Archive for January, 2012

January 29, 2012

exclusive interview with ballet master Elaine Kudo

by ashleyandersondances

Google Elaine Kudo and you might as well be Googling “Twyla Tharp Sinatra Suite,” so synonymous is Kudo with her experience as a dancer and ballet master for Tharp. Kudo’s three week stint restaging Tharp’s 1996 “Sweet Fields” brings a bit of Tharp to the Modern Dance department at the University of Utah. I sat down with Kudo and Associate Professor in the department Sharee Lane to speak about “Sweet Fields,” Twyla Tharp, and what Baryshnikov was really like.

loveDANCEmore: How did “Sweet Fields” come to the University of Utah?

Sharee Lane:  I met Elaine when I was teaching for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company. This must have been at least seven years ago, and Elaine was there setting “Sweet Fields” on the dancers, and I had the whole week to sit in on her rehearsals and watch her gentle yet patient but challenging spirit get this choreography out of the dancers. And (“Sweet Fields”) is very tough because of its’ unusual style.

When I first saw Elaine, we became friends almost immediately. I was teaching for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in 2001 and Elaine was there, cleaning “Sweet Fields,” getting the dancers ready for another performance. Elaine and I went to have coffee, and over coffee we had the idea to set “Sweet Fields” on the University of Utah dancers.

lDm:    So it is your connections with “Sweet Fields” that gave the modern dance department the opportunity to perform it?

Lane:   Yes. Elaine has faith in this department. I’ve heard many amazing things about her from other companies where she has taught or set Twyla’s choreography.

lDm:    (to Kudo) I won’t ask you how it’s going.

Elaine Kudo:  It’s going great.

lDm:    (Staging the piece on modern dancers) is a different animal to work with.

Kudo:  It is. And both setting it on ballet dancers as well as setting it on modern dancers is a challenge because it’s such an in-between technique. It’s interesting…the ballet dancers will not be grounded and I have to remind them about their arms, to not be so flowery. The modern dancers, I have to keep reminding about their turnout and line. So I have a different pitfall with each group. So you’ve got different problems, and I wouldn’t say that one is greater than the other, it’s just a different set of issues because (Tharp’s) technique actually requires being able to move across the boundaries of each area.

lDm:    When did you first start restaging Twyla Tharp’s choreography?

Kudo:  Pretty much when I stopped dancing. At the end of 1989 or 1990 is when I stopped dancing at American Ballet Theater after 15 years with them. It started with a trickle. I would stage one piece a year, and now its five or six times a year.

lDm:    What do you consider yourself? A choreographer? A teacher? A ballet mistress?

Kudo:  It’s a mix of things. I think of myself primarily as a teacher/ballet master. I have taught in a school setting but during that time I’ve been serving as a ballet master for various companies and staging and coaching, so I’m on that end more so than being a choreographer. I have choreographed quite a bit, but it’s not the primary thing in my life.

Lane:   What is the difference between classes a Tharp dancer takes and a class a ballet dancer takes before a performance?

Kudo:  Twyla believe in a strong ballet technique, so the company always does a purely ballet technique class. When she does workshops though, she experiments with all kinds of movement which she is always incorporating into her choreography…I mean, all the way down to boxing, aerobics, yoga…a lot of cross training. She has always been very interested in what gets people into good physical conditioning.

To develop material, a lot of time she just kind of bops around to music. The choreography becomes more detailed. She doesn’t really talk much but you follow and you pick up as many details as you can…she wants to see how much the dancers can pick up quickly, because it is important to her that they have that kind of eye.

lDm:    Was there any improvisation in creating her choreography?

Kudo:  It works its way in. There were times in rehearsals where there is a pool of material that you’re supposed to pull from. That was hard for me, coming from the ballet world.

A lot of it is not improvisation, but in the development of choreography, she does require you to think a lot more. Instead of putting something together for you, she might say, “Ok, these are your phrases, now you take every odd number and create your own phrase,” which is more a modern dance concept. That’s how her process was for “Push Comes to Shove.” Some dancers at ABT (American Ballet Theater) thought that it was fun, and some dancers just couldn’t be bothered. I was like “Oh, this is fun. I like this. It’s intriguing,” and Twyla picked up on that right away. That’s how our relationship developed early on.

lDm:    When you watch the video of “Sinatra Suite,” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3SFHjfAOl4) it seems like there is a strong character defined in the dance. Did Tharp tell you any imagery or character traits to act out in the piece?

