Monday, November 11, 2013

Physical Graffitti--ID checks out the College of Marin Dance Concert

There is a moment before the dance begins. You are sitting in the dark. There is a lone dancer on the stage whose body begins to move and you think: there will be no words, there is just this body, joined by more as the lights and the music are layered in.

It’s a rush for ID: knowing that the body will carry this incredible weight. The whole evening will have just the body to make the shapes, to talk to us, to tell the story. You can turn off that something in your brain that thinks, listens, reads, evaluates, and turn something else on.

It opens another door, and I walked thru with Physical Graffitti.
This concert was a mix of pure dance and theater pieces. A favorite was Sandra Tanner Mack's, "Bereft. " 

This piece was in my young daughter's description, "not really a dance but more of a story." There were no words and the movement though spare told the story better than any words could. PIna Bausch in Wim Wenders, Dance Dance Otherwise We Are Lost says:
"I never thought of it as choreography but as expressing feelings. Though every piece is different, they are all trying to get at certain things that are difficult to put into words.."
Pina Bausch and
Pina's Rite of Spring

When I first began choreographing, I never thought of it as choreography but as expressing feelings. Though every piece is different, they are all trying to get at certain things that are difficult to put into words. In the work, everything belongs to everything else - the music, the set, the movement and whatever is said.

The piece began with a family of five
dressed in village peasant costumes and sitting on chairs. The music was Yiddish, Fiddler-on the Roof-ish.The movement was light, joyful as the girls spun around the around the chairs and father and mother watched, and joined them dancing as a couple. They created a feeling of a close and loving family.

The harmony was interrupted as the first act ended in silence and a dark stage with the dancers looking out, seeing something that made them gasp in terror.

The second act used contracting and releasing movement: floor to standing rolls and twists, wide leg reaches that all evoked a sense of fear, flight and inner conflict. The movements were simple but executed with great force and engagement by the dancers. It gave each gesture weight and gravity as if it was the only thing that could be done. 

As Pina Baush has said, " To understand what I am saying, you have to believe that dance is something other than technique. We forget where the movements come from. They are born from life.."

The music changed into the soaring and mournful violin strings of Schindler's List. The dance continued in that vein as they came in from the wings carrying suitcases. The family split apart with the three young women huddling together, and the man and woman trying to hold everyone together but unable to. The piece ended in gradually increasing darkness, first the couple offstage, then the three girl’s downstage and finally the suitcases in a solitary pool of light.

It’s a risk to end a piece with darkness and uncertainty, but from the notes, "For my mother: To honor the memory of our relatives who perished at the hands of Hitler's Third Reich." 
We knew what would happen. Did it work?

For ID it did because it gave us the sense of loss, and longing, a shape that while it may not be exactly the same for each of us, is known to all of us. 

"Love is so short, forgetting is so long." Neruda wrote. Sandra's piece gave us a snapshot of life before and life during, but life after? There is no shot, no dance for the dancers, because there is no way to say, to show how we live though loss. We simply do. We don’t know why or how. We just do. We make the dance. We see it. We remember it. That is perhaps enough. 

That will have to be enough.

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