by Allan Greene
(Read part one of this series here)
Arvo Pärt (pronounced “pair-t”), the contemporary classical composer, insists, as recorded in Arvo Pärt in Conversation (Enzo Restagno, et al., 2010), that in contrast to whatever anybody else takes away from his highly spiritual compositions, he is driven by technical goals; and that the “system” that he devised after 1976, which he calls Tintinnabuli, is meant to prove that “1+1=1”, that in the End is the Beginning. In other words, Happiness is a Cosmic Blanket.
His route to happiness took him through his own extended breakdown, between 1968 and 1976, a span during which he had largely stopped composing. He had already changed direction twice in his short career.
Born in 1935 into an independent Estonia at the fringes of Western culture, he grew up as the Soviets took effective control during the war and then complete control afterward. The Estonian musical community had been pretty much ignored by the powerful and reactionary Composers Union in Moscow. Pärt, however, was a seeker, not an entertainer, and when visiting artists performed and brought recordings and scores of what was happening in the West (Boulez, Stockhausen, Henze, Dallapicola, Berio, and above all Webern), he found the path he was seeking. His early popular success (1960) with a student composition, Nekrolog, which was one of the first twelve-tone pieces written inside the Soviet Union, drew “relentless criticism from elevated cultural circles” (Restagno, p. 14) because it allowed a corrupt Western aesthetic to penetrate the Iron Curtain. A few years later he was trying heterogeneous pieces (Collage on B-A-C-H, 1964) which he described as:
A sort of transplantation: if you have the feeling you don’t have a skin of your own,you try to take strips from skin all around you and apply them to yourself. In time these strips change, and turn into a new skin. I didn’t know where this experiment with the Collages would lead me, but in any case I had the impression I was carrying a living organism in my hands, a living substance, such as I had yet not found in twelve-tone music… But one cannot go on forever with the method transplantation. (Restagno, 17)
He was in a record store (remember those places?) and overheard a short Gregorian chant, just a few seconds of it, as he recalls (ibid., 18).
In it I discovered a world that I didn’t know, a world without harmony, without meter, without timbre, without instrumentation, without anything. At this moment it became clear to me which direction I had to follow, and a long journey began in my unconscious mind. (ibid., 18)
Pärt continued to experiment in the mid-Sixties with works juxtaposing radically different styles, like his Second Symphony (1966), which after the most frightening clashes of sound masses introduces a note-for-note symphonic quotation from Tchaikovsky twice in the final movement.
He gave up on twelve-tone, serial, musique concrète, even Webern-like miniatures, after that, having decided that mid-Twentieth Century New Music was a carrier of “the germ of conflict”. The conflicts had lost their power and meaning for him.
One could say I had come to terms with myself and with God – and in so doing, all personal demands on the world receded into the background. (ibid., 22)
I have come to recognize that it not my duty to struggle with the world, nor to condemn this or that, but first and foremost to know myself, since every conflict begins in ourselves. (ibid.)
And so I set off in search of new sounds. In this way, the path itself becomes a source of inspiration. The path no longer runs outwards from us, but inwards, to the core from which everything springs. That is what all my actions have come to mean: building and not destroying. (ibid.)
In 1968 he composed a Credo (Summa), a work for piano, orchestra and chorus with Latin texts from the Gospels. The Composers Union caught up with him, and soon he was receiving coded threats that investigations were going on at the highest level. This combination of twelve-tone language and Jesus’ suffering proved too provocative for the authorities.
After this I was interrogated several times, and the interrogators repeated the same question over and over again: “What political aim are you pursuing in this work?” (ibid.)
His wife Nora added, “And they added, ‘And do not forget that this work must never again be performed, and you must not offer it to anyone else’”. (ibid.)
Understandably, the confluence of all these doubts and pressures led to his choice to cease composing. This was his nervous breakdown moment, when nothing which had worked for him in the past worked now.
by Allan Greene
Let me get this out right up front: if you go for Arvo Pärt, you’ll love the late works of Franz Liszt.
I’ve played and loved the late Liszt since I was kid. It was in the late Sixties on a trip into Manhattan to the old Schirmer’s that I found a newly published Schirmer number called The Late Liszt. I was thirteen or fourteen and I had been composing atonal music for a few years; but as a piano student, Liszt, the Romantic, was my god. After going to considerable trouble to master his Liebestraum No. 3, I was taken by surprise that late in his life Liszt had composed these spare, non-bravura morceaux. That some were nearly atonal, un-moored from traditional harmony, made me even gladder.