Kudo:  She didn’t say, “You should be thinking this here or there.” She let me develop that on my own. But for “Nine Sinatra Songs,”…she already had an image. She gave me actresses— like Ingrid Bergman was the kind of character that should be evoked in the song that’s called “All the Way.” It should be a very settled, stable character who is in a stable relationship that is very trusting.

And there’s a duet (in set to Sinatra’s “That’s Life”) that has a tough character and she gets pushed around a lot and (Tharp) said to think of Ida Lupino, who is a real kind of tough cookie in the same period of black and white movies (as Ingrid Bergman). So I tried to find those people and look at them, to see what kinds of roles they played to get an idea and imagery to work off of.

lDm:    Do you pass that imagery and inspiration on?

Kudo:  I do. I pass on any words of wisdom that she’s given me.

lDm:    Are you allowed to take liberties with Tharp’s choreography?

Kudo:  Not usually, but this particular piece has been done many ways. I don’t know what the history of that is. Actually the most interesting thing about “Sweet Fields” is that there is a solo that has been done alternately by a woman and a man, so I think that’s a little bit unusual. This one is a little bit more flexible, but the other pieces usually aren’t.

lDm:    Do you have to ask Tharp if you are allowed to change the choreography for “Sweet Fields”?

Kudo:  In this case I’m not. When I did “Sweet Fields” at Santa Fe I actually got together with Twyla in front of the videotape and we discussed how we were going to adapt it, because it was the first time. She was quite involved in that shifting of it, but now that its been done so many different times I don’t think I have to run it by her.

lDm:    How would you be dancing be different if you hadn’t met Tharp?

Kudo:  I performed in a lot of Twyla’s pieces before I actually learned what the technique was about. In some ways I wish that I had danced with the company it a little bit earlier, because overall it made me a better dancer. I feel like I learned so much when I was actually dancing with her company that I wish I had known when I was doing those pieces before.

lDm:    Like?

Kudo:  Like using weight. Especially in ‘Sinatra’, the partnering was quite difficult. When I did it with Misha (Baryshnikov), a lot of it is about shared weight. As a ballet dancer I was more used to being on one leg and being manipulated.

lDm:    Was Baryshnikov good at Tharp’s technique?

Kudo:  Umm..no. He kind of just did it the way he did it. And I think that we did a pretty decent job for two ballet dancers but I think if we’d known better, I think we could have even been better at it. If we’d really known what we were supposed to be doing.

And on that note I will leave loveDANCEmore readers thinking of how Baryshnikov could have been any better (read: any sexier) than he was in his performance in “Nine Sinatra Songs.” Kudo will finish restaging the piece this week, and will return for the performance at Kingsbury Hall, which will include a live choir to accompany the piece, March 9th and 10th.

 

Sofia Strempek

Sofia is an intern with loveDANCEmore and BFA student at the U

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January 29, 2012

next up on the agenda

by ashleyandersondances

guest reviewer Atticus Sudbury Howell (age 5) will be writing about the RW children’s show next weekend and Kitty Sailer will be contributing her thoughts on the My Turkey Sandwich production of the Yellow Wallpaper.

you too can contribute your own reviews by commenting on the review threads OR e-mail lovedancemore@gmail.com, whichever you like.

if you haven’t already check out Elizabeth Stich’s writing on SB’s recent show (run concluded tonight but he’ll be back in the fall!). add your own comments there and while you are at it consider submitting to the spring performance journal.

