Lucy Guerin Inc
Next Wave Festival
Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Fisher/Fishman Space
Nov. 27–Dec. 1, 2012
Performance reviewed: Nov. 27
So, Lucy Guerin, what is this fascination with civilians? I silently asked this question every time I saw promotion for the U.S. premiere of her 2009 work, Untrained. The Australian choreographer apparently enjoys the looks of untrained dance performers—the way they throw themselves into an exercise with no tricks to fall back upon, no theoretical filter, no prior orientation to space or to a “dancerly” use of their bodies.
Guerin’s one-hour quartet for men—two of them superbly trained and experienced dancers; two, untrained and wonderfully brave guys from other fields—seems, in its description, a slight project to bring to BAM’s prestigious Next Wave Festival. And maybe that’s why the packed opening night audience in Fishman Space fell head over heels. Unpretentious, at times moving, Untrained is unabashedly all about being flesh-and-blood human. In its ability to draw performers and audience into a big embrace, it puts a lot of highfalutin’ dance experiments to shame.
The current cast includes dancers Ross McCormack and Alisdair Macindoe along with Michael Dunbar (described as a “freelance interaction designer,” a mournful-faced bear of a guy) and Jake Shackleton (an environmental engineer whose education ranged from music to chemistry to business management). This is not Dancing With the Stars. Scruffy-looking T-shirts and sweat pants or shorts bring everyone to the same ordinary, unkempt level. Dudes willing to play Follow the (trained) Leader in ballet flourishes, b-boy downrocking, or the gnarliest, wackiest abstract sequences make us root for them. We come to expect neither more nor less of any of them, and that makes us lean forward for a closer look at everything they do. Guerin is not alone in her fascination!
Michael Dunbar, Ross McCormack, Alisdair Macindoe, and Jake Shackleton in Untrained.
Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy BAM.
McCormack has facile, minute control of his rubbery body, but it’s every bit as much fun to observe Dunbar and Shackleton making sense of his outbursts in their own way. We learn that there’s a sharp line between what’s awkward and what’s alternative; Dunbar and Shackleton walk that line like Philippe Petit on a high wire. It’s marked by genuine humor relished by the audience out of empathy, I believe. Dance critics who imagine cruelty in the audience’s chuckling are projecting their own expectations and discomfort at the sight of untrained movers.
Shackleton reveals himself to be great at suggesting imagery to Macindoe (who must play an expanding and deflating hot-air balloon) and a natural at reenacting over-the-top movie scenes. I’m tempted to say “A star is born,” but Untrained really leads us back to Sly Stone: “Everybody is a Star.”
Along the way, Dunbar reveals that, because of his weight, he suffered bullying in school. As a new husband, he says, he suddenly feels more concerned about health. Macindoe explains the red skin blotches that we’ve all noticed and wondered about, and other bits of background and interior life are offered up in straightforward, concise ways—just enough to make all of these men, trained or untrained, less objects of our gaze than our kin in this thing called life.
Untrained continues at BAM through Dec. 1.
Pictured at top: Ross McCormack, Alisdair Macindoe (center) with Michael Dunbar and Jake Shackleton on the sidelines. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy BAM.
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: