Monthly Archives: September 2013
THE GLAMOUR OF IT ALL
The truth about being a presenter/producer of contemporary dance and performing arts is that it is just so damn thrilling. Friends are asking if I won’t miss the excitement of it all, hanging out with amazing artists, seeing brilliant performances, traveling to exotic destinations. I thought it might be appropriate to share the thrills of a typical festival day so you too will envy us here at North Fourth as we prepare for a weekend of “Moses(es).”
Susanna preparing the program; Marjorie scrubbing the refrigerator; Rujeko delivering the last of the brochures; Omar cleaning up out front and Josh mopping the stage.
I suppose members of the board, and artistic and technical staff aren’t cleaning, typing and delivering at BAM and the Kennedy Center but out here in the west we are just hands-on kind of people.
North Fourth artists have had classes with Reggie Wilson’s company in years past so they were eager to go this morning when the dancers appeared. Reggie has the same expectations of our dancers as of any other class he teaches so they worked hard, loving every moment it seems. Here’s a small photo album:
Susanna, Yeman, Raja and REGGIE.
Well, it’s here—the beginning of the end of Global DanceFest. Ever since I made the decision to bring this ever-exciting, always-engaging program to a close I have felt very good and sure of my decision. “It’s time,” I’ve said often. “Yes, I am through…ready to move on to my next life project.” “No regrets.” And on and on and on.
So now the time has come. And, while I still feel the decision was right, and while I’m still ready, I must admit to some pangs of regret!
As Susanna and I sat waiting at the airport, I said happily, “Hey, this is next to our last airport pickup for Global DanceFest.” Then the artists came through the revolving doors and it struck me what good friends and fascinating artists and lovely human beings they are…and they won’t be coming back…and I wasn’t quite so happy.
As the evening went on, sharing a meal, driving some errands, my sense of the rightness of my decision didn’t go away but I found a certain sadness was occupying my senses in equal proportion.
Now it’s the next day; the artists are in the theater rehearsing and I’m getting ready to clean the theater refrigerator so tomorrow it will be all ready for reception food. There is no hotel near our theater so we drive back and forth often which is usually the task we find most tiresome. Now however, for me, every action has a feeling of poignancy about it. Damn. I’ve been looking forward to both the artists and performance and THE END. At this very moment, in my heart, the latter seems to have arrived a little too soon.
Beautiful snowy slippery Helsinki
BRAIN STEPS: In my brain…where dance always has something to do with Geography…I manage to find something in a work, even if it’s just the name of the piece, which identifies it with a place and a culture. No matter the choreographers’ extensive training with whatever giants of the modern/contemporary dance field, no matter how long they’ve lived outside their countries of origin, I always imagine traces of home place/home culture in their work—whether actually there are or not. I suppose I am using and adding to the age-old, frequently detrimental, practice of stereotyping. But there is always some—real or imagined—basis for stereotypes!
THOSE DANCING SCANDINAVIANS: A few years ago I decided Global DanceFest should have a Scandinavian-based dance festival so I started attending something called “Ice Hot,” semi-annual dance platforms for Scandinavian artists. Part of this decision came from the fact that I am Scandinavian, Norwegian to be more exact. And part was general curiosity about whether stereotypical Scandinavians in their actual northern isolation would express themselves differently from other Europeans in their dancemaking.
They/we are different. I think! The humor, and there seems to be quite a bit, is sly, understated, even dark; the themes brainy, gloomy, cynical perhaps; the movement idiosyncratic. Europe is, in general, more idea/intellectual-friendly than the U.S. and that was imbued in all of their art. For example, Swedish Gunilla Heilborn’s quietly spoken and simply choreographed pieces are so poignantly funny in that Scandinavian “let’s not laugh out loud” kind of way. Norwegian Alan Lucien Øyen’s work forces the audience to ponder and confront an array of ideas and issues; it is very smart work that doesn’t make it easy for anyone; it’s skillfully choreographed in a way that seems easy in the beginning and, only after a little while, do you realize how complicated it is. The piece we presented in Albuquerque by Norwegian Jo Strømgren was a light-hearted (but only on the surface) work about the mess that people are leaving on the big island of Greenland. Danish Palle Granhøj’s work seems lighter, less somber; more movement, less-idea-based; but it reminds me of places on the edge of something and comfortable with that.Denmark is Scandinavian/ European; historically important, but not geographically sizeable; proudly prosperous—artists can afford to play and make work that doesn’t really fit any mold. Finnish Tero Saarinen is one of the best-known of the Scandinavian choreographers, with work that ranges from one of the world’s most brilliant solos, “HUNT” to large company pieces. So how about if I just say Tero reminds me of everything we know about Finland. Clever, brainy, sharp; maybe the world’s best education system; high-tech; starkly beautiful (both the blondes and the landscape).
