27 March 2007

Kinesis

Last Saturday evening I attended a dance concert: Right Before You Fell. I just fit it in, thanks to the repeated calls from my friends who made it a priority to check in with me and make sure I didn't forget about it in the miasma of my current schedule. I went directly from rehearsal to dinner at a friend's restaurant, to this concert, and then even made it to a late party. The party was to bid adieu to the loft that was home to Kirkos for years. The concert, that was a culmination of a friend(and fellow Kirkos member)'s very hard, very disciplined, and as it turned out, very fun work.

Kinesis Project Dance Theatre, headed up by dancer/choreographer Melissa Riker, had its full evening of performance last Saturday. My ties to Mel are multiple. I met her, as I did many good friends, performing in a show called Significant Circus, in 2001. She, Kate Magram, Patrick Lacey and I formed a sort of creative support group not too long after that--The Exploding Yurts (please don't ask)--and Kirkos came into being shortly after that. In the six years that I've known her, I've had the pleasure of watching Mel work and grow through that work. Saturday evening was a surprisingly emotional experience for me. I should have expected it, but I was surprised to experience just how much hope and excitement I was giving off during the concert. I was seeing my friend's work fully realized. I know how difficult that is to achieve, and something about just how much that means to her.

Me and modern dance, we don't hang out much . . . in spite of having had long-term relationships with two professional dancers in my time. I have a great appreciation for what the dancers can do, how expressive and dynamic their bodies and movements are. I envy that, in truth. I also respect it. So much so, in fact, that I refuse to be categorized as a dancer. This occasionally brings much frustration to the likes of Friends Melissa and Patrick, who are hell-bent on convincing me that I am worthy of at least the adjective, "dancer," if not the title. I resist. It's related to how I feel about Joe Nobody doing Guys & Dolls in his community theatre and then going around calling himself an actor. I mean, sure, he is. (Mad props to ma' boy Joe.) But he hasn't received any training, he hasn't gotten up at dawn to stand in a line for an open call, he hasn't haggled over a summer stock contract or sold worldly belongings in order to take said contract.

But I transtate a bit.

So we don't hang, me and the modern. I have just enough experience and appreciation to say about a concert, "I liked it because of THIS. THIS seemed a little weak, but that may have been in support of achieving THAT." I've been to concerts with dancers before, and often we appreciate the opposite aspects. When a number leans toward narrative a bit, I get excited. When it is seemingly solely about the beauty of the movement, I begin to tune out. Don't get me wrong: It's beautiful. Wow. Pretty. But so is a photograph of a sunset, and somebody needs to tell me why I should care. That's me. I'm an actor. Because of this bias (and I've done what I can think of to separate my appreciation for theatre from my appreciation for dance), some dance concerts I've seen have made me want to claw out my eyes and throw them underfoot.

And it's not the ones that are all about the beauty. No. If I can figure that out from an early moment--that priority--I can sit back and relax, let them dance me where they may. Rather, it's the ones that have something to say, but don't seem to give a damn if you understand it. Or that say something whether you like it or not, sucka! These really get to me, because the people involved--though I'm sure they went in with the best intentions...in some cases--inevitably chalk my lack of understanding up to me, not their efforts or ability to communicate with me. I suppose you could say that I value communication in my art. Intentional communication, be it about ideas, emotions or something else entirely.

To this end, Right Before You Fell was sort of the perfect show for yours truly. I must confess that, right up front. This critic is biased. The concert utilized set pieces, spoken dialogue, live music, character, scenario . . . it was very theatrical. People were constantly doing things, not just fulfilling choreography, and acknowledging and responding to one another. Imagine that.

