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DancePreviews

Jacob’s Pillow 2008 Festival Season Preview

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Jacob's Pillow
Jacob's Pillow

Jacob’s Pillow may have evolved beyond biblical allusions to the Book of Genesis, but the spirit of its namesake is exquisitely infused into the fabric of the choreographic creations that have swept across the Pillow’s three stages, carving a legacy that is nothing short of divine. Opening with Garth Fagan’s theatric masterpiece Griot New York and concluding with the wit and charisma of Larry Keigwin’s Keigwin + Company, the 2008 Festival season, I have no doubt, will be no exception.

Garth Fagan’s foray into fantasy, in a collaboration with jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and sculptor Martin Puryear, sets the bar high, promising originality and an exuberant dance language born of a rare fusion of African, Caribbean, modern and ballet disciplines. Stravinsky aficionados will find music set ablaze as Heddy Maalem’s fourteen dancers hailing from across the African continent re-imagine The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps) in a combination of effervescent movement and the striking imagery of filmmaker Benoit Dervaux.

Devotees and neophytes alike who missed the premiere of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s Chapel/Chapter at the 62’ Center for Theatre and Dance at Williams College will gain another opportunity to witness an intimate portrayal of our collective negotiation between everyday life and the news from around the globe that interferes, (or doesn’t) with our personal experiences. And for those searching for an introduction into modern dance, or are seeking the delight of watching meticulous masters move with effortless innovation, fellow veterans and dance icons Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet and Stockholm 59º North (formed from soloists of the Royal Swedish Ballet) will present a host of classics and new works, showcasing the pristine technique, innovation and elegance that I find so captivating and transporting, and is a hallmark of the contemporary fusion of ballet and modern dance. Of particular note is an exclusive sneak preview of Fabrizio Ferri’s new film, choreographed by Lubovitch and featuring Sting, Italian ballerina Alessandra Ferri and French soprano Natalie Dessay, showing during the company’s 40th Anniversary July engagement.

The descriptions of those pieces which for me induce a kind of child-like wonder and anticipation hail from the diverse companies of Ko & Edge, T.P.O, Conny Janssen Danst and Slow Dancing. I am fascinated by the interplay between poles, the tension created by imposing boundaries and the emotional and physical discoveries that emerge from a marriage of the two. The above companies, I hope, promise just that—the delicious, eerie seduction of Japanese Butoh in Ko & Edge’s Dead 1, the sensory interplay between performer and audience member in Teatro D’Piazza D’Occasione’s The Painted Garden, the emergence of wit and poignancy born out of confinement and athleticism in Conny Janssen Danst’s Rebound and the contrast of the living body with the altered perception of closely scrutinized movement on film in David Michalek’s Slow Dancing.

For those with an eye for multidisciplinary work, crossing boundaries among and between art forms seems to be an underlying, unconscious theme this season. A variety of works across the Pillow season underscore their kinetics with live music and collaborations with such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Daniel Bernard, Hofesh Shechter, Zakir Hussain and Peter Yarrow, among others. Humorous interjections of short films in Ballet Boyz; an interactive, sensory carpet in T.P.O; the “surreal movement poetry” of performance artist Maureen Fleming; the juxtaposition of “hyper-slow-motion” video portraits to live performance with commentary in Slow Dancing; a moving backdrop in Maalem’s nod to The Rite of Spring; and a plethora of elaborate sets, sculptures, trampolines and live accompaniment shout loud and clear that each week seems to be outdoing the next with sensory bells and whistles. If done well, with meticulous attention paid to the balance and role of each component, layering media and soundscapes atop and among movement and character can elucidate boundaries, provoke deeper levels of contemplation and richly accentuate the texture and mettle of a piece. I hope that each has made use of a discerning eye and an outside editor, lest we find ourselves amid a cacophony of visual and auditory unrest.