All these years I’ve accompanied dance I’ve used pieces from that collection in classes. I have never, with one unhappy exception (Sir Frederick Ashton’s Mayerling), seen choreography to this music. This volume held, and holds, such meaning for me, its contents might almost be my autobiography. I’ve been troubled me all these years that I haven’t seen great dances to this profound music.
And then, while researching a column on Arvo Pärt, who is wildly popular with choreographers, it hit me.
Late Liszt is late Pärt. I mean, really.
Do they have a spooky, supernatural, counter-intuitive relationship, filled with seemingly strange coincidences? Let’s see. Liszt was Hungarian, Pärt is Estonian. Their native tongues are both members of the the Finno-Ugric language group. Both had an affinity for the avant-garde from the very beginning. Both suffered mid-career life changes that sent them into a quasi-religious bout of self-examination.
Except for the “dark night of the soul” that each went through, the coincidences don’t prove much. Liszt was a very public figure who set the People Magazine standard for celebrity and scandale in his day; Pärt is a private person, thrust into the public eye by his success translating his privacy into music. He has a stable home-life and a happy family.
But it is extraordinarily interesting to me these two composers more than a century removed from one another cross paths at a very particular point in their artistic journeys, after having gone through depression and soul-searching. The fact that Pärt has become so popular among choreographers and Liszt is not tells me something is wrong.
I’m going to right that wrong.
Initially, I’d like to suggest that Pärt may have led us to the edge of an age of Radical Diatonicism, much as Liszt blazed a path to radical chromaticism 150 years ago.
Diatonic versus Chromatic
It is a bit easier to follow my thesis if we understand the historic relationship between the diatonic (white-key) scale and the chromatic (all the keys on the piano) scale.
The diatonic scale held absolute power in Western music at least as far back as the 12th Century, when the earliest surviving notated music, that of the monk Perotin, was composed. Music was organized around seven tones, what we today call A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Music was characterized based on which of those seven tones dominated the melody. Depending on which tone it was, the music had a certain sound, called a mode (modus). What we today call a major scale was called the Lydian Mode. What we today call the minor scale (or natural minor scale) was called the Hypodorian (or Aeolian) Mode. There were eight modes, the most dissonant being the Phrygian and Hypophrygian or Lochrian.
by Christopher Duggan
My wife Nel Shelby, a dance videographer, and I have been coming into rehearsals with longtime New York City Ballet dancer and international ballet superstar Wendy Whelan as she creates work with choreographers Alejandro Cerrudo (Hubbard Street Dance Chicago), Joshua Beamish (MOVE: the company), Brian Brooks (Brian Brooks Moving Company) and Kyle Abraham (Abraham.In.Motion), and we’re over the moon about filming and photographing behind-the-scenes moments to preserve and promote these amazing collaborations.
After years of photographing and filming performances and rehearsals, Nel and I believe in the power of great dance documentation, but nothing compares to seeing Wendy Whelan perform live. She is captivating, enthralling, alluring – I just can’t describe how I feel when I watch her dance. It’s simply incredible.
When the artists showed what they’ve been working on to an audience at the Guggenheim’s Works & Process performance series this month, I was photographing and Nel was filming. When the show came to a close, I looked over at Nel and she was crying.
There’s just something about Wendy.
Contributor Christopher Duggan is the founder and principal photographer of Christopher Duggan Photography, a New York City-based wedding and dance photography studio. Duggan has been the Festival Photographer for Jacob’s Pillow Dance since 2006. In this capacity, and as a respected New York-based dance photographer, he has worked with renowned choreographers and performers of international acclaim as well as upstarts in the city’s diverse performance scene.
He has created studio shots of Gallim Dance, Skybetter + Associates and Zvidance, among others, and in 2011 alone, he has photographed WestFest at Cunningham Studios, Dance From the Heart for Dancers Responding to Aids, The Gotham Dance Festival at The Joyce Theater, and assisted Nel Shelby Productions in filming Vail International Dance Festival.
Duggan often teams up with his talented wife and Pillow videographer Nel Shelby (http://nelshelby.com). A New York City-based husband and wife dance documentation team, they are equipped to document performances, create and edit marketing videos and choreography reels, and much more.
