Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble
Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble’s Francesca Todesco and Benjamin Cortes in Anna Sokolow’s Magritte, Magritte
Photo by Robin Meems, courtesy Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble
Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble
Dance Theater Workshop, NYC
July 6–8, 2006
Reviewed by Emily Macel
Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble keeps Anna Sokolow’s legacy, described by critic Walter Sorell as “theater danced and danced theater,” alive. For this program, artistic director Jim May restaged Sokolow’s quintessential dance-theater piece Magritte, Magritte (1970), which hasn’t been performed for more than 20 years; the evening also showcased the U.S. premieres of two 2004 works inspired by Sokolow’s creative process: May’s Starburst and David Parker’s La Nef Des Fous (Ship of Fools).
Sokolow created works that merged emotion with movement, often dealing with weighty subjects like the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and the alienated youth of the 1960s. Magritte, Magritte does not address such grand-scale disasters; instead, it tackles the story behind the art of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte.
In the form of an eight-act play, the piece spins a collage out of dancing, poetry, acting and Magritte’s recognizable art. Les Amants, a painting in which two lovers are masked by white cloths that convey emotional and sexual separation, is transformed into a soulful, waltzlike duet. Far from the beauty and elegance of the dancing lovers, one comedic section is done in the style of a French farce. Magritte’s derby-hatted character whose face is covered by a bright green apple (in Sokolow’s case, a green balloon), in his Son of Man, makes several appearances. Poetry, including John White’s nonsensical “Ago!” and Edgar Allen Poe’s “Alone,” intersects with the dancing. In the end there are no dancers, just a pair of boots representing Magritte’s painting The Red Model, in which the soles of the tattered footwear have sprouted human feet. The focus throughout—intentional or not—was on theater rather than dance, which was marred by a few moments of clumsiness.
Starburst fused music and dance in a seamless, magical way. A quintet of musicians, France’s le concert impromptu, played their instruments and danced simultaneously. Bassoons and flutes were shoved between legs and under arms during spins; clarinets and oboes became appendages. The music, and the way their bodies played music, inspired the movements, which included rhythmic walking and playing instruments while supine. It was easy to get caught up in the dancing with the props and forget that the musician/dancers were creating their own beautiful symphony at the same time.
The quintet dueled playfully with the Sokolow dancers in La Nef Des Fous. At times the dancers controlled the musicians, moving them around the stage, weaving between them, and guiding the music by clapping, stomping their feet, and slapping their bodies to inspire rhythms and musical shifts. Then the quintet took control, facilitating the dancers’ movements with its music. Although it was never clear which group was winning, their interactions were delightful to watch. See www.sokolowtheatredance.org.
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.
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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: