Friday, June 19, 2009

KDH Dance - 10!

This is not unbiased reporting. This is not a fair and even review. This is a mash note to a company I love enough to drive 6 hours round trip to see a 2 hour performance.

The Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company (these days more often seen advertised as the more abbreviated [initialized?] KDH Dance Company). I used to take a modern class with Kathy and yoga with associate Kate Warren. Of all the things I miss about Austin, these two women are pretty darn near the center of them.

So I'm flying out of Houston to the American Dance Festival tomorrow morning. I'd sort of assumed I'd just have to miss this KDH concert. So much not getting done here. Then I was looking at the program. They revived two of my favorite pieces: Brief Histories in Three Acts and Framed. I knew it would hurt---and I'll be up late tonight packing the final things I need for my trip---but I became determined to make this performance.

It was well worth the trip. Both of these pieces were tweaked. The company has changed a lot since they were first performed and Kathy naturally enough recasts the piece according to personalities and strengths of the current company. The feelings generated with the pieces remain intact, however. The longing and nostalgia in Framed is made more tender by Kate's taking over the central role of the piece, a woman sitting immobile, staring off into space. The role was originated by Lisa Nicks, who is still with the company (and a fine dancer---a master of the solo dance), but for whatever reason Kate took on the role, Kate brought a vulnerability that I hadn't seen before. When Kate made her first movement, it was so tender and full of memory and loss, well, a my eyes teared up. Then she gets up and dances with the other women (who, if I read the dance correctly, are younger versions of the character), you see that not everything that immobile woman is remembering is sad or wistful. There is joy and excitement, as well as loss and pain.

I never saw the full lenght Brief Histories when it was created. I was living in Chicago at the time, but saw an excerpt of it when I brought the company up to Chicago to perform. It is the KDH company at it's most introspective. I should note that this company is more known for it's humor and athleticism, but being something of a contemplative myself, I especially respond to their quieter pieces. Brief Histories has a haunting quality, as if our pasts are always there directing our futures, like a ghost who keeps rearranging the funiture, blocking certain paths. Again, it's not all wistful---there are moments of happiness and excitement, not to mention anger and frustration---but the images that stay with me are the wistful moments. (This may say more about me than the actual dance. Maybe I say too much!)

The other two pieces in the evening---The Loop, another revived piece, and Green Piece, the only new piece of the evening---are a bit more abstract dance, although there's clearly something of a narrative behind them (Kathy is a storyteller as much as a dancer). The Loop explores the repetive or cyclical nature of our lives, Green Piece seems to have a number of themes running through it---from "living green" to being new, or not quite ripe---and there are more than a few apples abused throughout. (I predict apple sauce in someone's future.) I heard in the audience that someone "didn't like the apples," but I found them cleverly used in some places. I suppose it depends upon what "apple" means for you, which is, after all, a symbol full of cultural information---from the Eden debacle to keeping the doctor away. There are times I'm not always certain what's going on in an dance, I just like the movement. The apples were a prop that, for me, were simply something the dancers were using. Any associations I had in passing were simply layers along the way. It's otherwise a lovely piece.

I don't have any more time this morning. I'll have to leave my KDH report at that. If you are in Austin---or within a 3 hour drive!---make the effort to see the last two performances tonight and Saturday. I admit, I love this company and the women behind it, but I'll also defend that bias by saying: If they made crap work, I wouldn't be writing this now, on too little sleep after too much driving.

Okay, that's all for today. Next blot spot (so to speak): Durham, NC, and the American Dance Festival!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Got Met

Just got in a bit ago from the Summer Sampler of Dance with the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company. It was at Houston's outdoor venue, the Miller Outdoor Theater and the hillside was loaded with people. Really impressive turnout! Events at Miller are free, but that doesn't always mean people take advantage of it. (I know I don't, to my shame!)

Just some quick impressions. jhon stronks, one of the better choreographers in Houston, gave a nice piece in the first act. It looked highly improvisational, and it wouldn't surprise me, knowing jhon. The soundtrack he put together was quite fun. He used some poems from mutual friend, Margo Toombs, mixed in with the music and other sounds. I was sitting next to Margo and it was fun watching her react to her own voice, especially when it turned out jhon used a piece she wasn't expecting. Even more fun was when some kids near us started to repeat one repeated line of Margo's: Everyone has a cape. I leaned over and told Margo, "Listen, you're being quoted!"

In the second act, the youth/student company, Houston Met Too, tore up the stage with some extraordinary dancing, every bit as good as the parent company. Very, very impressive.

The piece I went to see, really, was the piece I blogged about last time, Salim Gauwloos' Elevated. Salim is the choreographer I interviewed for OutSmart this month (scroll down to last entry for more info). I'm happy to report that it's a lovely piece. The middle section, with two pairs of dancers, is especially moving and tender. (After the show, I'd mentioned how tender this section was, and Margo said "and bendy!" I said, "Yes, tender and bendy!" She said, "You'll have to use that in your review." I said, "I try not to use too many technical terms in my review.")

