Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thank you, Ursula K. Le Guin!

I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now.... Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art--the art of words.
--Ursula K. Le Guin
Read more:

“We Will Need Writers Who Can Remember Freedom”: Ursula Le Guin and Last Night’s N.B.A.s
by Rachel Arons, The New Yorker, November 20, 2014

"It's time for courage." Rodabaugh + Orange = DoublePlus

DoublePlus, the smart new artist-curated performance series at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center (280 Broadway), is quickly coming into focus as a space for risk-taking by everyone from maker to presenter to watcher. Without advancing a narrow aesthetic agenda, it is breaking lesser-known artists into potentially wider exposure. More than just a chance for Gina Gibney to host formal performances--still restricted at her original 890 Broadway studios--DoublePlus is shaping up as a contender in the crowded New York dance scene, serving up adventure in a sophisticated container.

Last evening, guest curator Miguel Gutierrez introduced us to the work of Alex Rodabaugh and Rakiya A. Orange. Rodabaugh's ensemble piece, g1br33l, looks like a nightmare that might well start off with spooky space music, cheesy, makeshift costumes, ritual gestures and exhortations to "Breathe and let go" but end in Manson-like bloodshed. Actually, no New Agers are harmed in the making of this movie, but it does veer from Rodabaugh's oft-cited comfort zone into unexpected, suggestive and subversive territory. I think Rodabaugh's channeled alter ego, the archangel Gabriel, might have spent some earthbound time occupying Wall Street as well as a few queer dives. And I found one of his pronouncements intriguing: "We can't change government, but we can change our reaction to government" echoes a familiar spiritual nostrum for all kinds of complicated personal and social ailments. Gabe, as embodied by Rodabaugh, is a modest-looking archangel but with a detectable modern edge, and I think "reaction" might be the word to focus on in that sentence. (Visit Rodabaugh's page here.)

Let me cite the DoublePlus description of Orange's extraordinary solo, Aziza:
...a complicated investigation of self and identity, foregrounded by Stephanie Leigh Batiste’s idea that “The performing black body is material and metaphorical, real and unreal.” Orange’s body becomes a site of infinite feedback, reflecting the gaze of the spectator. She foregrounds her ambiguous status—as a real person, a theatrical representation, and a sociocultural construction—to explore, expose, and explode definitions of blackness.
Orange, when we first see her, dances atop a triangular platform of ludicrous dimensions. It's kind of the size of an American flag folded and handed off to a war widow. But you don't need a lot of space for strip-club moves. Later, she will indeed take the whole of the floor space, and forcefully, but she starts off pinned to this tight spot like the specimen she is for the audience's gaze. And still looks completely in charge. A beautiful woman and dancer, she invites the gaze and is quite good at feeding it while clearly enjoying the rush ride of her powers and savoring music that is nothing short of inviting and wonderful. She's all over a spectrum of being ours and being her own. Her skill, creativity and confidence are clear but complicated by the mundane and exploitative uses to which they are usually put. The world is not necessarily her friend. In silent, strange moments, she might end up upended like a beetle, legs flailing. She seems, at times, to follow ideas and try things out as she dances, raising questions like, Because she smiles, is everything always all right? She seems to be asking questions, too: Is this one thing enough? Is it good enough? How far do I need to go? Can I enjoy this? Can I let you see me enjoying this? Can I let you enjoy this? Who's watching me? Are you WATCHING ME?!!

Orange and Rodabaugh continue tonight through Saturday with performances at 7:30pm. Tonight's show will be followed by a Q&A with the curator and choreographers. For schedule information and tickets, click here.

Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis
Performing Arts Center
280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan

Mike Nichols, 83

Mike Nichols, Celebrated Director, Dies at 83
by Bruce Weber, The New York Times, November 20, 2014

Jimmy Ruffin, 78

Jimmy Ruffin, Singer of a Memorable Motown Hit, Dies at 78
by Paul Vitello, The New York Times, November 19, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New film on dance educator Martha Hill


a documentary film 
by Greg Vander Veer

opens Friday, January 23
at New York City's Quad Cinema

Martha Hill

Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter reveals the little known story of Martha Hill, a visionary who fought against great odds to make contemporary and modern dance a legitimate art form in America. In a career spanning most of the 20th century, Hill became a behind the scenes leader of the field and the founding director of The Juilliard Dance Division. Stylistically weaving together over 90 years of archival footage, the film is a celebration of dance and an examination of the passion required to keep it alive.
Showtimes: 1pm, 2:45pm, 4:30pm, 7pm, 9:15pm

Running Time: 1:20

Q+As with filmmaker Greg Vander Veer and Martha Hill Dance Fund president Vernon Scott will follow the Friday and Saturday 7pm shows, and the Saturday and Sunday 4:30pm shows.

For additional information on this film and the Martha Hill Dance Fund--including the November 24 gala honoring Martha Myers and Mary Hinkson--click here.

34 West 13th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Manhattan

Thanks so much, Maria Bauman!

Maria Bauman
(photo: Lucilene Barbosa)

Last evening, dancer and community organizer Maria Bauman led a rousing community movement workshop ("Amplification and Scale"), an event of the Community Action Hub at Gibney Dance Center. Alas, the ninety minutes flew by, certainly not time enough to deeply explore Bauman's resourceful tools for engaging diverse communities around racism and other social justice issues. However, a roomful of people, who either did or did not identify as professional dancers, got completely caught up in the joy of our bodies' expressiveness, interacting with one another in an atmosphere of trust, permission and play. Wouldn't it be cool for Bauman to come back and launch an ongoing group that could bond and expand on this promising beginning?

Interested in future Community Action Hub workshops? Keep posted on all events at Gibney Dance Center here.

Ken Takakura, 83

Ken Takakura, Japanese Film Actor, Dies at 83
The Associated Press, The New York Times, November 18, 2014

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