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 Post subject: Boston Ballet, Grand Slam 2006
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 10:17 am 
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A conversation with Val Caniparoli the choreographer of Lambarena, one of four works on the Grand Slam Program opening on March 16 at the Wang Center in Boston.


“I hope that I have yet to create my signature work,” chortled Val Caniparoli in beamish retoste (retort/riposte) to, “Is Lambarena your signature work?”

Following morning rehearsals and a quick banter filled Starbucks run, we settled into a conference room on the third floor of the Boston Ballet Studio and continued our conversation.

SEA: Did the creation of Lambarena change, clarify, or otherwise influence how you used the body or related movement to music in the works that followed?

VC: It along with the other styles really influenced how I use the body. One of the things I learned from Zak and Naomi (Zakariya Sao Diouf and Naomi Gedo Johnson-Washington, the African Dance consultants to Caniparoli) is internalizing: to make moves out of things other than just [steps]…not hap hazardously or going overboard, but using the whole body. The arm movement, for example, extends from the back first rather than just isolating- that is too rigid. And that has influenced immensely my other work. It is not really African based, it taught me a new way to approach choreography. I have always been influenced by other forms whether they be modern, ice-skating, or ballroom. All kinds of dance, I’ve been interested to incorporate in new ways. These are the influences on the development of my style, if there is such a thing. (Editorial intrusion: include jazz, Broadway, and popular dance forms, which the work “Bow Out” clearly illustrates.)

SEA: In an interview with CD’s Dean Speer last year, you talked about the issue of fusing the up-ness of ballet with the grounded-ness of African dance. Given the flow of the mixed movement, even when fragmented by the normal rehearsal process, the pair seems complimentary rather than contrary. In fact, in the rehearsal for the male solo where the still air of the adagio tempo could easily spawn a feathery impressionism one found instead in the dance and its performance the clarity and precision in and required for the playing of Baroque music or African polyrhythms. And, at this tempo it allowed for one’s aged and unpracticed eye to see the connection between the back and arm movement you spoke about above; yet as a whole the weave of moods was seamless.

VC: It’s all shaped by the music.

SEA: Writers have variously described Lambarena as “buoyant,” “fun,” a “witty fusion” or as “a vacant, mushy mess.” One suspects that the ascriptions of either wit or vacuity arise when Lambarena is understood as a “mixing of African gestures with classical steps” only. For this occasion, one understands “gesture” to indicate meaning charged movement and “step” to indicate meaning neutral movement. In the either/or of such a “purist” view, Lambarena then is little more than a cascade of misspellings and other errors of vocabulary. Nevertheless, given how the words “internalize” and “meaning” have informed this conversation both on and off the tape, as well as noting the laudatory response of African audiences, compels one to think that the view of the world offered by “Lambarena” is meaningful rather than confused or meaningless. So, in every nuance of the word sense, how does one make sense of Lambarena?

VC: There are moves in the work where the characters are pointing to the earth and sky. The eyeballs are choreographed, and the look brings with it a sense of celebration of earth and sky. And the vocabulary or the source of the vocabulary of African dance includes the movement of animals. And they, meaning Naomi and Zak, would give meaning to the movements I was doing. And I would re-sculpt them, for example, the extension of the arm [he demonstrates an arm that looks French Romantic] they said looked like an elephant’s trunk. So, rather than lifting it we did this [demonstrates gently undulating arms] from the facial area. Or, at the end where the ladies are on pointe, they are walking in an attitude and undulating their bodies- it came from my interpretation of what I see as African dance it’s not an actual African move. They looked at it and said “Yes, that’s a giraffe.” And we worked more on that. So, they took meaning in what I was doing and I was feeding from that even though I was treating it in a way different from their interpretation.

Caniparoli went on to say that his “sense of African dance is that it is not meant for the concert hall stage.” In a theatre that seats more than five or six hundred or if performed outside of a neighborhood say the detail, subtly of reference, and the sense of communal involvement of African dance gets lost. He needed, therefore, to make Lambarena “a little larger than life so that the audience can see it clearly. The isolations are, for example, a little more extreme so that the dance gets across to an audience in a one or two thousand seat theatre. And this want for getting the dance across is why he is a stickler on precision. Whether it is the weave of voices in Bach or the weave of African rhythms in the music, if the movement is not as precise then the work is a mess.

SEA: So, granting that life and art are finally inseparable, as evidenced by your experience creating Lambarena, let one offer an analogy. One could relate to Lambarena, for example, the way one relates to the language in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” or “A Clockwork Orange,” by Anthony Burgess or James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake.” Each fuses words from English and two of these go over the top to fuse both words and the grammatical structures of English with other languages. In this sense, your “style”- the absorption of many dance forms- resonates with the writers mentioned. Moreover, the fact that Carroll’s once nonsense words “chortle” and “beamish,” for example, now figure in the weave of the English language shows how works of art, as if they were fellow humans, can “talk” to, influence, and enrich how one views the world. So, whether Lambarena, Plan To B, or La Fille one could relate to these works as if they were persons showing one something. Considered in this way, how would you describe the personality, the moods, or the face of Lambarena?

VC: Joyous Lambarena, celebratory Lambarena. Lambarena smiles out at the audience.