January 28, 2012

A review of The Beast

by ashleyandersondances

Following close on the heels of last summer’s The Very BEaST of SB Dance, this current installment remains true to the SB Dance brand identity: striking imagery, inventive use of props, irreverent talk, an all-star cast of dancers, and of course, bare buttocks.
I was pleasantly surprised that the evening featured mainly new material, as I was expecting numerous repeats from the past concert. I enthusiastically re-watched the show opener, Table, featuring Jenny Larsen and Nathan Shaw gliding across the stage on an industrial table with wheels. I was equally enthusiastic that Brown raised the stakes with physical daring and risk, most noteworthy being Shaw’s epic table body surfing and dive roll. Less successful was the reworking of Ninja, featuring Larsen on bungee straps. While I had enjoyed the previous version, this new adaptation seemed like a techno-infused caricature of the original.
And of course I can’t fail to mention the revision of Cowboy, featuring not one, not two, but an entire cast of nude-but-for-newspaper dancers. Maybe it’s just me, but the nudity (or the tease of it) doesn’t do much for me. Apparently the audience members to my right didn’t share my opinion as evidenced by their catcalls of appreciation. They also couldn’t seem to get enough of Brenda Sue’s monologue Job, which can be described succinctly by its catch phrase “Fuck you.” I got enough of this quickly and while not offended, became just plain bored. This made me wonder who SB Dance’s intended audience is and the answer is probably not me. I neither blush nor get worked up over bare bodies and curse words, but I realize that for some this could be a thrilling experience in the formal setting of the theater.
The evening also included several new works, my favorite being Body, featuring the limp (yet very toned) body of Juan Carlos Claudio being manipulated in wonderfully physical ways by several cast members. Another new vignette, Pole, consisted of polished and precise work between a quartet of dancers and the long metal pole that connected them. Although I enjoyed both of these new additions, they made me ask “What’s the point?” For those pieces that are excerpts of larger works, I wish I could put these striking tableaus into context and add another layer of meaning and enjoyment to my experience. For those created new this season, I question how they contribute to the show as a whole, other than eeking the run time to just shy of an hour. In the end, the excerpts and new mini-pieces struck me as a bit disjointed.
The final suite of the evening featured a preview of a new evening length work, In Trust and Treason, to premiere in June 2012. This smoky dance fueled with sexual tension seems like a promising return to the realm of sustained idea development. I am eager to see more from the trio of Liberty Valentine, Stevan Novakovich, and Juan Carlos Claudio and find it satisfying to watch these mature dancers with a history of performing together shine in their character roles. In fact, Brown acknowledges his stellar cast of dancers in the program notes stating, “The story behind this performance is a phenomenal cast. They’re so good that all I have to do is stay out of their way.” I agree.

Elizabeth Stich holds her
MFA from the U and teaches almost everywhere in the valley (seriously). /em>

January 25, 2012

tonight there are two things you could do

by ashleyandersondances

you could take class with Efren Corado — 7pm — RW studio
it’s not that expensive

but if you need more cash for dance you can go to a Creative Capital information meeting at UMOCA (former Salt Lake Art Center) at 5:30pm. they’ve never awarded $ to Utah based artists/groups and are looking to change that status

January 23, 2012

coming up….

by ashleyandersondances

tomorrow take class with Sugar Show winner Efren Corado as part of Master Class. 7-8:30 at the RW studios, discount for using public transit!

also check out Sugar Space’s new co da project — a cooperative dance company that plans to share space, teach classes and present shared performances. the cooperative is seeking applications to admin@thesugarspace.com and details are available on facebook or their website.

don’t forget SB’s show next weekend and while Liz Stich will write a great review for the blog all thoughts are welcome — the print journal is out soon, soon, soon so submit any reviews or additional materials to lovedancemore@gmail.com

January 22, 2012

the Sugar Show (2012 edition)

by ashleyandersondances

In their introduction last night Brittany Reese & Stephen Brown told us that the Sugar Show concept is based loosely on Neta Pulvermacher’s original A.W.A.R.D. show in New York. That program was an effort to give one artist funding based on audience feedback with a little bit of competition dance style marketing tossed in. After it’s initial run in New York the event expanded to include different cities and SLC wasn’t on the list. Although the Joyce wouldn’t sanction the use of the name “A.W.A.R.D.” show here, Brittany kept at it over the past four years, landing at the name Sugar Show, in partnership with SB Dance at the Rose Wagner.

As a point of fact, our own road to this year’s Sugar Show has included many “award show” pit-stops: Ashley was an audience member at one of the first ever A.W.A.R.D. show preliminaries at the Joyce SOHO, afterward she performed in a Philadelphia A.W.A.R.D. show, has published an essay by Ishmael Houston-Jones on the concept of “award shows” and this year served as a Sugar Show panelist. Sam has been a performer in a recent New York A.W.A.R.D. show season, was a preliminary choreographer in the 2011 Sugar Show and now was a voting audience member.

With these contexts in mind we both say Bravo!! to the developments Brittany and SB have made upon the original concept, even without the support of the Joyce. While many people have taken the “award” idea to task stating a variety of concerns about the way dance is funded, Brittany stuck to her guns that audiences in collaboration with a professional panel can be an effective way to engage audiences and support choreography.

In collaboration with SB new changes continue to emerge. Artists last night didn’t get all or nothing, each choreographer was offered the respect and fairness of $150 to support the project they had made with the winner netting less than the traditional “award” show, but still a fair fee, in the amount of $450. The emerging choreographers highlighted were able to perform their work at the Rose to a sold out crowd and are now known outside of their own, smaller audience base. Before the performance, artists were paired with mentors and received production support for the final event – this revealed itself in the content of the work, a lot was truly experimental and reflected months of rehearsal.