I'd write more, but it's late and I need to cut this short. Just wanted to give some very brief, quick impressions (and expose myself and my friends for how silly we are). All in all, a fine night on the hillside.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dance, Dance, and Dance (among other things)

It's 10 days until I fly off to the American Dance Festival to experience 3 weeks of dance watching, dance talking, and dance writing. So I think it's only appropriate that I talk about all the dance watching, talking, and writing I've been doing lately.

Most recently, I went to the Big Range Dance Festival' Program B here in Houston. I wrote a review for it and you can find it here. I won't repost it here (although I'm told I may---but you can click the link, right?), but I will add that NobleMotion Dance is added to my list of companies I hope to see regularly. Check out their collage video on their homepage. If you're in the Huntsville area (I know, right? Huntsville? Home of a very fine modern dance company?), make the effort to see them. Really.

The June issue of OutSmart is out and up on the web. I have several pieces in it this month. A book review of a wonderful new novel, Blue Jesus by Tom Edwards (plus a web extra interview with the author), a DVD review, and a profile of dancer/choreography Salim Gauwloos. Click the OutSmart link, scroll down to the Salim interview ("No Posseur"), and read it before continuing here. We'll wait.

hum de dum de dum la de dah . . .

Back? Yeah, I got to talk to a Vogue dancer. I feel really badly about referring to him that way because he's obviously moved beyond music videos (and good for him, I say!), but hey, the Vogue video was really very fun and stylish and he's clearly not the type of person who is saying he's above all that now. I could tell from talking to him that he really cherished his time with Madonna and doesn't in any way disown that experience. But surely he must think "That was over 15 years ago. I've done other things." The way of popular culture, I guess.

During our interview, he invited me to come to a rehearsal at the Met studios. I told him I wouldn't be able to use it for the article because the deadline was Immediately If Not Sooner. He said, not for the article or whatever, just because. So I said, sure and two days later, I watched about 20 minutes of a rehearsal.

It was quite a lot of fun. It was very early in the rehearsal process, of course, so there wasn't a lot set, but I saw enough to know that I'm interested in Salim's choreography. There was some very interesting partnering going on (and I'm a sucker for interesting partnering---I love how bodies play against each other's weight), so I'm looking forward to seeing the performance this Friday night. (Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Houston Met's Summer Sampler of Dance, 8:30pm---check the Met's website for more information)

What I want to say now about Salim is more of a personal reaction, but I think it's worth saying. I guess I have preconceived notions about fame or something, but I expected someone who has toured with Madonna and been in multiple music videos (not just with Madonna---check out Salim's website for more on his history) to be, I don't know, more aloof. I found him about as friendly and warm as you'd want a stranger to be. I felt that as I was interviewing him on the phone, and it was confirmed in person. Salim and his partner (who I shamefully cannot name just now---I'm terrible with names!) seemed like just really nice guys, the type of guys you'd hang out with at a coffee house for a couple of hours. The invitation to the rehearsal, without any real publicity to be gotten out of it, was very nice, but to meet him and see how he interacted with his dancers---he simply strikes me as a man who is comfortable in his skin. He's toured with Madonna and he wanted to show me his work in progress. It was all the same to him. I almost felt like I was doing him a favor by stopping by the studio.

I'm anxious to see the dance he made for the Met on Friday. I'll post my reactions here afterward.

To back up a moment, I will also take the time to point out the Blue Jesus/Tom Edwards interview. When I picked up the Blue Jesus review copy at the OutSmart offices, I wasn't really sure what I was getting into. Blue people in Georgia? I hadn't heard of it, so I thought this was some sort of magical realism thing. Well, in some ways, it is, but it's also based on the real blue people of Georgia, who, these days, are mostly cured of the condition that made them blue. The point being, really, that I've seldom been so charmed by a book. The voice of young Buddy Dean is so strong and so engaging, you swear you knew this kid in elementary school---or else were him. He is a mixture of having to grow up too fast (his mom is dead, and he gets pounded at school because he's a sissy and pounded at home because his dad is having trouble grieving and, well, also because Buddy is a sissy) and having a wonderful innocence about the world (he has this very obvious crush on Tony Dow, but he doesn't name it as such---he just wants to move to Hollywood and be Tony's best friend). There's much about the book that is laugh-out-loud funny and much that will break your heart---sometimes in the same line---and the ruminations on faith and courage and race and identity . . . it's just a fine, fine book. Find it, read it, tell others. I'm going out on a limb by calling it a new Southern classic, but I think it's the kind of book that could/should eventually find its way onto syllabi for literature courses.

That's enough for now. I really should be doing more prep for ADF. 10 days!

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