A different look at Dance
Always something new to think about; “How different people view a dance performance”. Also how do we build an audience for the future.
I teach a Partnering Class at Goucher College. Last semester it was just an introduction for the students. The class is very important for the Dance Department as it moves forward in becoming a more complete dance education.
And interestingly enough it has become very popular with the male non-dance students. Through this class we are introducing many young men to the dance art form. (I have written about this in previous installments of my Blog.)
So, this semester the class can now be taken for credit. The males in the class are doing amazingly well. One of their Class Assignments was to review the performance I created of “The Myth and the Madness of Edgar Allan Poe”
My thought was that the performance would be good for these students because of the large amount of partnering in the Ballet.
I was impressed by all of the critiques written by these students. So I thought I would pass along one these to you.
Below you will find a critique written by Max March-Steinman. Max has only come to dance in the Partnering Class. He has developed in a short time into a fine partner.
Anyway, I thought I would pass this along…
“The Myth and the Madness of Edgar Allan Poe”
Stepping into the Krashaur Auditorium, I didn’t know what to expect. All I was told was that I would be in for a treat when it comes to partnering. And truly, I was. But let’s start at the beginning. What should one expect in a ballet about Poe? What I knew of him, a mad, melancholy maniac and genius, I did not know how I would translate to the stage. How does one portray a lifetime of writing line after line of poetry? In this case, by presenting the social condition that shaped this personality.
From a literary perspective, I think this technique was incredibly effective, and served to create a narrative structure in which the themes of loss, sanity and creation could be explored. Which brings us to the characters. Each one was grounded in a motif movement that sevred to highlight them not only as dancers, but believable personalities. Poe, with jerky, uncoordinated movements coupled with beautiful solos and parenting told a story of alcoholism, loss and genius to the audience. His father, on the other hand, accomplished his movements with finality and purpose, and his sharp, strong dancing translated as a distant father who was set in his aristocratic ideologies.
Even performing the same movements, the dancers expressed their characters in different ways. The Raven utilized a method of exploring bird-like movements to emphasize Poe’s descent into madness. But what I truly appreciated were that the leads accomplished a sense of individuality through facial expressions and posture. This was really inspiring to me as I could see exactly how they convinced the audience of their actions and characters (Ex. Poe and Father’s partnering where facial movvements created the relationship between them). What’s more, in comparing my partnering to theirs, I notice how I focus so much on the movement/steps that I cannot perform an identity at the same time. In making their characters shine through, the performers made us forget they were dancing steps; they just looking like they were dancing beautifully.
In terms of partnering, I was pretty blown away. Not only were novel combinations explored (male-male, double partnering, group partnering [with the ravens carrying Poe’s mother, lover, etc.]), but techniques which we hadn’t even attempted in class were carried out beautifully. Indeed, I was so excited to do a double lift in class to experience how the death character and student ravens collaborated to manipulate one body. Further, not only were the partners there for each other constantly, with fast hands, but they complemented each other’s lines as well. I think what I appreciated most was the torch lift that death did near the end of the performance, knowing how hard it is to first accomplish, and second made to look effortless.
In all the performance was memorable. Although the music was at times grating (and I suppose it was supposed to be), the dancers narrated Poe’s life beautifully, and the interplay between professionals and Goucher dancers was even forgotten at times. The Goucher girls’ performance in the play was interesting, it seems like they were there to frame and accentuate the professionals (especially the lead Raven), much like us guys frame the girls we are partnering. I think that the mix was beneficial for students; they could compare, like me, their techniques to those of the professionals, and also develop a relationship to dance as a profession.
The Traveling Ballet Master