Pat Graney Company
Pat Graney Company
December 4–21, 2008
Seattle City Light Building, Seattle
Reviewed by Gigi Berardi
Photo by Tim Summers, courtesy
Pat Graney Company. Trinidad Martinez in Graney's
"sometimes charming, sometimes haunting" House of Mind.
In House of Mind, Pat Graney once again uses memory and consciousness as her muse. The piece is really two works of art: a multi-media installation that's a mind-boggling array of art, and a dance performance. Graney has transformed a converted 5,000-square-foot warehouse to great effect, using bleached white sand and alternating hot air blasts in a maze of sometimes charming, sometimes haunting rooms.
For part one of the event, the audience is invited to wander through walls of books and stacks of packing envelopes before viewing the actual installation. The effect is surreal, as if Graney conjured up the scene on the spot, inviting longtime collaborator Amy Denio to join her in producing a riveting soundtrack. Denio added her own intriguing compositions such as Celtic tunes and vocals and a guitar solo, plus theme music from old game shows and poignant interviews with Graney's mother (who has Alzheimer's disease), as well as interviews with Graney herself.
Installation and set designer David Traylor guided the effort, together with designers of every sort, like Nanette Acosta with Stella Rose St. Clair, who engineered six giant taffeta-textured dresses suspended from the ceiling. A wall of over 100,000 mother of pearl buttons has streams of water running over these traditional trading objects. Graney has added reams of her father's typed police reports from the 1950s and an array of gold-painted high-heeled shoes, arranged so that each shoe is visible. The most eerie display, however, is a solid gray room, which represents her father's study. Here the walls, rugs, books, and empty picture frames are all cast in the same emotionless gray.
Graney allows the audience to tour the installation for a half hour before the performance and view artifacts in the performance space itself. This includes a 20- by 12-foot wall of 3500 miniatures and almost as many tiny cubicles carved into it, along with bits and pieces from a 1950s home, including a bubble-filled bathtub featuring installation bather Kristina Dillard.
The gutsy and versatile ensemble includes standout Graney dancer Michelle de la Vega; newcomer Trinidad Martinez, who, together with de la Vega, carries much of the piece; Sara Jinks; and Jody Kuehner and Jenny Peterson. They sleep in kitchen drawers and even dance around the room with them, perform headstands on chairs or balance precariously on their rims. The chairs, in a sense, are the anchors of the piece, where a lot of Graney's motifs are performed. The dancers stretch, cringe, take regimented stances, and try to hold onto a routine, with lots of pacing in tight skirts and high heels—maybe it's a way of remembering. There is also an inconsolable sadness about the ensemble, a life interrupted by some tragedy. Clearly, memory loss is a terrible impoverishment.
At the end of the piece, all coalesce around the dining room, and then move on. One dancer goes to sleep on the dining room table, another curls up on the catwalk, another paces back and forth. Time disappears into sameness. How can we even know what we know––for the image becomes the memory—and which came first? This unforgettable piece, not surprisingly, had a long run of almost three weeks in Seattle, with a number of second and third shows added. Audiences can see this audacious piece in either Houston, playing now through February 7, or in New York City, presented by DTW on Governors Island in June.
You know Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo as the men who parody your favorite ballet variations—and make it look good. But there's more to the iconic troupe than meets the eye.
A new documentary, Rebels on Pointe, goes behind the scenes of the company, and it's full of juicy tidbits about what it's like to be a Trock. These were some of our favorite moments:
After 30 years of pioneering work in physically integrated dance, AXIS Dance Company co-founder Judith Smith has announced plans to retire from the Oakland, California, company. Throughout her tenure, she strived to get equal recognition for integrated dance and disabled dancers, commissioning work from high-profile choreographers like Bill T. Jones. Her efforts generated huge momentum for expanded training, choreography, education and advocacy for dancers with disabilities.
By phone from her home in Oakland, Smith reflected on how far the field has evolved since the early days of AXIS, and what's yet to be done.
