For my "day job" at the Tulsa Business Journal (arts writing is a seedy activity reserved for night), we're constantly talking about innovators; and we reserve a special section of the paper each issue to local entrepreneurs whose businesses are new, progressive and exciting.
At Urban Tulsa Weekly, the same is done for arts innovators, and the work of one of those will be performed in Tulsa on Tue., March 10, thanks to two local pioneers: Ken Tracy of Choregus Productions and Steve Liggett of Living ArtSpace.
Together, the two welcome the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to the Chapman Music Hall of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. 2nd St., in conjunction with Living Arts' annual New Genre Festival. This show marks the first time the Merce Cunningham Company has ever performed in Oklahoma.
Merce Cunningham is widely considered as one of the greatest living choreographers; and, at one time, was also considered one of the best American dancers. He formed the his dance company in 1953 and has spent the last 56 years creating daring, novel work that has been hailed for its interpretation of dance in relation to music and fine arts.
He collaborated with John Cage, an American composer and Cunningham's partner until Cage's death in the 1990s. Cage was an innovator himself, pioneering the use of chance and electronic music, as well as using musical instruments in non-traditional methods. Those of you who saw Adam Tendler perform Cage's "Sonatas and Interludes" last Thursday and Friday have a good idea of what his music is like.
According to www.merce.org, "both Cunningham and Cage made extensive use of chance procedures, which meant that not only musical forms but (also) narrative and other conventional elements of dance composition, such as cause and effect, climax and anticlimax, were also abandoned.
"Cunningham is not interested in telling stories or exploring psychological relationships: the subject matter of his dances is the dance itself."
Cunningham's company employs 14 dancers -- seven men and seven women -- and his work often involves collaborations with musicians and visual artists.
The repertory to be performed in the Tulsa show includes "Second Hand," choreographed to John Cage's "Cheap Imitation" in 1970; "Sounddance," choreographed in 1975 to music by David Tudor; and "Fabrications," choreographed in 1987 to "Short Waves" by Emanuel Dimas de Melo Pimenta. According to material from the company, "'Second Hand' has no décor. Jasper Johns, at the time the dance company's artistic advisor, designed the costumes, each of a single color except for the edge of the arm or leg on one side where another color enters. Johns asked that the dancers line up at the curtain call in a certain order, when the colors are seen to form a spectrum."
Of "Sounddance," Cunningham has said, "I felt like doing something vigorous, fast, complex." In the work, the dancers emerge from a tent-like structure at the back of the stage, remaining there until they are swept into the structure, as though in a wind tunnel.
"The general impression," he has said, "is of a space observed under a microscope."
For "Fabrications," Cunningham "used a chance process, based on 64 phrases... whose continuity and distribution among the dancers were determined by chance. Such is its structure, yet the dance undeniably has a dramatic, elegiac quality, though without narrative content."
"If you have followed contemporary dance for the past 50 years, you've just always heard the name Merce Cunningham," said Tracy. "It's a very interesting company. Anyone who has an interest in dance history really needs to see the Merce Cunningham Company perform."
The company performs Tue., March 10th at 7:30pm.
Tickets are $25-40, and those of you who purchased a New Genre Festival pass receive $10 off each ticket. Learn more at tulsapac.com
At the Galleries
The Oklahomans for Equality Gallery, 621 E. 4th St., will exhibit the work of Cheryl Burton in an exhibit titled "The Road to Feeture Photographs."
The artist and her best friend began traveling about 10 years ago and documented their travels with their feet. The results hang in the OKEQ Gallery through March, with an opening reception scheduled for Thurs., March 5 from 6-9pm. Learn more at okeq.org.
This Thursday, March 5, marks the opening of the annual MFA Exhibition by students at the University of Tulsa's School of Art in the Alexandre Hogue Gallery, 2935 E. Fifth St.
Students participating in the exhibit are painter Ty Smith, printmaker Cristiana Prada and ceramicist Joseph Blair. The exhibit opens with a reception from 5-7pm Thursday and hangs through March 26. For more, utulsa.edu.
Momentum: Art Doesn't Stand Still, OVAC's annual dynamic event, featuring the work of young Oklahoma artists, opens this weekend in a new location, a former post office at 320 SW 5th St., in downtown Oklahoma City.
The exhibit opens with a weekend-long event Friday and Saturday and continues March 11-14. The Tulsa-based artists exhibiting at Momentum are Valerie Banes, Steve Cluck, Samantha Franklin, Geoffrey Hicks, Cristi Martin, Michelle Weaver and May Yang.
Tickets to the event's opening are $10 in advance, $15 at the door, at www.momentumoklahoma.org. Oklahoma City is only a short jaunt from Tulsa, and the exhibit is one worth seeing.
Gilcrease Museum's newest educational project is Art Blast Sat., March 7, and involves hands-on arts activities for families led by local artists.
Activities for the day include: working with plein air artist Joey Frisillo as she teaches how to observe and capture outdoor light while creating a landscape painting, hearing stories from the Tulsa City-County Library Children's Department, enjoying lunch while viewing the Impressionable art of a balloon artist, watching a live performance of Artful Lives: Mary Cassatt and the Impressionists and creating an Impressionistic art piece with the Tulsa Children's Museum using all recycled materials.
The event is free with paid museum admission. The museum, 1400 N. Gilcrease Museum Road, is open from 10am-5pm. For more, visit gilcrease.org.
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