DANCE OF GEOGRAPHY, GEOGRAPHY OF DANCE/MY TAKE: So there’s my crazy dance-geography essay. I don’t think anyone needs to agree with me or even tell me why I’m wrong. I like thinking about it like this.
As we all communicate through, watch, engage with, have access to the same social and other media tools, very soon the world will be the all the same, including dancemaking. So who can say, not so many years from now, whether I was right—or not?
Meanwhile one of my few regrets about leaving the dance-presenting business is that I couldn’t do one more big festival of Scandinavian work. Along with dance from the continent of Africa, it is the most self-referential—no, what I mean to say is homeland/culture-referential—and that is what is most interesting to me.
THINGS END FOR A REASON: One of the circumstances that fed into my decision to leave the field at this moment in time came from being at the Ice Hot Festival in Helsinki in December. For the first time in a place in the world, I felt old. I crept around on the slippery ice ever so carefully not to fall and break an aging hip!
The irony of this is that a travel goal is to spend time roaming about in Scandinavia’s North Country in either the winter or the summer. I can still do that however without being surrounded by the good-looking, nimble, youngish denizens of the dance world. I won’t have to feel so aged and cautious and over and done with!
Glanced at the headline of the Albuquerque Journal just before heading for the river and my beautiful peaceful life-restoring dawn walk.
Another dead kid. How many dead kids in how many towns on the days there’s not even a mass murder? Yesterday someone I know said, ‘you should be careful walking by yourself…we’re a violent city…you know we’re so close to the border!’ How sad that so many people are so misinformed about where the danger lies. It’s not the border, people; it is the GUNS. In fact it’s harder to get guns in Mexico than here in Ugunistan. Maybe she meant we’re a straight shot (no pun intended) down from Canada!
I walked down green and pleasant Laguna past the roses. Along the ponds, by the art, petted the bearded man’s dogs and I was not afraid. But I thought about whether I should be afraid. Good job, fearful angry gun-obsessives! You’re passing your fear on to all of us.
Thursday Morning images:
Heated up yesterday morning’s coffee; stumbled to the couch; stomach hurt; felt overwhelmed by too many projects, too many ideas, not enough years left, not enough money to quickly move ahead with everything I want to do. I decided not to take my early morning walk. But then as the guilt washed over my gloomy head, I thought…so what is it about any of this that will be made worse by walking–or better? Well unless wild dogs attack me and rip my stomach open it probably won’t feel any worse. And unless I run into a publisher who offers me a special writing/photography assignment due immediately – for a lot of money, or unless I find Mayor Berry paving over the Bosque, I won’t have anymore stress. And there’s always the chance the solution to all problems/conditions/issues will come to me somewhere along the way. And it does. The whole ditch bank is suddenly full of anthills. Busy organized single-minded ants busily doing their ant jobs. Not feeling sorry for themselves or being physically wimpy–just moving ahead with their jobs. That’s it the answer. Just Do It.
It was cool and damp by the morning river. Made me feel fresh, energized, optomistic. Then I made the mistake of turning on CNN for a quick moment before leaving for work and was reminded that yes I do live in Ugunistan…and there’s always another shooter out there. Wonder if more people will be killed by gunfire today in Pakistan, Somalia or the U.S.? I’m guessing the latter.
But back to the river. And, No, Mayor Berry or whoever wants more paths and trails in the Bosque…NO NO NO. Or just pave the whole damn thing over, leave the ponds and it could be a water fowl SHOOTING RANGE. I’m sad to say it wouldn’t surprise me if that were already in the planning stages in some gun dolt’s mind.
So here are some nice things in the world. I cannot help myself when I see these beautiful birds and I have a camera in my hand.
I reblogged “A Short History of Dance in my Life” which describes my entry into this strange new land but not the origins of the international path which I was suddenly following.