Lambarena, premiered by the San Francisco Ballet on March 28, 1995, divides into eight episodes and is set on eight male and five female dancers. The eponymous CD created by L. Akendengue in 1992 fuses traditional Gabonese music with works by J. S. Bach. Lambarene is Gabon’s third largest city and is located on the Ogooue River. It is the city where physician, musician, and Bach scholar Albert Schweitzer established a hospital, lived, and practiced.


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 Post subject: Review: Grand Slam, Wang Center, Boston, March 18, 2006
PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2006 7:11 pm 
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Grand Slam’s Priapic liquefier of custom found a fellow choreographer in his rehearsal space and instantly rolled a foamy kiss upon her neck. Grinning, Helen Pickett vanished. She rematerialized, however, in the airy form of a work titled “Etesian.”

In contrast to the North Westerly flow of this Mediterranean summer wind, the dynamic of “Etesian” is more atmospheric than directional. In fact, for the four each male and female dancers appropriately costumed in swimwear life is just another bearing-less day at the beach. And like the ever composing and dissolving mechanism of clouds, the choreography also rhymed thousands of times on pre-determined structures. In cloud-like silence the dancers puffed and rolled, bubbled and perished, squiggled and twisted aimlessly, it seemed, until shaped by intervening fragments of Bach or Beethoven into recognizable, but painful looking sculptures. When bathed in the Maxfield Parrish-like blue and gold of the lighting design, however, the painful look softened.

Where “Etesian” describes living with discontinuity and aimless effort, “Plan to B,” choreographed by Jorma Elo, describes the frenzy of living with multiple deadlines. Set on two female and four male dancers, the fast paced mix of solos, duets, and groups embody a world overheated by multiple tasking. Shaken rather stirred, the mix of virtuosic ballet, the sort still found in ballet school syllabi, with Elo’s rippling arms, sudden changes of direction, and a Petrushka-esque jointlessness wonderfully communicated the harried lives of its characters. Moreover, while the once intense sound of von Biber’s music is lost to contemporary listeners, the choreographic response to the subtlest of musical changes showed the hair trigger sensitivity to persons with a lot to do. Starting one section before finishing another, a pit stop setting, rehearsal-like costumes, and lighting as sever as a whipping “Plan to B” held one fast and didn’t let go until it was finished.

“Up and Down,” choreographed by Mark Morris for the Boston Ballet and premiered March 16 continued the directional theme of the Grand Slam concert. The gently stirred and airy mix of ballet and Morrisms pictured, one thinks, the work’s Up-ness. While, the funeral colors of the otherwise cheery design of the costumes worn by the six each male and female dancers pictured the work’s Down-ness. Perhaps, the costume’s coffin black or UPS brown or the deep purple worn by the lady soloist, for example, mean to visualize the dark chocolate sound of Glazunov’s saxophone quartet. (The correct key of which is B Flat major rather than B major as listed in the program.) Nevertheless and alas, for all of Morris’s critical predictability, i.e. “the notes just fall of the page and into the choreography”, next to his “Grand Duo” “Up and Down” is a grand bore. One accounts for the work’s narcoleptic effect by comparing its certainties to the perennial homilies visited upon the young nieces and nephews of an affable, but pompous uncle. And shinning Morris’s hoary refrain back at him one asks, “Is that legal?”

With Val Caniparoli’s “Lambarena,” Grand Slam’s journey came to a close. Moreover, the fact that Lambarene identifies a “legal” city in sovereign Gabon enhanced the concert’s sense of arrival. Yet, the “love it” or “hate it” response to either Pierre Akendengue’s " Lambarena" CD or Caniparoli’s eponymous dance work along with the longevity of both, 1992 for the CD and 1995 for the dance piece, evidence the continuing drama of “fusion” spawned art works. Nevertheless, the lexicon of "Lambarena" as well as that of its concert mates displayed a mixture, a fusion, of ballet with other dance influences. In the case of "Lambarena," however, Caniparoli liquefied a dense dance mixture and founded it with new molds. And like the humans that populate Gabon’s Lambarene, the piece manifested a range of moods and dreams and reflections. It declared, for example, in the first male solo an intense sensuality and in the second male solo an ardent spirituality. The costumes and lighting draped the frames of the dance, its musical structures, and the dancers with the ruddy colors of boisterous life. Rhythmically breezy, emotionally intense, and very “up” the celebratory "Lambarena" convinced because the eight male and five female dancers were always on fire.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:32 am 
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Quote:
In With the New, Four Times, From Mark Morris and Others
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

Entitled "Grand Slam" — Boston really is a baseball town — the program includes a new work by Mark Morris, who somehow found time during his anniversary season in Brooklyn to dash up to Boston, complete the rehearsals, take a curtain call on Thursday night at the Wang Theater and plant a big smooch on the cheek of the gentleman who presented him with flowers. Mr. Morris's work is called, rather mysteriously, "Up and Down," a phrase that might better suit the program as a whole.

published: March 18, 2006
more...


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 Post subject: link to M. B. Siegel's review
PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2006 6:18 am 
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Posts: 131
Location: Southwick, MA, USA
A link to M. B. Siegel's review of Grand Slam in the Boston Phoenix:


http://www.thephoenix.com/article_ektid7081.aspx


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