The Glue Factory Project:
A Seat at the Table
New Hazlett Theater
March 25–28, 2010
Reviewed by Steve Sucato
Photo by Frank Walsh Photography, Courtesy Corning Works.
For the first production of the newly formed Corning Works, dancer/choreographer Beth Corning returned to a familiar format. The former artistic director of Pittsburgh’s Dance Alloy Theater resurrected her Glue Factory Project, a series begun in Minneapolis more than a decade ago that features performers over the age of 40.
In her latest work for the Project, A Seat at the Table, Corning brought together an all-star cast of veteran dancers (including herself) along with lighting designer/performer David Covey to explore what it means to have a proverbial “seat at the table.”
The mostly abstract vignettes of this dance-theater work, set to music ranging from Donna Summer to Meredith Monk, delved into notions of inclusion, power, and the costs of garnering a "privileged" status.
Some of those risks were illustrated in Corning’s solo for former Martha Graham Dance Company principal Peter Sparling, performed to Rinde Eckert’s rendition of “Sitting on Top of the World.” Sparling took on the character of a businessman whose unabashed greed cost him in his personal and social life.
In another more humorous example, Corning, Sparling, and Covey—along with dancers Janet Lilly, Michael Blake, and Cathy Young—played a game of musical chairs, giggling and teasing one another like children while still maintaining a level of adult cynicism and competitiveness. The game came to its metaphoric end when Covey cheated to win and watched Corning storm off the stage.
For the most part Corning’s choreography played to each dancer's movement strengths. But like watching aging professional athletes, one noticed they had lost a few steps. In some of Corning's livelier dance sections the movement looked shaky and labored. What the dancers appeared to have lost in physical prowess, however, they more than made up for in artistic interpretation. Each of the performers was a sharp and engaging actor. Their small gestures and glances spoke volumes.
In one particularly poignant segment, Corning and Sparling, separated by a small tabletop, acted as a couple whose pride had robbed them of the ability to communicate with each other. Each gestured toward the other without ever looking at them. Equally moving was a tableau of defeated spirits, created by four dancers posed around a 24-foot-long table as Corning danced mournfully atop it.
Wonderfully constructed and thoughtfully performed, A Seat at the Table was a delight. It proved that at dance's table, talented individuals, regardless of age, always deserve a seat.
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.