Saturday, June 26, 2010

Onstage last night

Yesterday I was with Amanda, a thinker and dancer who has an article in today‘s Washington Post about a DC neighborhood, and writes about other topics too - like coffee and ice cream (life’s essentials). We went to see Through Their Eyes, an exhibit of photography from Haiti. Many of the images were taken by teenagers in Haiti who, after the earthquake, were given cameras and photography workshops by a non-profit group, Zanmi Lakay. Their images are stunning and I bought one of the prints when I realized all the proceeds go to relief for Haiti. Then we went to Georgetown University to see The Pull of Negative Gravity by the Welders Theatre Company which was harrowing (about a soldier coming home from Iraq) and well-done. We talked about the burgeoning scene for young theater companies and how they are finding a conducive environment in DC, then asked why isn’t the same happening for dance in DC? There seem to be so few companies presenting performances that are about exploration, research and discoveries. A lot of what I see seems to be about decorating (look how nicely this goes with the music!) or illustrating (movement used to imitate feelings and events, which tends to border on pantomime). Makes me think of a trip Amanda and I took to Philadelphia in March to see the exhibit Dance with Camera at the Institute of Contemporary Art (the film above by Joachim Koester was included). The works were idiosyncratic, sincere, thought-provoking. Given the variety of ways our bodies move, how does it happen that so much dance on stages in DC looks similar? I think there are creative choreographers in this city, but somehow their works are not given platforms to be viewed, discussed, promoted or disseminated. I wonder why not.


  1. ahh, kate mattingly!!! thanks for the kind words. much appreciated.

    and also for the video snippet. once again, i love watching those dancers and wonder, again, what kind of directions they were initially given.

    finally, i found this comment of yours very thought provoking: "Given the variety of ways our bodies move, how does it happen that so much dance on stages in DC looks similar?" the idea that we have SO many options for movement is exciting and feels very optimistic--and yet we're choosing to limit ourselves to what we've already been taught or somehow decided was "attractive." that idea in itself--that we stick with what works, in essence--is directly against what i think of as the core concepts of modern dance--so why are we doing it? i'm as guilty as anyone, but it's worth thinking about, and then rethinking and rethinking.

  2. I imagine perhaps people stick with what works when they simply have nothing new to say. If you're creative, you don't stick to the status quo because doing so is by definition not creative. If you're creative/don't have something new to say, you may just want to "make" dance -- string a series of movements together and perform them. I think many a musician creates a song that has zero inventive value but that sufficiently pleases that musician, as well as his listeners. In sum, perhaps the reason people are not pushing boundaries here is because they don't feel the need to create. They don't feel creative. Maybe people are just too happy here...There are no demons to be unleashed. Has the swamp sucked out the sorrow so essential to sublimity?

  3. Oh, and the above video is KICK ARSE. Now that is creativity.