FOUR, a conversation/review

It’s no secret that peer reviewing has been a talking point on the blog. As a sometimes reviewer, other times choreographer Erica has grappled with ways to write about work and read what others say about her own work. As an administrator and choreographer Ashley oversees these tensions on an ongoing basis. So we tried to write this conversationally after watching RW’s season-opener “FOUR” tonight at the Rose. We write with the hope that multiple opinions and a casual approach creates a balanced discussion. (Let us know how we do). Part of the way through writing we realized a conversation format doesn’t allow for standard “descriptions,” so keep in mind this is designed for those who have seen this show, and we definitely  think you should.

AA: The evening featured a huge amount of dancing by the extremely talented six member company and the choreographic variety was immense. All the dances but one featured the full company and I’m really amazed at the end of every RW show that they can physically get through it.

EW: The show order seemed a little complicated but I agree that the dancers were in fine form and there was an array of movement aesthetics that would please eclectic audiences.

AA: I feel like we were both pretty into Charlotte Boye-Christensen’s new duet, “The Finish Line” which was performed by Brad Beakes and Tara McArthur. While it displayed Charlotte’s classic athletic style, it was more distilled than her past work and seemed softer. (When Martha Graham fell in love with Erick Hawkins her arms starting curving, just saying!)

EW: I agree, right out of the gates I felt we were seeing growth from Charlotte as a choreographer. It reminded me of a well-worn relationship where intimacy, playfulness and aggression all reside equally in the physicality and performance. They embody those things, Brad and Tara were really successful. I felt like all the movements were necessary, nothing was arbitrary.

AA: Totally agreed. I found the choreography to be engaging and was so relieved that it was real duet and not a duet for six, but how does this make you feel about her second work on the program, “Turf”, from 2009? For me it really changed my impression.

EW: This was the first time I’d seen “Turf” and I was hopeful in the beginning. I liked the competitiveness of a trio from the men but really the difference between the two works was that in the duet I saw two humans having a real experience on stage and in “Turf” I wasn’t given permission to get to know the dancers in the same way.

AA:  I can see we were both underwhelmed by “Turf” after the success of the duet. It also, honestly, seemed rehearsed less than the other material on the program.

EW: I did find the opening piece “Grid” to be a little bit like “Turf”. There were some nice moments but conceptually and physically things did not settle for me in a conclusive way. The piece takes place in an environment of stage-length, chalk covered, elastic bands and it brought up issues about how our environment affects our decisions. And when those barriers are removed do we make the same decisions out of habit or are we able to make new decisions? As a choreographer I thought that it would be interesting to work with a prop like the that and even take that prop away at the end of the process. What would the dance look like if the “grid” was absent? I wonder if we could still feel it’s presence and think we could, maybe even moreso.

AA: It’s hard because I don’t want to re-choreograph dances from the audience but I had similar concerns about how “Grid” was functioning despite the obviously engaging tactic of the prop. It related to the John Utans piece on the program as well. In that piece the stage was littered with TV’s with rural Utah vacation footage and the beginning and ending moments of movement alongside them peaked my interest but as it went I fell into watching the TV’s exclusively and was in some kind of bad-audience-trance.

EW: Oh that’s funny, I didn’t watch the TV’s at all.

AA: So it’s clear we worked our way through the show with ebbs and flows but I think we both agree that something we had no questions about was Ann Carlson’s re-staged “50 Years”. If Charlotte’s duet was distilled then I don’t even have an adequate description for this work. Every second of the dancer-vocalized-score seemed essential to me and it’s really rare I feel that way about a dance.

EW: Throughout, this piece gave me kinesthetic responses.

AA: What kinds of responses? For me, it was cold chills and constant wonderment at what would be next from the voices and bodies of the dancers.

EW: For me it was during the moments of complete stillness where there was real settling in my skin and bones. It brought me on an organic journey where each section took the time it needed to fully resonate. It inspired me as a choreographer to be more patient and not doubt a seemingly simple idea.  I don’t know how to say this without being cheesy but it was through the simplicity that metaphors were made, and she must have had a real trust in her process and clarity in vision.

AA: It was also highly stylized and designed from the dirty, auburn costuming to the white-fabric floor and sparse light bulbs. Watching a choreographer make such clear choices (in 1996 by the way!) was a beautiful way to end the evening (that was also cheesy).

EW/AA: laughter laughter laughter