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Saying that a show at the ART is a standout is no small thing. Last year's standout was The Great Comet, which is up for a big pile of Tonys this year, now that it's on Broadway. The previous year was Waitress, which likely would have won more Tonys if it weren't for, y'know, Hamilton.

So keep that in mind when I say that this year's standout for me is Arrabal, an innovative, affecting ballet of tango.

I had few expectations going into the show -- while Kate tells me that the article some months ago mentioned that there was little spoken word, I apparently had forgotten that, and certainly hadn't ever realized it was a true ballet. There is only a little bit of speech in it, and what little there is isn't English. (There is some video-over, providing translations of the important bits, and a couple of video clips in English that help provide historical context. But basically, it's a ballet.)

While there is a definite story here, a good deal of it is pretty impressionistic -- this is ballet in the American in Paris sense. It's more narrative than pure classical ballet, but you still need to be prepared to interpret the dance. That said, it proves beyond a doubt that tango is every bit as valid a narrative form as either classical or contemporary ballet -- it isn't hard to understand the story being told.

That story is set on a backdrop of the Argentine dictatorship. The first act is set in 1976, as young Rodolfo leaves his baby daughter with his mother so he can go out for a night of dancing and protest, and is then captured by the forces of the rising police state. Most of the rest takes place in 1994, as his now 18-year-old daughter Arrabal goes to the big city and learns about her father. It's very much a coming-of-age story for her, but also a tale of memory, loss and grief for Rodolfo's mother and friends.

And the dancing -- the dancing is breath-taking. This is ballet for the So You Think You Can Dance age: powerful, vibrant, and enormously creative dance. The performances are delightful, and choreography and direction brilliant.

(I was particularly struck by the way that Arrabal's movement idiom is subtly different from everyone else's: more legato and flowing, almost weightlessly emphasizing the youth of our ingenue protagonist. It was especially striking that, as soon as the show ended and the stage turned into an open dance party, she instantly gained about five years as she started dancing like herself rather than her character. That is great dance direction and performance.)

It is mostly tango, but freely mixes in other forms: Arrabal herself starts off with a little bit of classical ballet (which looks terribly innocent in the tango-centric environment), and there's a lot of contemporary and jazz flavor in here to help the storytelling. And one of the major characters, El Duende, has his own unique style that is a sort of fun, fluid hip-hoppy thing.

I'll caveat here that Kate wasn't as enthralled as I: she thought the music was too loud (it is pretty loud, although not rock-concert loud), and she found the constant tango rhythm repetitive. I didn't especially notice either point -- this may reflect the fact that she is more into musical theater, and I'm more into rock. The music is roughly latin rock: a mix of violin, accordion and electric guitar that comes out sounding like nothing quite so much in my experience as Cirque du Soleil.

Kate is still of the opinion that Fingersmith was this year's best show, and I agree that it was brilliant and fun (and would likely translate better to Broadway, so keep an eye open). But Arrabal is brilliant and well worth seeing, especially if you like dance. It runs through June 18th -- check it out...

jducoeur: (Default)
Didn't make it to either May Day or the International Steampunk City (which I hope folks have pictures from), because we'd long since made plans to attend the Northpass Dance Academy. So on Friday night I collected [livejournal.com profile] ladysprite and [livejournal.com profile] umbran, and the three of us headed south to Chez Dad for the night. We passed the time with [livejournal.com profile] ladysprite DJ'ing -- as usual, she managed to play almost entirely tracks that I liked and hadn't heard before, so I have some music shopping ahead of me. (Particularly excellent was the 80s hair band mashup group, who I need to look up and buy.)

Saturday was spent entirely at the event, and it was a complete hoot. While one shouldn't overdo specialty events, they have a distinct charm: an event that is all about people geeking on their favorite art has a friendly camaraderie that is hard to find elsewhere.

The main point of the trip was the three classes [livejournal.com profile] ladysprite was teaching, and those went quite well -- in particular, she demystified Villanella to the point where we had a goodly number of folks on the floor for it in the evening's Ball. The only downside of the day was that she strained her knee, so wasn't able to dance as much as she would have liked.

