Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival 2018

Reflections on Performances

By: - Aug 28, 2018

Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival 2018 - Reflections of Performances

We’ve had the good fortune to drive to Jacobs’s Pillow weekly during the 2018 Dance Festival and experience performances of one of the two dance companies who were in residence that week. The dancers come from around the world and the companies and choreographers work with an expansive vocabulary on a virtual canvas.

While Charles Giuliano has written dance reviews for Berkshire Fine Arts, I am offering reflections and lasting impressions of what I saw and heard when I felt joy or not:

Dorrance Dance
Based in New York City
Artistic Director: Michelle Dorrance

All Good Things Come to an End
(World Premier at Jacob’s Pillow, July 2018)

A quote from the program:
“The temperatures have risen
The theaters have burned
Life as we know it will never return…”
And so it goes on:
“…Until we are none.”

Before the performance begins
Dancers walk up and down the isles
In yellow firemen suits and boots,
Pushing brooms and donning gas masks.

We have seen the company
A few times now.
In this new work Dorrance
Presents itself like a
Contemporary dance ensemble
Just wearing tap shoes most of the time.

We are introduced to different scenes
Which are announced on changing posters,
Then placed on an easel.
A few words in large letters:
‘The Myth of the American Dream’ -
‘Cain and Able’ - ‘Narcissus’ - ‘Mirror Mirror’
And ‘Ugly Duckling.’

Then, an astounding solo tap on a
Tiny pedestal that is not much
Wider than one pair of dancer’s shoes.
Tap tap tap – front and back -
Jumps and turns,
Clicking metal on wood
On and on at break-neck speed.

'Cain and Able' tap canes additionally,
A gag, of course.
And when Cain shoots, Able pulls
Out a red handkerchief
From her breast pocket
As comic relief!

'Narcissus' stares at herself in a large mirror
From all sides, up and down.
Then more mirrors appear and
Are used as props by four dancers,
Moving them in quick variations and
Nothing breaks.

'The Ugly Duckling' is covered in a
Big dark brown feather shawl
Wearing elongated duck-like shoes,
Which must be a challenge as a tap dance.
In the end, she becomes the beautiful
Black swan, dressed in a sleek body suit.

The women hoofers
Are on top of their tap!
Moving exquisitely in tandem
Or individually.

Half-time nears and
Instead of taking a bow,
They open and jump
Out of the rear barn door
And into the woods.

I wanted to follow them!

Batsheva – The Young Ensemble
Based in Tel-Aviv, Israel
Artistic Director: Ohad Naharin

Long before the performance begins
We see a tall polyethylene white tubing
With extended arms and ending
In a quasi head jerking about on stage.

(This kind of thing is used by
Gas stations to attract business.)

Air is blown into the white form
That causes erratic movements.
Is it a symbolic beginning of something?

Yes, it happens - much later.
Dancers jump out of an
Even formation of steps.
They perform one by one
A human equivalence
To the poly-tubing jerky e-motions.

They are hurling themselves around
With erratic movements
Front, side and back,
For twenty seconds - perhaps.
Then return to the mono-movement group activity.

Are they just copying a commercial puppet
Or are we all puppets?

An eerie sound accompanies a female dancer
Who is moving very slowly
Along a chalkboard
With chalk in hand.
The board covers much of the stage rear.

In slow motions
She outlines her extended arm,
Then her body
Then arms and body of a second dancer.

Lines are drawn covering
More and more the entire chalkboard.
Then, big letters appear
The letters are drawn into designs.

The dancers tops are white
Their bodies visually cut in half
By grey leotards
Matching the color of the chalkboard.

In front of the stage
A dance continues.

Above the chalk-board
A male appears in a black and white suit.
He makes pronouncements;
Later he steps out of the suit.
It’s a prop above the chalkboard.
He joins the dancers.

Meanwhile, others continue to fill
The huge chalkboard
With doodles or notes in
Streams of consciousness
Until one can read the word:

What does it mean?

A line of dancers
Turn in even steps
Left and right,
Left and right,
On and on

Lifting hands accordingly
In a greeting movement
Left and right,
Left and right,
On and on.

It is the kind of hand movement one remembers
Dignitaries using while greeting the throngs
Of people who have lined the streets
During a parade, for example.

