Moving Poets Theater of Dance
Moving Poets Theater of Dance
Theater 36 at Hart-Wizen, Charlotte, NC
November 4, 2005
Reviewed by Lea Marshall
In 7 Deadly Sins, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based Moving Poets Theater of Dance uses theater, dance, visual art, and music to tell the story of Max, a frustrated sculptor. Max’s dream of success comes true when he is offered a design job with a large opera company. The sins of the title describe the temptations Max succumbs to as he abandons his devoted wife (who has sacrificed her own art—dance—to his) for the opera’s heartless soprano diva, then compromises his own artistic vision.
Within the confines of this not-unfamiliar story the term “deadly sins” felt hyperbolic. Rather than seeming anguished by his decisions, Max appeared to be the victim of circumstance, led astray by his vague wish to be “great.” The character of Max was dual-cast, played by actor Mike Harris with artistic director/dancer Till Schmidt-Rimpler performing two duets with Janelle Tatum-Eggleston, who played Max’s wife. The double-casting could have played up the duality in Max’s personality as he strayed from his path. As presented here, however, it merely illustrated his declining relationship with his wife.
Schmidt-Rimpler and Karola Luttringhaus’s cleanly danced, balletic choreography often provided relief from the ponderous dialogue. Still, choreographic explorations of the sins—although well costumed by MyLoan Dinh (Greed wore a miniskirt made of money and Sloth appeared in pajama-like layers)—rarely evoked dread, horror, or moral outrage. One exception was the Wrath section, choreographed and performed by the tall, striking Luttringhaus, who clutched at her throat, plucked at her skin, and made chopping motions down her body with a fierceness that seemed difficult for her to contain. With her heavy boots, intense gaze, and wildly tossing hair, Luttringhaus, footlit and ghastly against a white wall, brought a moment of raw truth into this otherwise overly glossy tale.
Combining several disciplines to tell a story demands a level of intellectual and emotional depth that Max’s story, peopled with stock characters, did not possess despite its sexy gilding. 7 Deadly Sins reveals both the difficulties Moving Poets must encounter while committed to such a laudable goal and the rewards it must gain from working with a diverse and dedicated group of artists. See www.movingpoets.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.