist, writing about Music and Dance. His third article just posted there, about Finding Music, and you can check out these links for his first two articles: Choosing Music For Choreography, and Music and Dance: An Introduction. There are a number of regular features at 4dancers well worth keeping an eye on; one of them is the series "10 Questions With ...", where Editor Catherine L. Tully engages different people from the world of Dance; her interview with Johnny Nevin is at 10 Questions with John Nevin.
Here's a video of Extensions Dance Company performing Lizzie MacKenzie's award-winning work "Time Now", set to an original score of the same by 'ohana Dreamdance. The performance is from the Extensions Showcase, which we was one of the finest shows we got to see last year.
We've done a few stories about this amazing company --- here are a few links to some of them, along with a free download of the piano version of the 'ohana Dreamdance track "Time Now":
Extensions Dance 2010 Showcase
Extensions Dance's Awards at ADA 2010
Choreographer Profile: Lizzie MacKenzie
Podcast: Composing "Some Time" For Lizzie MacKenzie (Part 1)
Podcast: Composing "Some Time" For Lizzie MacKenzie (Part 2)
Podcast: Composing "Some Time" For Lizzie MacKenzie (Part 3)
Choreography on film and video is not a new idea, but it still seems in many ways to be in its very early stages, not so much as an art form, but as an idea in the Dance community. Here's a video from Amberley Productions, a film and video company in Berlin, that is visionary in its sense of how to visually record choreography.
Comparing the often divergent, often converging worlds of music and dance is irresistible whenever this subject comes up. Way, way back, music was always performed, and never recorded, and it took decades, maybe six of them, before a gradual creative understanding emerged that the record does not have to be the same as the live performance. The record includes the performance, but it will always be more than, and less than, a live performance of the same song. You lose the intensity of immediate personal communication, but you have access to immense areas of more complex, more colorful communication; there are realms of technology-induced imagination that become available to the expression of the creative ideas in the composition.
Dan Agosto and Johnny Nevin worked with an amazing artist named Shayna Swanson, composing an as-yet-unreleased track they call "What Was Beyond". Shayna has a live video of her performance that you really have to see: it's at YouTube.