Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum
San Francisco, CA
August 6–14, 2004
Reviewed by Ann Murphy
A couple, bound for the opera, wandered into the Forum by mistake, then dashed out minutes before inkBoat’s latest production, Ame to Ame (Candy and Rain) began. Had they stayed, they would have found the U.S. premiere of Shinichi Momo Koga and Yuko Kaseki’s work operatic in its own way. While the only libretto was a panoply of keen gestures, extreme facial expressions, and Harpo-style physical maneuvers, the dancers’ bodies sang out the physical equivalent of songs—broken, dissonant, and often hilarious. Although there was no translation of these nonverbal arias, the dancers formed a portrait of mysterious yearning and frustration that was by turns comic, lyrical, ghoulish, and haunting.
InkBoat’s performers and collaborators, who work in both San Francisco and Berlin, push butoh away from ankoku butoh (the post-World War II dance of darkness) toward the more intimate form of “one dancer, one school” and “cheerful apocalypse” that was developed by Akaji Maro of Dairakudakan. While death still lurks, Koga, Kaseki, and director/choreographer/lighting designer Marc Ates use it to wrestle the solitary angels and lonely demons of self and other rather than nuclear apocalypse.
And wrestle they did. In white light ethereally littered with a white chair, table, and stool, the dancers, also in white, careered through space like sleepwalkers whose separate dreams repeatedly collided. Kaseki teetered across the stage, Koga caught and turned her, and eventually the pair moved on with affectless drama. From beautifully crafted dreamy vignettes, accompanied by intriguing, edgy sound (by Sheila McCarthy, Dawn McCarthy, Carla Kihlstedt, and Nils Frykdahl), the couple exploded into grotesque play, bouncing belly to belly, high-stepping, flailing, and grimacing. From there they swung back into movement of refined sensitivity and timing, as when Kaseki sensuously laid her hands and head down on the tabletop and Koga pulled the table out from under her, leaving her poised exactly as she had been, now framing negative space. One of the most moving, tender moments of the evening arose when Koga used the three white props as stepping-stones for a somnolent Kaseki’s blind travel, the two like clowns in a wordless Beckett play.
“On a good day, candy falls like rain,” a voice said. “Ame” means “candy” as well as “rain,” and both are often sweet and welcome. So was this performance.
For more information: www.inkboat.com
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.