Other than that, I'd say the highlight of the day was the classes that Dafydd Cyhoeddwr was teaching on the Lovelace MS. This is a book of English Country dances that came to light only very recently: academics discovered it perhaps ten years ago, and the SCA found out about it last year. The original is at Harvard, so Gundormr managed to get access to the microfilm and put that online, and Dafydd has been tooling with it ever since. Many of the dances are related to the ones in Playford (indeed, Dafydd argues that the presence of Lovelace may have forced Playford to rush to press), but aren't identical, and the differences are even more intriguing than the similarities. I think the Society is going to have a lot of fun picking through this, but he's given it all a fine headstart, providing a transcription to go with the images.

I learned several dances at the event, but the winner is probably Lightly Love, from Lovelace. This is a simple, ridiculous, utterly delicious flirting dance game that I predict is going to utterly eat Pennsic alive this year. The verse is simply up a double and back twice, then set and turns, but the chorus is the meat of the dance. The first gentleman wanders down to the last lady, and proceeds to engage in a formalized dance duel with the last gentleman for her attentions; eventually, he takes her by the hand, escorts her to the top to become his new partner, and it all repeats. Done straight, it would be fairly dull, but if you ham it up and flirt outrageously it's a blast. We got one three-couple set for the evening Ball, and kept the crowd entertained for a fair while as we all got more and more into it.

(The best discovery of the day was that Lady Jane Milford can match me flirt for flirt on the dance floor. This was a great deal of fun, and calls for further practice.)

Plus a simple but tasty feast (I haven't had Savory Toasted Cheese in an age, and had forgotten how addictive it is), and a ball that ran longer than we could cope with (we bowed to exhaustion after 4+ hours at 10:30ish, while things were still going strong) -- overall, an excellent time. We really need to drag more of Carolingia down next time.

Today was relatively lazy: we got up when we woke, and had bagels with Dad and Sandy before heading northwards again. (Becky finally got to understand just how much like my father I am.) Travel home was uneventful, but they introduced me to Traveler's Food and Books, which I've driven past hundreds of times but never gone into before. Lovely place, with truly excellent clam rolls, and I did pick up one strange but neat book: "The Quintessence of Ibsenism" by George Bernard Shaw -- apparently a summer assignment he got from the Fabian Society one year, in which he explains what Ibsen's plays are *actually* about. (Regardless, of course, of what Ibsen might have thought.) Not entirely sure what to expect, but an unusual book of Shaw from 1905 (I appear to have the only copy of this edition in LibraryThing) for $2 is by any definition a win...
jducoeur: (Default)
Didn't make it to either May Day or the International Steampunk City (which I hope folks have pictures from), because we'd long since made plans to attend the Northpass Dance Academy. So on Friday night I collected [livejournal.com profile] ladysprite and [livejournal.com profile] umbran, and the three of us headed south to Chez Dad for the night. We passed the time with [livejournal.com profile] ladysprite DJ'ing -- as usual, she managed to play almost entirely tracks that I liked and hadn't heard before, so I have some music shopping ahead of me. (Particularly excellent was the 80s hair band mashup group, who I need to look up and buy.)

Saturday was spent entirely at the event, and it was a complete hoot. While one shouldn't overdo specialty events, they have a distinct charm: an event that is all about people geeking on their favorite art has a friendly camaraderie that is hard to find elsewhere.

The main point of the trip was the three classes [livejournal.com profile] ladysprite was teaching, and those went quite well -- in particular, she demystified Villanella to the point where we had a goodly number of folks on the floor for it in the evening's Ball. The only downside of the day was that she strained her knee, so wasn't able to dance as much as she would have liked.

Other than that, I'd say the highlight of the day was the classes that Dafydd Cyhoeddwr was teaching on the Lovelace MS. This is a book of English Country dances that came to light only very recently: academics discovered it perhaps ten years ago, and the SCA found out about it last year. The original is at Harvard, so Gundormr managed to get access to the microfilm and put that online, and Dafydd has been tooling with it ever since. Many of the dances are related to the ones in Playford (indeed, Dafydd argues that the presence of Lovelace may have forced Playford to rush to press), but aren't identical, and the differences are even more intriguing than the similarities. I think the Society is going to have a lot of fun picking through this, but he's given it all a fine headstart, providing a transcription to go with the images.

