Thursday, October 22, 2009

Opera and dance--a theme?

After posting about both the Atlanta Ballet's Magic Flute and the Parsons Dance Company performance of "Remember Me", I belatedly realized they are both dance to opera (traditional Mozart or "rock opera" respectively) with live singers on stage (correct? I haven't seen either yet). I wonder if there's a trend outside these 2? CORE Performance Company danced pretty recently to Messiah, which is also sung, if an oratorio rather than opera technically. I see that David Parsons commented in his interview that he changed how the singers interacted on stage. If I remember correctly, Sue had to make the singers much more stationary that she originally envisioned. Many singers don't do much moving when they sing! And many dancers don't have much vocal training. I guess that's why the "triple threat" Broadway-type folks are a breed unto themselves! Anybody out there have thoughts on singing and dancing?


  1. Antony Tudor's work, _Dark Elegies_ (one of my all time favourites) danced to Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, traditionally has a baritone (bass?) singing seated onstage, DL.

    It's a tough blend and, like you mention, unless someone is a "triple threat" the issue and compromise is usually about visual distraction.

    Alvin Ailey recently did something similar with Sweet Honey and the Rock, but I don't know anything about it. Just heard about it on NPR.


  2. For my tastes, there is nothing nearly as exciting as live music compared to canned music. Couple that with movement or a dance performance and you could push sensory overload. Distracting overlap can occur with any cross disciplines onstage, though. I am often distracted by dance set to music with lyrics where movement and lyric aren't fully realized. The same holds true for senseless lighting choices. Obviously, the better directors and designers will be discerning and conscientious about these issues.

    That stated, I think the multi-discpline presentation by the Atlanta Ballet worked well. In this case the choral, soloists and musicians performed from the pit and my colleagues in orchestra seating never saw them. I however, went to the balcony with the intention of being able to see all of the performers. I was never distracted (and I am EASILY distracted) even when the choral would enter the pit mid-scene.

    I attribute this to what seems like Mark Godden's fluency with the material and mediums as well as what appeared to be a meticulous and meaningful integration of the various disciplines.

    Here is another example. A few months ago, Denise Posnak performed a piece over at D.A.I.R. that was comprised of her dancing, a guitarist, and percussionist and a spoken word artist. All four were spread out across the dance area. Figuritively speaking, they each provided an essential leg to a table. It was a fully realized, clearly articulated piece (and this can even hold true for work in progress). Their table would have fallen if any particular leg was missing.

    I appreciate fluency, mindfulness and deep understanding. These attributes are worn only by the best among us who work hard to earn them. They're garnered through drive, pursuit, curosity, clarity of intention and a good deal of time (among other things). From where I sat, Mark and Denise's works made me feel as if they pocessed those attributes.

    keif schleifer
    brooks & company dance