Meanwhile the lead-dancer
Jumps up onto the ledge
Above the chalkboard,
Steps back into the suit
And begins hurling insults and
Obscenities at us, the audience.

On and on:
‘You are...’ ‘You are…’ ‘You are …’
Every one is insulted!
It takes minutes for the stream
Of insults to end…..

The audience applauds meekly
And leaves the theatre
Feeling sheeply.

Where is the outrage?

Based in Antwerp, Belgium
Artistic Director: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Fractus V (2015)

They are a band of brothers
Five from five countries
(They are actually six)
With four musicians on stage
From three Continents.

They are melded into a group of performers:
The original African voice of Kaspi N’dia
And Japanese percussionist, Shogo Yoshii.
The Indian virtuosic Sarod musician, Soumik Datta
And Korean Singer and musician, Woojae Park
Accentuating the dancers’ expressions.

Fabian Thome Duten steps out and performs
A Flamenco, the classical dance of Spain,
In jeans and a regular jacket,
The dance has been transported
From stage to the streets.

Sidi Cherkaoui joins in
The percussive footwork.
Here, Fabian is the master performer.

Continuing the tough life of the streets,
Four dancers shoot time after time
With pistols at Shawn Fitzgerald Ahern.
He falls and falls again, quickly gets up and
Dies many deaths.

We are appalled!

Yet, violence does not end there:
A round of knockouts follows
Why? Perhaps the expression
Of brute male force or are they
Just knocking about?

Meanwhile original music
And sounds from around the world
Enhance the scenes on stage.

At one point the musicians,
Seated on mobile wooden platforms
On both sides of the stage,
Are swung into center stage
For a spectacular musical moment.

Then, during several scenes
A series of triangular floor pieces
Are picked up by dancers
Moved and moved around and
At some point they stand up tall
In a wide half circle.

Sidi sits on a chair
At the front of the stage,
In front of the circle of triangles.
The first tall piece at the other end
Is pushed over during a fight scene,

And like dominoes they all fall -
Actually propelling Sidi from his chair
Off the stage.

That is precision work!

Here, Eastman presented as a unique male
And macho group.

Jose Limon Dance Foundation
Based in New York City
Artistic Director: Colin Connor

Chaconne (1942)

First we see a 1942 short film of Jose Limon
Executing his choreography of Chaconne.
Simple steps, turns, and movements
To Partita # 2 in D Minor for Unaccompanied Violin,
By Johann Sebastian Bach.

Then, one by one: a male dancer, a female dancer
And finally a second male dancer
Present Chaconne 2018.
They are dressed in simple outfits
Resembling men’s street clothing.

All perform the same powerful slow turns
Elongated hand movements and leg extensions.
The repetitions evoke trans-like feelings.
The dance is formidable and modern.
Yet, the choreography dates back to 1942.

Corvidae (2016)
Choreography: Colin Connor
Music: Philip Glass, Violin Concerto # 1, First Movement

Six dancers in different black costumes,
Indicating birds: crows and ravens
Wearing short or long pants,
Jackets with lapels
And tight tops or they are bare-chested.

The dancers flatter and chatter
To the contemporary staccato music
Arms stretched high making wide circles
Short or long jumps and runs
Alone or in pairs.

They are birds picking
In pursuit of each other,
Pick – pick - pick
Or, perhaps, in pursuit of us.

The Moor’s Pavane (1949)
Music by Henry Purcell, arrangement by Simon Sadoff

Othello’s legend – A translation
To dance in slow motion:
Othello and Desdemona
Iago and Emilia, two couples

They are moving in High Renaissance
Dance steps slow and deliberately
In up and down motions,
Arms moving in concert
Up and down in harmonious movements.

Desdemona, the innocent,
Is clothed in a white dress.
Othello bears a colorful velvety flowing gown

Iago, the sly friend and jealous competitor
Wears tight body pants and a silky jacket.
He is the only one who performs jumps.
His wife, Emilia, wears a silky, flowing dress.
They are members of the nobility.

The white handkerchief is present in various vignettes.
It moves from Desdemona’s hand then it falls from her waist,
Where Emilia picks it up and hides it so that later
Iago can present it to Othello as proof
Of his wife’s betrayal.

The tragedy is almost complete –
All the while the two couples move in various
Configurations and slow dance steps, never
Exhibiting real emotions –
Other than murder.

The act is done and it is a Masterpiece.