Friday, March 14, 2008

Yes, I’ll see you this Saturday at 1515 14th Street for the usual openings. Check out this piece from Sunday’s WaPo on Charles Cohan at Curator’s Office--another entry from Blake Gopnik in his From the Studio series.

This installment actually has some informational content—rare for a feature that’s typically just a couple of unilluminating sentences in a larger-than-normal typeface, disconcertingly surrounded by white space. (Note to the Post: A caption for an oversized photo doesn't really count as local visual arts coverage.)

What else is on my calendar? Coming up at the end of March: The Merce Cunningham Dance Company will perform their newest work, eyespace, at Sidney Harman Hall, March 27 - 29.

The new dance’s soundtrack will be distributed to audience members on iPods—so presumably there will be no music bouncing around in the space itself, just buzzing through hundreds of pairs of earbuds. You can even download an mp3 of the score for yourself once you’ve bought tickets online.

Rather than appearing to defy gravity—something audiences might reasonably expect with traditional ballet—Cunningham’s dancers often appear emphatically earth-bound as they execute everyday movements, sometimes awkwardly. Cunningham’s choreography can often boil down to the simplest possible view of what dance is: Bodies traveling in space together at different tempos, appearing and disappearing, seeming to track in and out of synch with whatever rhythms are (or aren’t) being generated by the score. As dancer and longtime Cunningham collaborator Carolyn Brown once put it:
Merce always appeared to be interested only in the correct timing and spacing, seeming to believe that if these elements were right, any other problems would solve themselves. When asked, “How do you do this turn (or fall or jump)?”, his answer was inevitably, “You just do it.” Viola Farber and I were always amused when after a rehearsal had been a total disaster, Merce’s only comment, as he glanced at his stopwatch, would be, “It’s two and a half minutes fast.”
(An entertaining and very readable introduction for anyone interested is Calvin Tomkins’s The Bride and the Bachelors--which illustrates the link between Marcel Duchamp and a new generation of avante-gardeists in various disciplines, including John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and Merce Cunningham.)

Below is a video clip of Biped, a dance Cunningham created using computer software (he now choreographs all of his dances on Danceforms) and motion capture technology:


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