Penelope Freeh and Jocelyn Hagen
"Slippery Fish and Other Offerings of New Music and Dance"
September 28–30, 2012
Performance reviewed: Sept. 29
An amiable collaboration between choreographer Penelope Freeh and composer Jocelyn Hagen, this meld of live music and dance was modest in the best sense—small, but rich. Its evocative duets, choreographed by Freeh and performed by her and guest artist Patrick Corbin, included musicians who were often integrated into the dancing. An additional solo for Nic Lincoln to recorded sound made for an intimate and intriguing evening.
In Miniatures, Corbin and Freeh scurry around the periphery of the stage, surrounding the musicians, who perform Hagen’s score center stage. A call-and-response structure finds the dancers reacting in silence to each segment of music: the rolling good humor of the piano; the quirky percussion; a lovely a capella rendition of a religious text, a prayer to the Virgin Mary. Their movement reflects the architecture and ambiance of the sound—a succulent little folk dance with flat-footed triplets, or a supported adagio with supple allusions to the music’s plangent yearning.
Perhaps nothing speaks to the talents of a choreographer more emphatically than a solo created for another dancer that both captures his uniqueness and gives it depth and context. In Paper Nautilus Nic Lincoln, in an old-fashioned sailor suit, parlays a series of iconic dance gestures from 1930s musical numbers and movie stills, into a meditation on repression and fragmented identity. His body is simultaneously fluid and hypertonic; he seems to tie himself into knots, even while gliding and loping around with the insouciance of Donald O’Connor. Easing in and out of painful reveries, he maintains the façade of a carefree sailor on a lark. Classic popular songs like “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and jarring fragments of Morse code underscore the sense of a body encoded, and of a man attempting to reconcile the numerous personas he simultaneously constructs and deconstructs before our eyes.
Both photos: Penelope Freeh and Patrick Corbin in Slippery Fish.
By Sean Smuda, courtesy Freeh.
In Slippery Fish Freeh and Corbin interact with violinist Sam Bergman and vocalist Carrie Henneman Shaw. Corbin rocks back and forth as Bergman, seated on a knocked-over chair, bows plaintive chords. Dressed in stylish black shorts, white pleated tops, and beaded cloche hats by Tulle and Dye that suggest 1920s bathing costumes and stylish flapper wear, Freeh and Corbin sashay around, echoing the music’s witty fragmentation. They mirror and trace one another, each one entering into the spaces created by the other.
The relationship is formal and abstract rather than intimate, the shapes they make a kind of fluid plastique that references Art Deco, Delsarte, and Dadaism. At one point Corbin’s tap dancing and body-slapping connect with Shaw’s fractured scales as Freeh swans around in odd coordinations—a cubist rendering of vamping? Finally the two dancers morph through a series of poses, a lovely collusion of Delsartian gestures. Their isolated emotions and stop-frame action make for a fetching collage of it-girls, strong men, and bathing beauties. The period references are more than pleasantly nostalgic—they’re charged with a freshness of discovery and play.
What happens during a performance is the product of the painstaking process of realizing an artistic vision. Whether held beforehand, afterward, offsite or online, audience discussions tend not to be so preordained, easily thrown off track without a skilled moderator at the helm.
"I'm someone who dreaded talkbacks and Q&As," admits Bill Bragin, former director of public programming at Lincoln Center. "While I was in New York, a lot of the time it was just audience members trying to show off how smart they were."
These events present a pile of difficult questions: How much do you reveal about a piece before it's shown? How can a conversation designed to hit key points feel casual and spontaneous? How do you cater to the needs of diverse attendees, from novice dancegoers to lifelong fans to scholars and critics? And how do you avoid smothering dance with language, flattening all its complexity?
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.