… that’s what the past week has seemed to gift me with. Yesterday, amidst one of the hottest days this summer in the Berkshires to date, a sudden summer storm swept the Pillow campus for a mere 10 minutes max. Interestingly enough, through the absolute torrential downpour, the sky remained bright and sunny, as if to taunt us as we scrambled to stay dry. Metaphorically, the idea of what could be perceived as completely and utterly disastrous at my job always seems to have an air of happiness floating above it. Like what’s “bad” can’t always be that bad. After all, we get to be a part of this National Historic Landmark dedicated to dance. We get to educate people on why this art form is so special, so important, so imperative to life and human expression. So, it’s pretty sunny around here after all.
This week, Matthew Neenan’s Sunset, o639 hours graces the stage of the Ted Shawn Theater. Awakening our audiences to a complete, whole, theatrical production, the Philly-based company brought a story of a pilot from the Pan-Am glory days, in the era of the simple, heart-wrenching love story. As the group of airline attendants slash pilots slash dancers are transported to different areas of the world, musicians create a unique atmosphere of historical reflection with a seemingly modern twist. Throughout the evening, we hear snippets of letters – love letters, letters to family and friends, updates on life traveling the world. I was the most struck by the visually stunning set pieces – the evolution of a paper airplane broken into five separate pieces on the upstage-most point of the theater, each piece probably five times the size of the performers swirling beneath. The final stage of the airplane suspended high above rows A, B, and C of the house, pointing outwards as if taking off from the confines of our compact wooden surroundings.
Escher/Bacon/Rothko explored the work of these three visual artists in an evening length suite of thoughtful, creative genius. I was most struck by the unique compilation of dancers Zvi chose to represent his company. Not all seemed to have the typical professional dancer body that a lot of other companies seem to hold as a standard. Instead, each dancer possessed a sense of individuality, and quirky-ness that both supported and complimented Zvi’s inventive choreography. First, dancers transformed and integrated in homage to Escher’s signature black and white style. Then we saw five men explore Bacon portraiture in a shocking and striking way. We were left with a final soloist struggling to stay breathing, his contorted face and uncontrollable body being manipulated by an invisible attacker. After intermission and entirely new world was painted (no pun intended), where the angular simplicity of Rothko was investigated. Movement almost became meditation, as cannons of continuous phrasing never found an arc – nor an end. In his post show talk, Zvi explained that viewers of Rothko’s work will often come away after viewing it for extended periods of time with a euphoric calm. The pieces are often used to induce a sort of meditation. I was in utter awe of what I has seen, and empowered by the idea of deep research of one’s work. Clearly, this man knows how to develop movement on a cerebral level, and I appreciate that endlessly.
- New Works from NYC – three different companies came together to present an evening of what’s brand-new on the contemporary scene in the city. Chuck Wilt’s UNA Projects, Kyle Marshall Choreography, and Abarukas hit the stage with loud choreographic voices. Quirky wit, soft investigation, and intense confidence and empowerment could be seen respectively.
- Caleb Teicher & Co – a company formed by a young man with wise knowledge of the field. Percussive, fun, intelligent, thought-provoking… the performance was contemporary while paying respects to those who’ve come before in tap and soft shoe dancing. The charming ease of Fred Astaire mixed with the advanced craft of Gregory Hines. I love this company. I also loved being able to take a swing class with him right before.
- The Chase Brock Experience – ironically included Caleb, along with two other dancers we had been introduced to the day before. Chase seems like an eclectic, colorful individual, whose personality certainly shines through in his work. I appreciated the integration of styles – tutting, hip hop, soft shoe, Irish step, tap, theater.
Little Shop of Horrors
The Berkshire Theater Group’s production in nearby Pittsfield was absolutely, utterly incredible. Now I understand why people come to the Berkshires for amazing art in the summertime. Every single actor was or has been a Broadway, Off-Broadway, and TV actor. For those familiar with the story, “Audrey 2,” the plant, was played by a fab-u-LUS drag queen. He lip synced his entire performance wearing the word’s more sparkly tights and flashy green dress complete with plunging neckline. At the end, the audience finally got to see the woman who sang the entire time. The dynamic duo made the whole show for me.
And now, I’m off to a wedding back home. It’s been five weeks of the ten week festival. Halfway complete with this incredible experience.
What if our DOING and our BEING could connect? Wouldn’t everyday’s “rain” always have a little bit of sun?