Connecting dance to place started for me in France. I actually cannot remember how I first started looking intensively and extensively at French dance. Being enthralled with Paris and every French sight/taste/nuance, which was all fairly new to me, certainly helped. I was presenting a range of performing arts at the KiMo Theater in Albuquerque New Mexico and in the process meeting and being guided by the NYC contemporary dance sophisticates and international travelers and French dance was hot at the time.
It was magical. Paris is a very special place in all ways and what a grand thing, to be sitting at a sidewalk café with your cigarettes and café au lait or wine, gazing just over there at the Eiffel Tower and listening to the elegant sounds of the French language all around. Increasingly the talk was of dance…contemporary dance treasured and supported by the French government. Imagine that!
The choreographers and companies I remember most clearly are Dominique Bagouet, Angelin Preljocaj/Ballet Preljocaj (who was here for Global DanceFest’s grand 2001 opening), Maguy Marin, Mathilde Monnier, Josef Nadj and of course the American transplant, Carolyn Carlson. There were others but with an array like that who needed more. I was enthralled and curious.
I so lacked background in American contemporary dance, or dance of any kind for that matter, that being introduced to new work in a new country was like entering a different reality. I had no references; when my friends and mentors related what they were seeing back to the founders and stars of “modern” dance in America and Europe I was the clueless bystander.
What I did know was that—given the limited American dance I had seen in New Mexico (extremely limited) and at the conferences and showcases I was attending around the country—I was more enamored of what I was seeing in France. Why the greater interest was the question.
It took me awhile to develop an answer that suited me. The dance in France was a little less about technique and pure movement and more about things/stuff/stories/ideas. It also seemed a little more confrontive, maybe a little rawer, a little sexier, more original somehow? And the program was one coherent piece, not three pretty dances of 10 to 20 minutes each. I loved it all. Indiscriminately.
I immediately began trying to analyze what about French culture, history or geography had produced those differences. I know…I know… I know. My learned dance friends can trace it all to various choreographic/artistic movements and influences. Which is true and accurate and informed. But I wasn’t interested in that, what I wanted to figure out was what about being French was showing up on stage. Of course there was no answer that made sense.
But here’s what I decided. France has a proud intellectual history so why wouldn’t that be reflected in their dance as well as in other cultural pursuits—dance of ideas? France has a long history as a colonial power so why wouldn’t their experience of other cultures make more story, more nuance possible in their dance—dance more worldly. France is known as a nation of diverse sensual appetites—why wouldn’t their dance reflect that sensuality. This was an answer that made sense. To me at least.
That was all over 20 years ago. Since then I’ve seen American dance take on all of those characteristics to some degree, and I have no idea what is happening with French dance. But that line of questioning is what propelled me down the track of forever analyzing contemporary dance based on the broadest of cultural, environmental, historical and political influences. For better or worse.
Don’t worry…this message is not coming to you from a Doomsday Cult. it is only the END of GLOBAL DANCEFEST. And of my dance blogging. Which was never my finest accomplishment in any case. The truth is—as pleasurable as discovering and presenting interesting dance has been—I am pretty inarticulate when it comes to discussing or describing it.
In the meantime, between now and October 5th I will keep trying! With some final pieces about my experiences in the field and also re-blogging some of the posts that seem worth sharing.
A few days ago in “Dancing to a Different Tune” I talked about constantly trying to find geographical/historical/cultural meaning in all of the work I’ve seen and/or presented from all over the world. And how sometimes it feels like the connections are so obviously there—other times like I’m forcing it. More about that in the next few days. I think.
In the meantime I’m going to re-blog something I wrote last fall before deciding to stop presenting. It’s called “A SHORT HISTORY OF DANCE IN MY LIFE,” and is both about how I came to this world of contemporary dance and how I interpret it for my presenting purposes. (At the time Global DanceFest was going to morph into something called Journeys instead of ending.)
I don’t know how to incorporate another blog post into a new one so this will be two separate posts.
Albuquerque is not a pretty city overall. It is just not. No travel guide, magazine article, famous or infamous person has ever claimed it to be so. HOWEVER early in the morning along Tingley Beach it. is. spectacular.
And this is my second day with no water fowl photos. Trying to break the habit one morning at a time.