I learned several dances at the event, but the winner is probably Lightly Love, from Lovelace. This is a simple, ridiculous, utterly delicious flirting dance game that I predict is going to utterly eat Pennsic alive this year. The verse is simply up a double and back twice, then set and turns, but the chorus is the meat of the dance. The first gentleman wanders down to the last lady, and proceeds to engage in a formalized dance duel with the last gentleman for her attentions; eventually, he takes her by the hand, escorts her to the top to become his new partner, and it all repeats. Done straight, it would be fairly dull, but if you ham it up and flirt outrageously it's a blast. We got one three-couple set for the evening Ball, and kept the crowd entertained for a fair while as we all got more and more into it.

(The best discovery of the day was that Lady Jane Milford can match me flirt for flirt on the dance floor. This was a great deal of fun, and calls for further practice.)

Plus a simple but tasty feast (I haven't had Savory Toasted Cheese in an age, and had forgotten how addictive it is), and a ball that ran longer than we could cope with (we bowed to exhaustion after 4+ hours at 10:30ish, while things were still going strong) -- overall, an excellent time. We really need to drag more of Carolingia down next time.

Today was relatively lazy: we got up when we woke, and had bagels with Dad and Sandy before heading northwards again. (Becky finally got to understand just how much like my father I am.) Travel home was uneventful, but they introduced me to Traveler's Food and Books, which I've driven past hundreds of times but never gone into before. Lovely place, with truly excellent clam rolls, and I did pick up one strange but neat book: "The Quintessence of Ibsenism" by George Bernard Shaw -- apparently a summer assignment he got from the Fabian Society one year, in which he explains what Ibsen's plays are *actually* about. (Regardless, of course, of what Ibsen might have thought.) Not entirely sure what to expect, but an unusual book of Shaw from 1905 (I appear to have the only copy of this edition in LibraryThing) for $2 is by any definition a win...
jducoeur: (Default)
It's worth remembering that last night's dance practice was really *fun*. There seem to have been a collection of reasons why -- switching to a significantly nicer room; weather that didn't have folks feeling quite as much like drowned rats; having both [livejournal.com profile] tpau and [livejournal.com profile] jrising back, both with enthusiastic new dancers in tow; and so on. It wasn't a huge group, but there was more energy than we've had in a while -- we even had most of the crew troop out to Tosci's afterwards (running into [livejournal.com profile] miraclaire there).

I've been running on the edge of burnout lately, and I'm nursing myself this summer, taking July and August mostly off to get my head together. But it's worth remembering that a good dance practice is still the most energizing experience I know...
jducoeur: (Default)
It's worth remembering that last night's dance practice was really *fun*. There seem to have been a collection of reasons why -- switching to a significantly nicer room; weather that didn't have folks feeling quite as much like drowned rats; having both [livejournal.com profile] tpau and [livejournal.com profile] jrising back, both with enthusiastic new dancers in tow; and so on. It wasn't a huge group, but there was more energy than we've had in a while -- we even had most of the crew troop out to Tosci's afterwards (running into [livejournal.com profile] miraclaire there).

I've been running on the edge of burnout lately, and I'm nursing myself this summer, taking July and August mostly off to get my head together. But it's worth remembering that a good dance practice is still the most energizing experience I know...
jducoeur: (Default)
1) Yes, the Intercon dance party really is that much better than all other dance parties, at least for my tastes. (The Celebration dance is the only other one I can recall in that ballpark.)

2) The devadashi interpretative-dance version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" was probably the highlight of the weekend. You don't see divine inspiration all that often, so it's worth appreciating when you do...
jducoeur: (Default)
1) Yes, the Intercon dance party really is that much better than all other dance parties, at least for my tastes. (The Celebration dance is the only other one I can recall in that ballpark.)

2) The devadashi interpretative-dance version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" was probably the highlight of the weekend. You don't see divine inspiration all that often, so it's worth appreciating when you do...
jducoeur: (Default)
Another ebook worth noting from Project Gutenberg -- The Dance: Historic Illustrations of Dancing from 3300 B.C. to 1911 A.D., by "An Antiquary". Bearing in mind that the book is from 1911, so the scholarship is likely a bit dated, this is nonetheless a rich source of dance pictures from all ages, including two chapters on SCA period...
jducoeur: (Default)
Another ebook worth noting from Project Gutenberg -- The Dance: Historic Illustrations of Dancing from 3300 B.C. to 1911 A.D., by "An Antiquary". Bearing in mind that the book is from 1911, so the scholarship is likely a bit dated, this is nonetheless a rich source of dance pictures from all ages, including two chapters on SCA period...

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