You know that how you care for your body before curtain can impact your performance. But with so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to nail down an exact routine. How much rest is enough? How close to showtime should you eat? We asked the experts.
How do you make your athleisure collection stand out from the pack? Get the ultimate studio-to-street seal of approval by having dancers star in your campaign, of course.
For his second collaboration with activewear brand Carbon38, ready-to-wear designer Jonathan Simkhai traded in his usual top models like Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss for the original Hiplet dancers—and the resulting video is as cool as we'd expect from such a fierce collaboration.
Who are you when you no longer do what you've been doing for years?
It is the big question facing anyone who retires. For top ballet dancers, however, the situation is more extreme. They start young, grow up in a rarified atmosphere, mostly see only each other, and become more and more removed from ordinary life. So what is it like to give this all up?
I asked seven former principal dancers from different generations at San Francisco Ballet, including myself, about this challenge.
To be honest, we never tire of watching non-dancers tackle a day in the life of the pros. From athletes to average Joes, these videos always give us a good laugh, and they remind the rest of the world that a whole lot of work goes into every dance performance you see. But often times, these dancer-for-a-day videos don't fully understand the importance of training (i.e., you can't just throw on a pair of pointe shoes and give it a go).
That's why we're especially loving this video by Refinery29 that actually gets it. Lucie Fink, host of the R29 YouTube series Lucie For Hire , got a private lesson from American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, and it was endlessly entertaining.
Again and again, dance teaches me that when the filters fall away between people—when the boundaries of geography, religion and politics soften—the beginning and end of our relationships is always human.
In March, I traveled with Keigwin + Company to Cote D'Ivoire, Ethiopia and Tunisia, on a tour sponsored by the US State Department and facilitated by DanceMotion USA/Brooklyn Academy of Music. Our mission was cultural diplomacy: Simply, to share ourselves with diverse communities, to promote common understanding and friendships.
Our last stop was Tunisia. Until that point, we had mostly been learning varieties of traditional African dance, and sharing American modern dance. But Tunisia was different. The dancers already had a solid grasp of contemporary movement invention. Though we didn't speak the same language, we could make movement vocabulary with surprising ease. Everything about our backgrounds was different, but there was this special intersection through dance that seemed to present an open door to collaboration.
Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.
Christopher Wheeldon's new Nutcracker for the Joffrey Ballet was huge news when it premiered last winter. The choreographer shifted the setting from the home of a well-off German family to the Chicago world's fair, making the hero the young daughter of a working-class, Polish immigrant sculptress. This month, WTTW Chicago, the city's public broadcasting station, will premiere Making a New American Nutcracker, a new documentary showing how Wheeldon and his high-profile collaborators made the magic happen. Premieres on WTTW11 and wttw.com/watch on Nov. 16 before appearing on public television stations across the country. Check your local listings.
For most dancers, walking into the theater elicits a familiar emotion that's somewhere between the reverence of stepping into a chapel and the comfort of coming home. But each venue has its own aura, and can offer that something special that takes your performance to a new level. Six dancers share which theaters have transported them the most.
GLENN ALLEN SIMS
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Glenn Allen Sims in Alvin Ailey's Masekela Langage. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy AAADT
Favorite theater: Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain
Royal details: "The theater is gorgeous and ornate, with deep red upholstery and gold trim. There is a huge royal box in the center, which takes you back to when kings and queens were watching performances there."
Impressive facilities: Even the dressing rooms are a sight to see: Amenities for the dancers include large, carpeted rooms, and towel service.
The business side of dance can often fall second to the art. Contracts, which usually appear after you've done the hard work of securing a job, can seem like an inconsequential afterthought. You might decide to simply sign without reading the terms—or be understandably confused by all the legalese.
Ultimately, though, contracts can play an important part in setting the expectations for your job. A basic understanding of the legal terms you might see can go a long way in making sure that signing is a positive step toward growing your career.