Christopher Duggan Photography also covers Manhattan’s finest wedding venues, the Metropolitan and Tri-State areas, and frequently travels to destination weddings. The company’s mission is straightforward and heartfelt – create timeless, memorable images of brides, grooms, their families and friends, and capture special moments of shared love, laughter and joy.
His photographs appear in The New York Times, Destination I Do, Photo District News, Boston Globe, Financial Times, Dance Magazine, Munaluchi Bridal, and Bride & Bloom, among other esteemed publications and popular wedding blogs. One of his images of Bruce Springsteen was added to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s celebrated photography collection in 2010. His company has been selected for inclusion in “The Listings” in New York Weddings magazine.0
by Lissa Smith
One of many special things about working at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is the opportunity to dive into a variety of works, both new and existing. As a dancer, having a piece created on you allows an immediate personal connection with the choreographer and the choreography. It provides the opportunity to take ownership.
In contrast, learning and performing a revival presents the chance to step into a different pair of shoes. I have equal admiration for both creative and restaging processes, and in my recent work with Hubbard Street 2, I’ve done both — simultaneously.
On May 4, 2013, HS2 performs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as part of its family-friendly “Get Up and Dance” series. I’ll perform excerpts from the famous Martha Graham work, Appalachian Spring (1944).
I began intense training in Graham technique at the age of nine. I took Graham master classes once a week at my dance studio with an incredible teacher, Peter London, who was and is a great mentor. He encouraged me to audition for, and later attend, New World School of the Arts, where I had the opportunity to study Graham technique in further depth.
During my four years at New World, I performed renowned Martha Graham works such as Diversion of Angels (the Couple in Yellow) and “Conversation of Lovers” within the piece Acts of Light, both staged by London. Throughout the years, I have also studied at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York, and I have enjoyed seeing the Martha Graham Dance Company perform many times. I am always moved by their passion and language. Their repertory transports me into their scenario and has me follow their dramatic story line from start to finish.
My sophomore year at the Boston Conservatory, where I was pursuing a BFA in dance performance, I was privileged to work with former Graham dancers Yuriko and her daughter, Susan Kikuchi, on the restaging of Martha Graham’s piece Frontier. This happened to also be the last Graham work that Yuriko would restage.
Never in my life could I have predicted that here, at Hubbard Street, I would have the opportunity to perform yet another piece by Martha Graham. My costume arrived at our studios the other day and, coincidentally, it is the same dress that my current director, Taryn Kaschock Russell, wore when she performed this same piece with the Joffrey Ballet. In the dance world, the passing of a costume is like passing the torch; it’s incredibly exciting and meaningful to me and I’m grateful and honored to work with Susan Kikuchi again on Appalachian Spring. To be able to perform this masterwork, passed down through generations of dancers, is a dream come true.
Hubbard Street’s next hometown performances are June 6–16, our second annual danc(e)volve: New Works Festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The danc(e)volve choreographers are all company members, selected from the previous year’s Inside/Out Choreographic Workshop at the UIC Theatre. (Save the date for our next Inside/Out, coming up on July 6!) These choreographers are asked to either expand their projects or create brand-new works for danc(e)volve.
Working with Andrew Wright, a fellow HS2 dancer, on his new piece has been a bonding experience for our company. We are all so eager and hungry to try new things, to really explore, and our excitement provides fuel for each other’s creative energy. A different side of each one of us has emerged as we learn Andy’s specific movement style and get to know his approach to directing.
I chatted with Andy about his piece and he said, “The process turned out to be completely different than I expected, going into it. I had all these grand ideas, thoughts, and inspirations, but at the end of the day, when I took a step back and just allowed myself to be present in the studio with my cast, things just ended up flowing. The piece ended up going in a much more personal direction than I had originally intended, but I understand why it had to.”
I asked him to elaborate. “These past two years at Hubbard Street have had a profound effect on my life,” he explained, “and I think that comes across in the work. At the end of the day, when I watch it, I see us. I see our experiences. I see Hubbard Street 2.”
Having a coworker at the helm of the studio has been inspiring. There are definitely times when we all laugh and goof off, as friends do, but we are a focused group of committed dancers, and we give Andy the respect and attention he deserves — and we can’t wait to share his piece with audiences next month.
