Tuesday, May 31, 2016

[Event 2] DANCE

On a Friday mid morning I strolled towards the Hammer Museum to attend an in-gallery performance hosted by Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957. I arrived a little early at the gallery and wandered around some elegant art pieces before I decided to settle. To my surprise, attendance to the event was very high. I was then politely asked to move because I had chosen a spot that obstructed the view of the pianist, who had to watch the dancers as he played. This sparked my curiosity as I began to wonder how the pianist interacts with the dancers.

The Experience

The performance was not what I had expected at all; perhaps it is because I had very little experience with contemporary dance. The first piece was a solo performance, featuring a man in a red leotard. The second was a group performance, featuring dancers from the L.A. dance project. The aforementioned live pianist accompanied both performances.

The dancers moved in rigid, contorted motions, expressionless. They moved in a way that was almost uncomfortable to watch, with a little bit of agitation. The accompaniment was exactly how one would imagine accompanying the choreography. It is like listening to an audio description of how the dancers moved. It was less like music, but more random pulses of clashing notes. The music didn’t follow measures or keys, and neither did the choreography. However, after a while, the performances had an indescribable draw. The chaotic nature of the pieces seems to inspire some sort of organic movement in the dancers. It feels as though I am watching an expression of raw forms of human movements. The two pieces, performed by different parties, had such similar expression that I felt the same artist had choreographed them.


I had a bit of trouble drawing a connection between what I had watched and our class at first. But then I took a step back and looked at some of the art displayed around the gallery. I thought to myself, if this dance choreography were a painting, what would it be? It would be a surrealist painting or an abstract painting. It absolutely pushes the boundaries of what people perceive, and believe. It challenges the way the human body moves, and challenges the definition of what it means to dance. What is dance?

The two performances, Changeling and excerpts of Springweather and People (1955), Suite for Five (1956), and Changeling (1957), were early works of American dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham. He was at the forefront of contemporary dance for nearly 50 years, and often collaborated with artists from other practices, such as musicians, architects, visual artists, and designers. Cunningham was known for this passion for innovation and exploration. From using film in dance in the 70s to choreographing with computer programs in the 90s, he was one of the pioneers to incorporate technology into choreography.


Cunningham’s passion is reflected clearly in his choreography. The abstract and surrealist like dance pieces enraptures his drive to push boundaries and innovate. His work challenges the limitations and realities of dance, and promotes an interdisciplinary growth that very much correlates with the theme of our class, DESMA 9.

Works Cited 

A Lifetime of Dance. PBS. PBS, 2001. Web. 31 May 2016. 

Merce Cunningham Dance Company: Sounddance - Jacob's Pillow Dance Interactive. Jacob's Pillow Dance Interactive. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2016. 

Merce Cunningham Trust. Archives. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2016.

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