In the blossoming years of contemporary dance, composer John Cage likened the work of choreographer Merce Cunningham to that of the abstract expressionists. “What it communicates,” Cage remarked, “is in large part determined by the observer.” The artist’s regard for – and confidence in – the viewer’s willingness to emotionally and intellectually engage with resonant cultural themes lies at the heart of this year’s season of contemporary performance at The Ringling.
In New Stages 2015-2016: The Art of Making Dance, four choreographers return to The Ringling to invite audiences to participate in an ongoing conversation about what informs, shapes, defines, and animates their diverse and dynamic creations of contemporary dance.
The series opens with a vivid realization of dance as the communicative vehicle through which we discover what unites us. Alex Ketley seeks and locates authentic expressions of movement in seemingly unlikely landscapes. What he finds he shares in beautifully choreographed articulations of exchange and respect. Following the success of his work No Hero, which was presented during the 2014 New Stages season, Ketley traveled throughout America’s rural South to explore the region’s cultural response to dance. For several weeks, the choreographer interviewed strangers about their relationship to dance and offered micro-performances in the RV parks, restaurants, town squares, and homes in which these interactions occurred. The result is Deep South, a celebration of shared humanity as told through live dance and documentary video that reveal the complexities and verities of the American South.
The ever-evolving architecture of human perception (as given shape through choreographic structure) is brilliantly realized in Dušan Týnek’s Joseph’s Coat – a site-specific work commissioned by The Ringling to be performed in – and in communion with – the eponymous James Turrell Skyspace. Having been personally tutored by Merce Cunningham in blending the impulsive and spontaneous roots of free dance with the rigors and traditions of both modern dance and ballet, Týnek utilizes concise and distinct phrases of movement to embody the idea of a patchwork coat. As the dancers shift in expanding and contracting formations, the movement accelerates to build a complex visual feast in concert with the permutations of Turrell’s sculpted light.
Kate Weare’s choreography reflects her fascination with “what connects us as we navigate our particular period in human history.” Drawing on the body’s power to speak with a clarity that transcends the spoken word, Weare decodes a language of movement that illuminates the shifting emotions that keep our relations falling in—and out—of balance. For her third New Stages engagement, Weare delves deeper into her exploration of spontaneous movement with UNSTRUCK—a work created in collaboration with composer Curtis Macdonald. In an intimate trio of unceasing contact and energetic exchange, an ever-morphing sculpture of dance emerges wherein the dancers’ relation to their own bodies and the surrounding space is a sensual one; every gesture is alive to the environment and to all others who inhabit it.
Through a union of creative movement and the expansive character of Japanese Noh theater, David Neumann incorporates technology, weather reports, and personal narratives in an examination of our impulse to report on calamity in the face of trauma and tragedy. As Hurricane Sandy slammed into the eastern US, Neumann’s father was dying, sinking deeper into dementia. To see beyond the surface of catastrophe and to understand what animates death, Neumann drew upon Einstein’s challenge to “look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” The result is I Understand Everything Better, a “deftly strange and confident” performance, according to The New York Times, that blurs the roles of dying and caretaking, and in Neumann’s words, “walks the thin line between the purely presentational and the deeply personal.”
Since its inception in 2009, The Ringling’s Art of Performance program has aspired to move beyond the mere presentation of contemporary art towards a more active role in the development of the aesthetics of our time. New Stages: The Art of Making Dance bears testament to the vitality
of that commitment as The Ringling continues to engage in the work of contemporary performance as it is being realized by living artists in their studios and onstage.
New Stages schedule
$30, $25 / $27, $22.50 for Members
by Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre DEC 18 & 19, 5:00 PM
James Turrell Skyspace
by Kate Weare Company FEB 12 & 13, 7:30 PM
Historic Asolo Theater
I Understand Everything Better
by David Neumann/ Advanced Beginner Group
MAR 11 & 12, 7:30 PM
Historic Asolo Theater