The new atmosphere, with all artists being rewarded, was more casual than years past. While the votes are tallied the feedback session can drag (is there ever an easy way to moderate those conversations?), but if dance needs something it’s a few more hostages and we applaud the effort at large. And throughout the evening they asked for feedback so we are giving it. Although this means our review itself will drag, we each wrote a few sentences about each piece as a critical offering to the choreographers. Feel free to add your own comments to what we list below.

Nell Suttles – “The Cherry Plum Test” This sextet was danced by five adult women and narrated by a twelve year old girl who recollects and directs. The four vignettes were marked like diary entries in spoken text. At times the dance would stop and start at her behest so that she could interject, walk around and stop time. At one point she mused, “it is something about time instead of space…” And time seemed at the heart of this work. The temporal suspensions it raised for consideration were both overt and sublime. There was the age gap between performers represented by these women in their twenties dancing through the thoughts of this friendly if ultimately mysterious child (who ironically didn’t seem as young in the lights of the Rose…perhaps something to consider in future iterations). The dancing itself seemed concerned with time too. We won’t soon forget a line of all five dancers facing offstage, heels suspended just off of the ground, in a state of potential energy paused. We sense that the piece could have been more fully developed though we aren’t sure how that would have been accomplished with out disturbing its delicate adolescent qualities. We hope Suttle continues down this line of investigation perhaps by considering how each vignette is woven by the young narrator.

Transfusion Hype Dance Company (Ashlee Vilos) – “Wake Up!” The projected text in the work was heavy handed but the dancers in this commercial project are committed, well rehearsed and clearly ready to experiment in realms outside of what you might expect to see from a successful, commercial enterprise. It was engaging to see so many performers on stage, large casts are rare even for mainstay companies RDT and RW, and their relationships were clearly crafted. We would encourage a consideration of similar choreographers who have bridged popular dance forms with successful concert dance careers — Rennie Harris and Crystal Frazier in Philadelphia or Doug Elkins in New York are just two examples of artists working between popular idioms in new contexts. There are also contexts to consider that go the other way around — how concert dance choreographers Bill T. Jones, Twyla Tharp and Jerome Robbins found their careers moving from modern dance forms back to Broadway or musical theater.

fourfive (Leah Nelson & Cortney McGuire) – “sure…ok, bye” Promising, if unfinished, this virtual duet was cool, collected and stunning to watch. Leah’s dancing has something more than what generally passes for clarity, a self-organizing principal that maybe she leans on a bit too hard in this instance – her clarity perhaps overshadowed her virtual partner and our understanding of her video and audio presence. Still, we loved the spread of video of a woman at home (Leah herself we first thought, but in fact her collaborator) moving futilely around a kitchen as a baby (and/or a cat?) almost crawls the walls. And the long distance improv score was the best long distance improv we’ve seen since 2010. It was funny, and the audience got that, but it also gave us some deeper information about our technological self without being heavy handed.

Joni Tuttle – “To Mouth Something” This work included some very competent dancing by a bunch of people we haven’t seen before which is always a pleasure to see in your hometown. The intended investigation of the relationship between facial expressions and choreography was most successful when the facial expressions became secondary to some beyond lovely full bodied dancing. In this way we were both reminded of classic abstract works (in fact, the choreographer studied Forsythe’s improvisation work which seems related). The tension between making a work reflecting abstract concepts of beauty and/or absurdity and making a work that reflected a diverse array of strategies never really resolved. It seems that a lot of material was left in to “round out the dance” or “make it feel complete” rather than because it related to the overall concept or vision the piece found itself addressing.

and the special mention, “winning”, choreographer Efren Corado – “TRANSCRIPTS” In our view this was a memoir that explored loss through language. In a mixture of Spanish and English, the choreographer expressed his fear of the inevitable loss of his past, as personified by his grandmother. At the same time he told painful and funny stories of transition into the US, including, most strikingly, learning to say the English word “ten” and experiencing a carpeted bedroom for the first time. He danced throughout and even sang, mournfully with part of his score. Other solos that attempt this level of catharsis and personal exploration, with this much text have failed. Efrén somehow succeeded at making both dance and text necessary. The steady stream of dance and bilingual text was totally honest but also totally overwhelming. It put us through an experience of unpacking the dance’s meaning while forgetting much of it even as we watched. The experience of consuming dance as an analogy of Corado’s own continuing sense of lost was not lost on the audience, who mostly seemed to agree with us that it was quite moving. In terms of sheer, technical feedback there were moments this world was shaken up by simple flaws (poor mixing of volume on a soundtrack for example) and with the winning cash we hope another version will be presented ASAP.

