Monday, April 18, 2011

Moves to the Mercy of the Elements with the Catherine Wheel Suite, too

It’s a privilege to watch ballet dancers rehearse. So elemental. Gestures, stretching, correcting, repeating, stopping, starting again mid-routine...memory, muscle, love and heart. Quite amazing to watch a choreographer choreograph using voice but more so actions; leading with example. This is an art form we see on stage; results of months of work, crafting. It seems so perishable like so many other performance arts. Yet, we remember.

Eddie Verso remembers well, dancing Moves in 1961 under the direction of its creator Jerome Robbins. He’s been in Kansas City for the past few weeks passing the artistic torch to the Kansas City Ballet Company. You may remember Eddie from another Robbins piece: West Side Story. It’s odd the recent Music Hall production folks failed to realize Eddie was in town. I knew, but thought his connection would receive gallons of commercial ink. It (the show) did. He didn’t. So, here’s to you Eddie.

Eddie and I had a very brief chat before rehearsal. We discussed the silence of Moves, punctuated with a few stomps and thigh slaps. I sensed that was the secret to the music-less tempo. He smiled and said, that’s the trick. I’ll use the word art. This piece demands aesthetics more than athleticism. More heart than muscle, he related. We side-stepped the West Side Story story. It’s all been said. A 50 year anniversary soon and a book of participant memoirs. Eddie will contribute. I look forward to reading.

This day was about bringing a memoir to life, literally. This day saw a piece of art being resurrected with Eddie’s love. And you’re gonna love it as well. That’s Moves, people.

When you attend this performance you’ll see Bill Whitener’s world premier of his Mercy of the Elements. This dance has the canvas of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Quintet in B-flat Major (for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon and Piano) as a canvas upon which Bill brushes his human paint. I haven’t seen the paint, just listened to the music. It fits this sunny mild time of year quite well. Close your eyes and imagine dancers while listening. I did a few times. There’s optimism and elements. For in the second of the three movements, each instrument has a go solo. I imagine the dancers will as well. This is not your chemistry class periodic table elements. Think fire, wind, and earth…or Earth Wind and Fire if you need to get your groove tonight. Bill shared that there’s an influence of folk dance. But this is a premier, so lips sealed.

The third piece will be Twyla Tharp’s The Catherine Wheel Suite with music by David Byrne, Yes, Talking Headers, you heard right. That guy, who you met Burnin’ Down the House. Seriously. Here’s a musical preview…listen…imagine, slip off your rock and roll shoes and trade them in for some ballet slippers. Comfortable until you leap a few times. Then…go online, or call, and get some tickets. Open your eyes to the incredible art form that is dance, moving near you in a very real way, at our Kansas City Ballet, May 5 -8…next stop, the Kauffman.

pictured above, rehearsing Moves: Kim Cowen, Aisling Hill-Connor, Nadia Iozzo and Rachel Coats. Photo by Lisa Lipovac

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