The Pillow also promises fresh, less complicated, but no less valid interpretations of classical dance forms. Witnessing contemporary ballet is for me an exquisite pain—watching it simultaneously takes my breath away and replaces the air with a sharp sting of longing. However, if Trey McIntyre’s self-entitled dance company measures up to even half of the praise written for him (“one of ballet’s most surprising talents” by The New York Times and “arrestingly inventive” by The Guardian [UK]) this is a kind of pain I will willingly endure, and I hope to be gasping for air after watching the world premier of Trey McIntyre’s official launch of his full time company, Trey McIntyre Dance Project.

Moving beyond a place where a performance is made up of steps to music, choreographers now employ every means necessary to capture and captivate, elucidate and confound, whisper suggestions and all but roar their points of view. From classical ballet re-imagined to the haunting exposure of Butoh, and seasoned veterans negotiating political commentary to fresh faces emerging with uncommon versatility, textures enriched by film, theatrics, poetry and interior design, and acrobatics, comedy, wit and confinement at every turn, this summer not only holds a great deal of variety, but also has the potential to over-stimulate. I hope to attend as many performances as possible to see for myself if each piece will advance into the full glory of a work realized, or recede into a fainter, less discernible version of itself, made up of poses and transitions, but lacking in that nearly intangible combination of passion, grace and daring that elevate a piece from adequate to enthralling. My sense, however, is that if the past is any indicator of the future, this season at Jacob’s Pillow will once again deliver a reality to surpass the most imaginative of dreams, and I hope you will be there to witness the emergence of what I think will be an exercise in the sublime.

Jacob's Pillow 2007: Collage Dance, photo Christopher Duggan
Jacob's Pillow 2007: Collage Dance, photo Christopher Duggan

For a full list of programming, including works not mentioned above, please see the Season Line-up below. In some cases, additional works to be announced:

Garth Fagan Dance
Griot New York
June 18-22
Ted Shawn Theatre

Compagnie Heddy Maalem [France/Africa]
June 25-29
Ted Shawn Theatre

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
Chapel/Chapter
June 26-29 & July 3-6
Doris Duke Studio Theatre
Live Music. Adult Content

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company
Guest artist Rasta Thomas
Concerto 62, Little Rhapsodies and Dvorak Serenade
Sneak Preview: Fabrizio Ferri’s new film
July 2-6
Ted Shawn Theatre

Hofesh Sheechter Company [England]
Uprising and In your rooms (US debut)
July 9-13
Ted Shawn Theatre
Live music

Double Bill: Natural Dance Theatre and Ko & Edge Company [Japan]
Dead 1 and Alice (US premieres)
July 10-13
Doris Duke Studio Theatre
Partial Nudity

Ballet Boyz [England]
Broken Fall, Amox and Yumba vs. Nonino (US premieres)
July 16-20
Ted Shawn Theatre

T.P.O (Teatro D’Piazza D’Occasione) [Italy]
The Painted Garden and The Japanese Garden (US premieres)
July 17-20
Doris Duke Studio Theatre

Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet
Migration and RASA
July 23-27
Ted Shawn Theatre
Pillow Exclusive

Conny Janssen Danst  [The Netherlands]
Rebound
July 24-27
Doris Duke Studio Theatre

Mimulus [Brazil]
Dolores (US Premiere)
July 30-August 3
Ted Shawn Theatre

Slow Dancing
July 31-August 3
Doris Duke Studio Theatre
Partial Nudity

Stockholm 59º North [Sweden]
Chicada, The Apartment, Pointless Pastures and Castrati (World Premieres)
August 6-10
Ted Shawn Theatre

Shantala Shivalingappa [India]
August 7-10
Doris Duke Studio Theatre
Live Music

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
Chameleon (US Premiere), Singerland and 1st Flash
August 13-17
Ted Shawn Theatre

Double Bill: Kate Weare Company and Maureen Fleming
Bridge of Sighs (World Premiere)
August 14-17
Doris Duke Studio Theatre

Trey McIntyre Project
August 20-24
Ted Shawn Theatre
Company Debut
World Premiere

Keigwin + Company
Love Songs
August 21-24
Doris Duke Studio Theatre

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