Sam Hanson holds a BUS from the University of Utah and currently makes dance films. Ashley Anderson holds an MFA from Hollins/ADF and runs loveDANCEmore events in SLC.

January 22, 2012

New York – They’re Just Like Us!

by ashleyandersondances

loveDANCEmore actively accepts reviews of performances by anyone who has a desire to write about dance. This kind of open dialogue is common now, and while it might make professional critics obsolete (too bad for me, a graduating modern dance major with a desire to work in such a field) it does mean that one audience members opinion is as valid as another (unless you can get Google to hype up your blog/Facebook page/website). loveDANCEmore finds an ally with the recently formed “Collective for Dance Writing and New Media”. I’ve posted their mission, Facebook speak for manifesto, below. Learn more about the collective at
http://www.facebook.com/CollectiveDWNM?sk=wall

Collective for Dance Writing and New Media, founded in 2011, is a 21st Century initiative to connect dance writers with one another and with our allies across disciplines in the arts and technology. We form these bonds to address longstanding needs in the service of experienced, emerging and prospective dance writers.

● to provide supportive community and networking opportunities for dance writers

● to establish resources and comprehensive, cutting-edge training for dance writers at all levels of our careers

● to set and maintain professional standards for dance writing, and to encourage experimentation and innovation with new forms and technological methods of reportage, documentation and creative expression

● to fight for adequate compensation and just working conditions for dance writers and to explore new, sustainable models of support and compensation

● to create new outlets for the diverse expertise within our field–venues and opportunities for writers and media producers, editors, speakers, curators, dramaturgs and consultants

● to increase cultural diversity within our field and to promote coverage of dance across its aesthetic range and cultural spectrum

● to improve our working relationships with dance artists, organizations and publicists

● to enhance communication with dance audiences, the mainstream media and the general public

● to spotlight and advocate for the art of dance as well as all forms of writing about dance to increase readership and elevate discourse

/////

May I just give a quick internet high-five to Ashley Anderson, who created this type of organization before the collective began just over a month ago & Eva Yaa Asantewaa for similarly using her blog as a way to advance the same issues.

January 22, 2012

a sugar show review is coming up

by ashleyandersondances

later today you can find a Sugar Show review here on the blog
but first!
remember that as 2012 performances get going (SB Dance this coming weekend and My Turkey Sandwich the next, for starters) you too can send your reviews of dance performances.

every now and then we get a comment about the mean-spirited nature of dance criticism on the blog. also, we call it out (see an earlier post about Brian Seibert’s NYTimes reviews of late).
but this post is simply a reminder that all the dance writing comes from within our Salt Lake dance community. each writer who chooses to share with you in this form, or on the print journal, is never a person attempting to disparage artistic pursuits — instead it would be all of our goals, as working artists, to put into context the things we see and experience on stage.

maybe that’s not always a raging success but that’s part of the trick! the more experience we all get performing our work and writing about our work as well as works by others the better we get at doing all three.

so as the 2012 season unfolds send your own thoughts or comment on the threads provided to offer your own comments on what you see on stage.

January 21, 2012

sugar show is here!

by ashleyandersondances

tonight, 8pm at the rose.
be there to see new works by nell suttles, efren corado garcia, transfusion hype, joni tuttle & leah nelson.
honorariums, great fun, everything you could dream.

January 21, 2012

democracy is real

by ashleyandersondances

It might not feel like it in a world where elections feel more like a circus than representation of our views on the country, but in Salt Lake I’m experiencing it to be real.

Some of you might remember several blogs back when I went to town on UPAC and how I felt it was negative for so many local artists.
I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to speak with someone at the mayor’s office after that public forum.

Now of course, no one at that meeting said to me “we love what you said and we’ll follow your every idea to the letter.” But I was given new information like
— the design of the building and it’s PLANNED smaller spaces are still up in the air on many levels
— there are other arts projects the city plans to begin on a more local level even if they aren’t willing to abandon the long hoped for financial incentives of this particular project

So please. As arts issues come up in the city and/or county please continue to advocate for this form in which we all participate. You never know who might be listening and who might have, pleasantly surprising, answers.