DANCING ON THE EDGE: With ‘beginner’s eyes’

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By Thursday, Jun 30 Arts & Entertainment
Diane Smithers
Che Malambo dance company, in performance at Jacob's Pillow this week in Becket, Massachusetts.

Becket — Before moving on with our attempts to attend performances with an open mind, heart and eye, I want to thank the many folks who responded to my last column with insight and vision.

This column is meant to be more about an exchange of ideas than a critic’s point of view.

When I was a working producer, I would never, ever leave a performance before the final curtain. Asking you to be patient and open-minded has made me aware of the fact that as a civilian, I have become a bit more intolerant. So thanks for helping me remember to park my many years of experience at the door and to look with “beginner’s eyes.”

In my last column I mentioned Juan Siddi. I left before the second act. Why? Because I had made up my mind after the first act that there was a certain restraint in the passion of the dancers. I attributed this to experimentation in the group choreography. It seemed to me akin to ballet and modern dance. In my eyes it took the edge off and modified the energy that I love in Flamenco. The program — that I make a habit of reading after the performance — stated that the choreographer was interested in doing just that. So he succeeded. I was told that the second act delivered what I thought was lacking. So passion and energy combined with innovation is extraordinary. I missed out by not following my own advice.

This week I am going to see Che Malambo. I will try to go without expectations.

Bereishit Dance Company, in performance at Jacob's Pillow this week.

Bereishit Dance Company, in performance at Jacob’s Pillow this week.

I think I might watch it from an anthropologist’s point of view as it celebrates the traditions of the South American cowboy. I am also curious about Bereishit from Seoul Korea as they also pay homage to their heritage in a duet exploring traditional archery but also engage in more contemporary forms.

So perhaps approaching this week with a combination of anthropologist and journalist disposition will be helpful   (never forgetting the primary visceral response).

As an anthropologist I might want to focus on body types, skin tones, hairstyles. How are they like and unlike your own cultures? Do men and women have similar roles? What is the movement dynamic –- fast, slow, soft, percussive. Do they work in groups? What is the role of the individual? Are they telling a story? Etc. etc.

As a journalist I might want to find words, my own words to describe the movement. Is it abstract and if so what does that mean? Does it seem to be derived from other sources such as sports or everyday movement? How does the movement relate to music or to silence or other sounds. Do I have a visceral as well as intellectual reaction to the work or to an individual performer? And if it happens, why do individual performers draw my attention.

As suggested in my last column, find a movement or two, hand gesture or full body, that you can do yourself at home. Do it slowly as a meditation or with gusto. Have fun and realize the dancer in you.

Please let me know your reactions to these performances. The Pillow offers many ways to familiarize yourself with the various aspects of dance. Take advantage.


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