We've been hearing this word "fluidity" a lot lately. In economics, it refers to an asset's ability to be converted into cash. In the ballet world, the word is used to describe the dancers of Jiri Kylian's Petite Mort.
The ballet is part of a triple-bill titled "Legends" that the Tulsa Ballet presents Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and 2, and Marcello Angelini, TB artistic director, could not have made a more stunning pick.
I got a sneak preview of the dance when I Googled "Petite Mort" and came across a YouTube video of the Nederlands Dans Theater performing the work. Its first few minutes are dominated by the males in the company in a sequence vaguely reminiscent of last year's Bruiser (choreographed by Stantoon Welch and performed as part of TB's "In White" presentation)--but with swords.
The one dance reminded me of the other for their similar use of the company's male dancers and the ways in which the movements emphasize the dancers' grace, agility and athleticism.
The piece begins when six dancers emerge, backward, onto a dimly lit stage, fencing foils held high above their heads. There is no music; all the audience hears is the light slapping of the dancers' feet on the stage as they land from graceful leaps and the quick whipping of the foils, slicing the air.
The dancers retreat into the darkness and reemerge, joined by the company's females gowned in crinolines and music by Mozart.
"What follows," described Angelini, "is a series of pas de deux, violent, tender, funny, all the emotions and endeavors of human desire."
The foils, he said, symbolize aggression, sexuality and danger, and the crinolines serve as a recurring joke, "inhabited" by the ladies on and off throughout the piece.
"This is truly the work of a genius," Angelini said.
This will be the first time TB performs a work by Kylian, a project nine years in the making, according to Angelini.
"Jiri Kylian (a Czech choreographer who has been the artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater for more than 20 years) is acknowledged as one of the world's leading choreographers for his unique style and boundary-pushing invention," said Angelini. "But above all that, there is the soul of this man that breathes through each one of the steps and layers the overall structure of his works."
Alberto Montesso is a demi-soloist who came to TB from his home in Italy two years ago. He will perform in each one of the works in "Legends."
"To dance Petite Mort is a dream come true for me," said Montesso. "Using the foil...is the most challenging part of this work. From balancing the foil on one finger to rolling it on the floor and making it stop in an exact position, this piece is demanding in ways not found in any other ballet. When it works, the results are surreal and the audience is mesmerized."
Marvels in Motion
Accompanying Petite Mort are Nacho Duato's Gnawa and Paul Taylor's Black Tuesday.
"Gnawa" refers to an ethnic group in Morocco comprised mainly of the descendents of former slaves from sub-Saharan Africa.
It is a culture brimming with folklore, stories told through song, dance and ritual.
There is no video online of Gnawa being performed, so we'll just have to take Angelini's word for it until this weekend.
"This work breaks a bit with the Duato we are used to seeing, at least, the one we have experienced through (TB's performances of) Remansos and, the year before, Por Vos Muero," said Angelini. "Those two works are very lyrical, while Gnawa is more vigorous in its composition.
"For me, this is an opportunity to experience the range of creativity of this great master. The score is composed of Spanish and North African sounds and music and evokes the sensuality of the landscape and the people who live around the Mediterranean Sea."
Montesso added, "The challenges of Gnawa come in the same form as the rewards. It's all in the music. I love dancing to the Spanish and African melodies, but keeping the rhythms at all times while expressing the tribal and native emotions that Nacho intended is all-comsuming."
Chicago's Hubbard Street Dance commissioned Gnawa in 2005, and TB's performance of it marks its Oklahoma premier. (In fact, all of the dances on the "Legends" bill are Oklahoma premieres.)
The bill concludes with Black Tuesday, set during the Great Depression with music from the era and some period-inspired steps. Video of this one is available online as well, and, while watching it, I found it strange that the first thought to cross my mind was how fun the dance seemed. And that's kind of the point.
"According to Mr. Taylor, he was moved by the fact that, during the Great Depression, Americans, even in the midst of such great suffering, flocked to the upbeat and optimistic entertainment of the era..." said Angelini.
But, underneath the façade of optimism lie gloom and despair. Americans at the time were so hopeless that entertainment provided a form of escapism, even if it was a faulty and false version of escapism.
"This is the kind of work that will make you laugh while your heart and soul are crying," Angelini said. "I don't want to speculate on the effect this piece will have on the audience, but I can surely tell you that this work is as actual as ever at this time in the history of the world."
Perhaps Tulsans today are looking for a form of escapism. While many businesses are reporting losses, TB sales remain up according to Angelini, and he's optimistic they'll stay that way.
Tickets to "Legends," which will be performed in Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Chapman Music Hall at 110 E. 2nd St., are $20-70.
Also This Week
The Broken Arrow Community Playhouse presents its second run of Dracula: The Musical? Oct. 30-Nov. 2 at 1800 S. Main St. in BA. Bacptheatre.com or 258-0077 for more.
Clark Youth Theatre presents its second run of Romeo and Juliet Oct. 30-Nov. 2 at 11440 E. Admiral. Call 669-6455 or go to clarktheatre.com for more on that one.
And, Sapulpa Community Theatre presents the second run of its production of the eerie Wait Until Dark at 124 S. Water St., Oct. 31-Nov.2. Call 227-2169 for info and directions to the theater.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame will present the Annie Ellicott Trio as part of its regular Sunday evening offerings, this week on Nov. 2. More at okjazz.org or 596-1001.
On Thurs., Oct. 30, Leslie Jordan makes an appearance at the John H. Williams Theatre of the Tulsa PAC to present "My Trip Down the Pink Carpet," an autobiographical one-man comedy show based on his memoir by the same name. More on the show at tulsapac.org.
On Sat., Nov. 1, Living Arts of Tulsa, 308 S. Kenosha, presents its annual Dia de Los Muertos Arts Festival, a celebration of the Day of the Dead, which includes gallery and street performances by local artists and musicians. One of the exhibitions, Altared Spaces, in which local artists erect memorials to loved ones, continues through Nov. 6. Worth your time. More info on page 14 of this issue.
M.A. Doran Gallery, 3509 S. Peoria, presents a November exhibition of new paintings by Jonathan Sobol. More at madorangallery.com or 784-8700.
Nov. 1-30, the Color Connection Gallery, 2050 Utica Square, features artists Joey Frisillo and Carla Perry. Both artists specialize in impressionist-style landscape paintings. More about the exhibit at 742-0515.
Many more galleries exhibit new works beginning next Thursday, and you can get the scoop on those then.
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