Friday, 13 December 2013

Carmen and Dance

Leaflet of the lecture performance.

The Carmen myth is invariably connected with dance. Carmen is a Gypsy who dances and seduces men through her body. In Prosper Mérimée's novella (1845), which is at the origin of the myth, Carmen's appeal resides in the way she moves and dances. In Georges Biste's opera (1975) the mezzo-soprano who interprets Carmen has to dance at the beginning of the second act. From these works, the figure of Carmen has crossed the boundaries of literature and opera to move towards those of cinema and dance. In particular, in dance history choreosophers such as Roland Petit, Antonio Gades and Mats Ek have reinterpreted the myth of the Spanish Gypsy, each giving his own perspective, deforming and reinventing the story. The relationship with dance is twofold as it can easily become a stereotypical vision devoted to reifying the female body, reducing it to an object of desire.

Michela Fossà, Rosella Simoanri, and [Nooz], photo M. Piccinini.
I have been studying the Carmen myth for quite a few years now, having taught a module on it at the Dance and mime course, University of Macerata (2005-2006 academic year), wrote my MA thesis about it (2006) and wrote a couple of artciles (here the link to one of them) and an essay on it (here the link).

In 2012 I created a lecture performance on this topic, titled "Carmen and Dance", which has been presented as part of an art festival in Macerata (here the link to the photographs of the event). With it I intended to explore the relationship between Carmen and dance in the novella, the opera and in the above-mentioned choreographic peices, with an added reflection on the relationship between woman, dance, body. It has been thought to let three languages interact in the same space and time: the verbal, organised by myself, the corporeal, danced by flamenco dancer Michela Fossà, and the aural, played by dj [Nooz].

Michela Fossà during the lceture performance, photo M. Piccinini.
On December 27th, 2013, this same lecture will be again re/presented at Sca Tnt, in Jesi (Ancona).

Monday, 2 December 2013

Fang-Yi Sheu as The One Who Dances in Graham's Letter to the World

Fanf-Yi Sheu in Letter to the World, photo by Christopher Duggan.
Fang-Yi Sheu is one of the finest Graham dancers of this generation. She is no longer a member of the Graham Company but often returns as guest artist. On 6th of August 2011 at the Gerald Ford Amphitheatre she performed the opening solo from Graham's Letter to the World, as reconstructed by the Company artistic director, Janet Eilber. Here is the link to the video recording done by Sergei Krasikof.

It is a very precious video as it gives a glimpse of what the piece could look like today. The Graham Company has, in fact, not recosntructed and performed it since 1988 and the only video available to the public is in black and white at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, with a stunning Pearl Lang in the title role.

This solo presents the main character as a lively and inexperienced girl in search of her path. She moves in different directions, runs, stops, moves again. She performs some beautiful turning jumps that are highlighted by her wide skirt, bends her torso forward several times and dances a brief section at the bench (during the piece she will return to the bench in more than one occasion). It a real joy to be watching this section in colour (I have studied the black and white video for my research)!

This readapted solo (there are variations and changes here and there) stands up as a nicely crafted choreographic piece and is very precisely danced by Fang-Yi Sheu, but, at the same time, we need to remember where it comes from. In the piece, the One Who Dances was with the One Who Speaks before beginning her solo. Her presence is only evoked through Dickinson's quoted lines: "Not knowing when the dawn will come, / I open every door", taken from poem 1619. The presence of the One Who Speaks is very important and instrumental to the developemnt of the piece. She is the other Emily, the speaking Emily, the one who moves more sedately but with equal force. And the lines are very important too. They convey the evolution of the main character's "inner journey", as Graham would say.

I am very pleased about this little choreographic passage and hope Letter will soon be reconstructed in its entirety.