Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hans Op de Beeck

Saw a magical film today at the Hirshhorn: Hans Op De Beeck’s “Staging Silence.” The write-up in The Washington Post last Sunday was dismissive -- calling the film “little more than a soothing, innocuous diversion” – but the photo that accompanied the article made me curious to see it for myself.

I think there's a lot to be gleaned from these 22 minutes, particularly for people who are curious about choreography and culture. How can arrangements turn tiny pieces of material into fantastical landscapes? How do we, every day, endow gestures with meaning?

What is particularly eloquent in Op de Beeck’s creation is the way he keeps the hand of the artist visible – I see the fingers pick up and change the scenery, but I still feel transported by the results. The film becomes a path through a city street, a theater, a garden, an office, a park, and then a winter wonderland.

I found myself thinking of choreography even though there are no people, no bodies in the film (only occasional hands rearranging pieces). The brilliance is in the simplicity: the specificity in the arrangements transports me to other places. I thought of powerful performances where each movement was a vital part of a whole. Nothing extra, nothing extraneous.

The film also makes me consider the role we play in the worlds we create, when we press so much importance into some actions and events while virtually ignoring others. The details in the film are crucial, changing simple objects into gorgeous settings, yet making clear that this transformation occurs within us as the artist exposes the construction of each scene. I'm reminded of a line from Dance, Rituals of Experience that says: “Dance changes biology into a metaphor of the spiritual body in much the same way poetry changes words into forms that allow meanings that words normally cannot convey. The most curious thing about any human gesture is its power of insinuation, born of the ability of the body to overcome its inherent materiality.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

if you happen to be in Berlin

The picture above is from Munich (from Maya) but an email from Maya says she just arrived in Berlin. While we wait for photos from this city, here are suggestions of venues and galleries to visit (suggested by Ellen Chenoweth - thank you Ellen!): HAU 1, 2, 3 and Kastanienallee 77 plus the House of World Cultures. Best of all there is an opening on Friday the 28th (if you go Maya, please give us a complete report!) at MMX and features work by Andy Holtin who is a fascinating, super-smart artist based in Washington, DC and teaching at American University while making creations that are being exhibited around the globe... Go see this brilliant artist!

more from Maya

Above is Neuschwanstein Castle, which Maya says is an hour outside of Munich and "I had to hike up the mountain in the snow!" In Munich Maya studied with a contact tango teacher named Leilani Weis who she descibes as "so amazing. incredible incredible experience ending in a 7 hour jam."

Sunday, January 23, 2011


More news from Maya who graduated from GMU's School of Dance last year and who has been traveling the world meeting artists, training, performing, and auditioning. Here is her update and more:

"I came into London at the end of December and took classes at Greenwich Dance Academy with Ben Ash. Also took classes at The Place, Pineapple, and yes even the Central School of Ballet. I recognized a bunch of people and ran into some friends from Impulstanz which was great. The dance scene in London was interesting but was not as exciting as Brussels. Next I went to Paris to work with the same woman I worked with at PAF and we are hopefully going to have a showing in October at Studio Regard Du Cygne in Paris and we were asked to perform in Switzerland this August so I'm looking forward to that! I went to Barcelona and took some wild classes with Bebeto Cidra. I also saw Thierry De Mey perform Light Music. I have been really intrigued with all of his videos ever since we saw one in Kate's Dance History class and it was great seeing him live. Now I am here in Munich (see photo), I got workstudy for this contact-tango workshop. Today was my first day and it was very physical and wonderful. One of the dancers invited me to a contact-tango jam tonight so I am on my way. I am here until Tuesday with the workshop then I decided to check out Berlin for a couple of days. I have heard such fantastic things about the dance and art world there so I'm going. I'm really excited. Then I head back to Brussels, my friend from this summer found me a really great and cheap apartment in the center. I will be going to auditions in Amsterdam and Antwerp and pursue other projects in Brussels....."

In her message Maya asked about recommendations of places to visit in Berlin. Here are my suggestions, and if you are reading this and have been in Berlin recently please add a comment with more ideas: Dock 11, Tanzfabrik, and Radial System V. If you have never seen Thierry de Mey's creations, he is the director and composer who collaborated with William Forsythe on the film "One Flat Thing Reproduced"

Thinking about Maya's adventures and her curiosity and courage, I am reminded of another GMU graduate, Kalynn Frome, who I saw on stage recently in a new creation by Susan Shields and Heather McDonald called "Stay." It was performed at the Woolly Mammoth Theater in DC and Kalynn was stunning - her lush dancing exuding a wide range of emotions. It was breathtaking to see her take so many risks, and I love how her performance stays fresh in my memory weeks after it happened. Sometimes it is not necessary to get on plane to explore a world of possibilities.

One of the things I admire most about GMU is how the School of Dance equips its graduates for so many different paths - from traveling abroad to investigating interdisciplinary creations. As a new semester starts tomorrow, I am looking forward to meeting students, watching their artistry develop, and seeing how they thrive.