Another work I’ll perform during danc(e)volve is a duet for myself and Richard Walters, another fellow HS2 dancer, with comedic cameos by main company member Quinn B Wharton. It’s a portrait, really, of Ricky’s and my different, strong personalities, anxieties and habits. Making it even more personal is the fact that Terry recorded, edited, and arranged our voices to make the piece’s score.
There’s nothing like rehearsing to the sound of your own voice. It’s fulfilling (and refreshing!) to spend a rehearsal day rehearsing three projects so different from each other. Terry’s piece is very versatile, and is choreographed around a small table and two chairs. We will perform this at danc(e)volve and at Chicago City Winery on May 6, as part of Hubbard Street 2’s opening act for Fear No Art’s “The Dinner Party.” The choreography is extremely detailed and fast-moving, which keeps Ricky and me on the edges of our seats — literally!
More of Terry’s new choreography shares our program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Appalachian Spring. He’s been the main company’s rehearsal director since 2010 but, at the end of this month, our current director Taryn Kaschock Russell departs with her family for New York and Terry takes over as director of Hubbard Street 2. I’m so grateful to be having this experience during the transition. Although I will truly miss working with Taryn, I’m very excited for all that’s in store for Hubbard Street 2 — which you’ll hear more about in my next guest post, here at 4dancers.org. Thanks for reading!
Catch Lissa Smith and Hubbard Street 2 onstage:
Contributor Lissa Smith, age 21, was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She is currently dancing with Hubbard Street 2 of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. She attended The Boston Conservatory where she was both a Dance Conservatory Scholarship recipient and Jan Veen Dance Scholarship recipient.
Lissa has trained at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Juilliard School, Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, The Martha Graham School, The Joffrey Ballet School and The Joffrey Midwest Workshop. Lissa has worked with world renowned choreographers such as: Thang Dao, Peter London, Alberto Del Saz, Maurya Kerr, Clébio Oliveira, Penny Saunders, Hofesh Shecter, Didy Veldman, Uri Sands, Gregory Dawson, Stephen Pier, John Magnus, Josée Garant, Viktor Plotnikov, Robyn Mineko Williams, Tony Fabre, and Judith Jamison. She has danced principal roles such as: “Yellow Girl” in “Diversion of Angels”, “Conversation of Lovers” within “Acts of Light” and “Frontier”, the solo choreographed by Martha Graham and staged by Yuriko and Susan Kikuchi along with Yasuko Tokunaga.
Lissa was the soloist lead dancer in both Thang Dao’s contemporary ballet, “Foil” and Greg Dawson’s contemporary ballet, “Eclipsing Venus”. She has also performed Jose Limon’s “Choreographic Offerings” staged by Jennifer Scanlon and Libby Nye. Lissa has performed the “Doll with Broken Head” solo from within “Mechanical Organ” choreographed by Alwin Nikolais, staged by Alberto Del Saz. Lissa received the “Modern Dance Award” and the “Dean’s Dance Award” upon her graduation from New World School of the Arts High School in June 2009 and won the “Arts For Life!” dance scholarship in 2009 presented by Former First Lady Columba Bush.
In 2012, Lissa was awarded the Martha Hill Young Professional Award.
Lissa’s posts on 4dancers are her own opinion and in no way reflect the thoughts or opinions of her employer, Hubbard Street 2.0
We are pleased to have as our guest contributor Gigi Berardi, dance author and critic, who has written over 150 articles and reviews that have appeared in Dance Magazine, Dance International, The Los Angeles Times, among others. She is also a natural and social scientist currently on the faculty of Western Washington University.
Her academic and background and performing experiences allow her to combine her passion for both dance and science Her fifth book, “Finding Balance: Fitness and Training for a Lifetime in Dance” is in its second printing, and is one I highly recommend especially for younger dancers. Gigi’s master degree thesis in dance, from UCLA, focused on older dancers who were able to continue dancing and performing well past the age when most have to retire because of injuries – i.e, what were they doing differently that kept them actively performing into their 50′s, 60′s,70′s? Her current book project is called “A Cultivated Life” — look for it soon!
