Dance Matters: The Ties That Bind Us
The whimsical Oyster comes back stateside.
Oyster is at once circus with a heart, theater with a sharp physical center, and dance with a sly sense of humor. Since 1999, audiences worldwide have gotten happily lost in the beguiling web of this contemporary Israeli classic from choreographers Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak. Oyster returns to America from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11, playing in Cleveland; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Boston; and Philadelphia.
Pinto, who trained as a graphic designer and danced for the Batsheva Dance Company, and Pollak, an accomplished actor, are pleasantly surprised by the show’s longevity. The artistic duo, who collaborate on both movement and overall design, suggest that Oyster’s popularity stems from its ability to “communicate with humanity and cross borders,” says Pinto. Oyster’s vaudevillian ingredients of richly detailed costumes, elaborate music-box set, and a corps of about a dozen quirky characters allow audiences to enter the fantasy. Yet below its playful surface, the work hints at a darker subtext.
Though hardly a review goes by without calling the work “Tim Burton-esque” in its haunting elegance, a less obvious aesthetic and thematic inspiration comes from Freaks, the 1932 film about sideshow performers. The co-directors point out that while a circus generally deals with the unique abilities of its performers, Oyster is more interested in disability and how to present those limitations as entertainment. The show’s cast exhibits an array of sharp, detailed gestures that make all of Pinto and Pollak’s creations wonders of precision.
Ultimately, Oyster offers a way to look at imperfection as a form of beauty, recognizing the forces that shape us and that we simultaneously manipulate. “We’re all part of a big marionette,” says Pinto. “We are controlled by a few strings and we control others. Oyster is a metaphor for those strings of life.”
Noga Harmelin. Photo by Eyal Landesman, Courtesy Pinto Dance
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.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: