Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble
Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble
Cal State Los Angeles
June 6, 2009
Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf
Rudy Perez' Surrender, Dorothy! Photo by Alexis Hawkins.
Displaying a knack for spinning everyday movement into gold when he was a member of the experimental Judson Dance Theater during the 1960s, postmodern icon Rudy Perez has lost none of that luster—even as he turns 80 in November. His creative mojo was on solid display in an evening entitled “A Tribute to Rudy Perez.”
Performed by a core group of dancers who’ve been with the choreographer for years, as well as members of Sarah Swenson’s Vox Dance Theatre, the program, directed by Perez, was a brilliant mash-up of the old and new. Its four works blended seamlessly into 60 intermissionless minutes. Also upping the artistic ante was the pulsating music of minimalist composer Steve Moshier, who, with his venerable Liquid Skin Ensemble, provided live, rhythmically rich accompaniment.
The concert’s centerpiece was the premiere, Surrender, Dorothy!, Perez’ trenchant take on the writings of the late Dorothy Parker. While guest soprano Linda Brown lacked heft with her musical renderings, 19-year-old phenom and guest artist Daniel Dorr, seemed to channel Parker through his wry recitations, insouciant manner, and charismatic presence.
It was, though, the dancers who decidedly spoke volumes—with their bodies. Perez veterans, husband-and-wife team Anne and Jeff Grimaldo (a.k.a. Naked With Shoes), delighted with thigh-slapping, hip-swiveling, and unison arabesques, moves that bled into their own premiere, Without. Playfully aggressive (Anne towers over Jeff), their height discrepancies made for arresting visuals-cum-power-struggles.
Back in Parkerland there was an Edward Hopper-like atmosphere of brooding isolation as the Grimaldos were joined by Tamsin Carlson, Jamie Benson, and another Perez stalwart, Swenson. Silent screams, clenched fists, and backbend-walking predominated, until a canon of hops was unleashed by the vibrant quintet.
A series of balancing poses, quarter-turns, and leaps (think glorious gazelles) punctuated Swenson’s 2006 work, Cuatro. Rededicated to Perez for the occasion, this fierce segment featured Carlson, Courtney Meadows, Katrina Obarski and Swenson as a kind of prelude to Perez’ 1964 classic Alligator Variations (originally the duet Take Your Alligator with You). Fashioned anew by Perez for an ensemble, this Alligator still teemed with preening, sparring, and cavorting with umbrellas, the dancers gleefully retro (cocktail dresses by Claire Townsend), yet totally today.
Dorr then reappeared, bobbing around the merry prancers before concluding the performance with pure Parker: “Guns aren’t lawful, gas smells awful—you might as well live.”
Perez, by bending and twisting time through his signature pedestrian moves, proved once again that his art remains timeless.
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.