Read about the inspiration for the show here, March 15. Some would have hated it. If I had gone looking for pin-point-perfect technique, or classical movement, or really anything conventional at all, I would have been disappointed. Instead I was uplifted by vignettes about trying to get along with and without people. Between dances, open doorways and closed doors were moved about on rollers by dancers dressed like nuevo gypsies, as they held a kind of movement dialogue with one another. Each had what seemed to be their own character, informing their choices and scenarios. Melissa's acrobalance experience shone through at certain points, particularly to a number choreographed to Tom Waits' "The Piano Has Been Drinking," a piece I was lucky enough to get a preview of at the Kinesis benefit in December (see 12/25/06 for a photo). That section, too, is a good example of one of the best aspects of Right Before You Fell: its sense of humor. I've known Melissa for a while now, so her brand of humor is about as familiar to me as anyone's. RBYF was a great manifestation of unbounded joy for living, and unabashed moments of the surreal.

I could critique some aspects of the show, of course. It irritated me not to have a schedule and titles of the different dances in the program, and I felt as though the end of the evening needed a more significant punctuation, or perhaps clearer imagery of having come full circle (or home, if the notion of taking a walk is to be followed through). But these things may become clear to me after our inevitable Yurtian debriefing. Kate, Patrick, Melissa and I will all gather and surmise, and I'll get the inside skinny on what her specific intentions were. Even without this knowledge, I walked away from the concert feeling fulfilled, and even a little happier about the little unhappinesses in my life at present.

Melissa has extended me an informal invitation to join Kinesis in some performances this summer. (She couches it in the term "movement actor" in deference to my sensitivity about artistic categories.) I hesitate, uncertain about what I can contribute and what I hope to get out of it, but seeing her concert shows me more possibilities for an exciting, empathetic collaboration. It might even be funny.

Hey! We could do excerpts from Guys and Dolls!

7 comments:

Melissa said...

Sweet Jeff - thank you for that ramble and tumble of a review.
It is time to Yurt - I am excited to field the questions that brew -
much love...
m

Melissa said...

Sweet Jeff - thank you for that ramble and tumble of a review.
It is time to Yurt - I am excited to field the questions that brew -
much love...
m

Jeff Wills said...

Dear Melissa - So glad to hear from you. I hope you're RESTING now. We'll Yurt soon enough...

Patrick said...

It's silly for me to answer one of your questions when Melissa already had a chance and chose not to, but I still want to point out that the evening was a full length piece, not a series of pieces. That's why there wasn't a list of titles. "Right Before you Fell" WAS the title. Those 'transitions' were actually part of the dance. Am I speaking out of turn M? Or getting it wrong?

Jeff Wills said...

Ah. Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiii'm dumb.

Approaching it now as a single, hour-and-a-half dance, I'm wondering how much I missed. (Probably a lot.) And why did I feel so compelled to view it as a regular dance concert? And did I apply the word concert, or was that part of the program? Some etymology for you (which further reinforces Patrick's observation):

1665, from Fr., from It. concerto "concert, harmony," from concertare "bring into agreement," in L. "to contend, contest," from com- "with" + certare "to contend, strive," freq. of certus, var. pp. of cernere "separate, decide" (see crisis). Before the word entered Eng., meaning shifted from "to strive against" to "to strive alongside." But Klein considers this too much of a stretch and suggests L. concentare "to sing together" (from con- + cantare "to sing") as the source of the It. word. Sense of "public musical performance" is 1689. Concerto was borrowed 1730 directly from It. as a musical term.

Melissa said...

No, not out of turn P - I hadn't thought about that....I didn't understand that it hadn't been gotten - I suppose because I know that the sections of the whole did exist seperately from one another at some point in their "lives" as works...and I know you Jeff, have seen them that way...But, Right Before You Fell is one full(long) thought now. Um, yes, a Concert, in all its definative forms. It just took (in some cases) 6 years to brew.
So, this is their final form. I may excerpt it for showing purposes...But RBYF - based on the moment before a word is spoken, a thought is actually expressed...or an answer arrived at - is an hour long, or as dancers say, evening length, work. I feel the separate parts that make the whole would lose something if I was asked to do them as separate "limbs" of a body of work. Like the Torture Project or some such developed works, where there are segments ("we begin", etc) as you workshop, and eventually it emerges as a whole.

Jeff Wills said...

This clears up a lot for me, Melissa. Thanks for dialoguing (is SO a word) about it on ma' 'blog. This is exactly the kind of discourse I find valuable as a record.