-Jan Dunn MS, Dance Wellness Editor
by Gigi Berardi, MA
How do dancers find balance — literally and figuratively? I feel that the literal part (actually balancing in an unsteady position) is almost the less interesting. As I wrote in the final chapter of the second edition of Finding Balance: Fitness, Training, and Health for a Lifetime in Dance (Routledge, 2005),
The essential information [for] managing a life in dance can be summarized in a handful of principles. Some of those are:
- Practice – in the form of endless repetition of dance movements – does not necessarily make perfect.
- Dancers need to work with limitations, and in so doing, recognize their strengths.
- Being injured is an opportunity to learn and become more sensitive to the warning signs of pain.
- The brain-mind connection is important in learning dance and dances; thus the need for growing neural structures (dendrites), in which visualization techniques can help.
- Learning (and therapy) is most effective with respected teachers (and practitioners) and in supportive environments.
- Certain dietary practices … are counterproductive to long-term weight management (avoiding good, saturated fat; bouts of restrictive eating).
- The science of dance is fraught with controversies …. healthy debate, and multiple interpretations (as is the art of dance); this is another way of saying that there is no one truth, but multiple truths (good and effective practice is often multidisciplinary). However, good ideas and good practices often converge.
In two Seattle performances this winter, I could see such principles in practice:
- practice with a focus on artistry as much as architecture (the number and types of movements)
- a dancer with the flattest feet imaginable dancing handsomely in a principle role (thus, working with limitations)
- dancers who have returned triumphantly from catastrophic injuries
- highly complicated new choreography (expertly danced), but taught with imaging exercises
- working with (well respected) choreographers and ballet masters, and the good working relationship being obvious
- body sizes of all shapes and sorts, indicating a more relaxed attitude of a “company look” (i.e., not sickeningly thin)
- both companies having access to experienced health professionals, who are mighty aware of controversies around and variations of treatment styles.
And, what did I actually see in the performances? Great beauty, focus, and art – from Whim W’him’s season opener Crave More (choreography: Olivier Wevers and Anabelle Ochoa Lopez) to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Romeo et Juliette (choreography: Jean Christophe Maillot). Dancers in both companies embodied many of the principles I mentioned – showing great control and remarkably imaginative interpretation.
In Lopez’s Crave, guest artist Lucien Postlewaite (former PNB principal and on loan from Les Ballets de Monte Carlo) and Lara Seefeldt danced a moving pas de deux, outrageous for its bold ideas and intimacy. Looking sharp off-balance, the couple maintained a tight bond. Disjointed music added to the jigsaw puzzle of it all. In PNB’s Romeo et Juliette, counterbalance is de rigeur, but therein is also one of the most striking examples of finding one’s center of mass, as given by the principal ballerinas (Kaori Nakamura, Carla Korbes, and Noelani Pantastico). Each Juliette balanced on the balls of her feet in one of the most mesmerizing moments of Act II, balancing for a full 8 bars of music, as she contemplated the faux-poison she was soon to take.
Back to the introduction of this short post, although balance typically is a great physical accomplishment, how much more the psychological balancing, so necessary to be fully the overeager Tybalt, the impetuous Romeo, the strong-willed but also fragile Juliette. But how much also, for Lopez’s dancers in Crave, or Olivier Wevers’ schizophrenic colleague in More (the gorgeous Andrew Bartee), or Wevers’ compelling couples in The Sofa, so present in the strangeness of it all. And as for Ochoa’s brilliant solo piece, the famed Before After, quite simply, there’s nothing like it – which makes it worth seeing again and again for its ferocious and soulful soliloquy – holding true for all the pieces in Wever’s stunning January program.
Gigi Berardi holds a MA in dance from UCLA. Her academic background and performing experience allow her to combine her interests in the natural and social sciences with her passion for dance, as both critic and writer. Over 150 articles and reviews by Ms. Berardi have appeared in Dance Magazine, Dance International, the Los Angeles Times, the Anchorage Daily News, The Olympian, The Bellingham Herald, and scientific journals such as BioScience, Human Organization, and Ethics, Place, and Environment. Her total work numbers over 400 print and media pieces. Her public radio features (for KSKA, Anchorage) have been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Dance Critics Association, and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, as well as Book Review editor for The Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. A professor at Western Washington University, she received the university’s Diversity Achievement Award in 2004. Her fifth book, Finding Balance: Fitness and Training for a Lifetime in Dance, is in its second printing. Her current book project is titled A Cultivated Life.0