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 Post subject: Tudor in Boston
PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 8:12 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 131
Location: Southwick, MA, USA
In style, content, and importance, “Dark Elegies,” choreographed by Antony Tudor to Gustav Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder,” is a monumental work.

Set upon the dancers of the Boston Conservatory for a Spring Concert (February 15-18), one watched the Tudor Trust’s inimitable Donald Mahler and Yasuko Tokunaga, the Conservatory’s Dance Division Director (who as a student at Julliard studied under Tudor learning among other things “Dark Elegies”), move the cast along the artistic way that leads from learning “steps” to meeting Tudor’s performance ideal. And shortly, the “Dark Elegies” rehearsals reminded one of the work’s themes of grief and salvation.

As exemplars of the monumental, Gothic cathedrals rehearse or retell the stories that in particular remind the viewer of their certain sinfulness as well as the possibility of their salvation. Generally, however, one feels that these sermons in stone also say that, “Faith defeats doubt.” And, as unlikely as it may seem the stone faced human figures held in the cathedrals frozen poetry also picture aspects of Tudor’s aesthetic. A line borrowed from Wittgenstein’s “Philosophical Investigations” serves to gnomically express the aesthetic value, the shared features of style, of the art of the Gothic cathedral and Tudor. “The best picture of the human body,” Wittgenstein writes, “is the human soul.” And for Tudor in general and “Dark Elegies” in particular that means that although all are nameless each character in “Dark Elegies” arrives on stage with a history. And while the gestures made by the human characters of Gothic art tend toward pantomime, for Tudor gesture and soul are continuous. It is through gestures with soul, “fine shades of behavior,” rather than steps, counts, or mere “mugging,” which for Tudor was anathema that one understands, in this instance, the grievous loss suffered and the peace achieved by the citizens of the “Dark Elegies” community.

In “The Choreographic Art,” Peggy Van Praagh pairs the distinctive communal aspect of “Dark Elegies” to that of Nyjinky’s “Le scare du primtemps.” In “The Ballets of Tudor,” Judith Chazin-Bennahum expands on this theme. She writes, “The parallels between it [Scare] and “Dark Elegies” are evident. Both attempt to decipher deep communal responses to death, with their communities sharing overflowing reactions to experiences that can not be understood on a rational level.” Chazin-Bennahum continues, “The formal repetition of ceremonial movements achieves a certain desired intensity in both ballets. Each participant in these rituals is set apart from the real world, and is given a feeling of power from having performed the ritual….” In addition to noting how structure and movement choices inform our understanding of the “communal responses,” Chazin-Bannehum’s insights also highlight other aspects of “Dark Elegies.” How, for example, does one harmonize the duality of Tudor’s imperative that a performer convey a character’s feelings directly, i.e. “face to face,” with the “through a glass darkly” effect of the work’s formal properties, i.e. gesture standing off from its meaning or being “set apart from the real world”? A conversation with Mahler (Donald not Gustav) following a rehearsal of the fourth song in “Dark Elegies” illustrates the question. One suggested that the fourth song’s “formal repetitions and ceremonial movements” brought attention to the work’s oratorical aspect. It is as if “Dark Elegies” commemorates an anniversary - a long practiced reminder of some ancient and incomprehensible horror. And by virtue of the distance brought by time, formality, and factual vagueness (for the cause of the children’s death is never given), “Dark Elegies” means to use its reference to a terrible event indirectly or persuasively like a Cathedral’s frieze. In reply Mahler said that the female solo in the fourth song, “Is not a symbol of feeling; it is the feeling.” Mahler’s laconic remark speaks volumes.

Granting that Gothic art manifests sermons or stories in stone, (or that Faulkner’s art gives an understandable voice to a bellowing idiot) then the dissonance between the dualities of feeling and form or gesture and meaning, for this writer, vanish. Tudor’s “Dark Elegies,” as does the 5 of the 425 Kindertotenlieder poems by Ruckert used by Gustav Mahler in his eponymous song cycle for baritone and chamber orchestra, creates additional ways of sounding the depths of and expressing grief, guilt, anger, doubt, and finally faith and peace. (Just as learning to speak Benjy, the idiot from “The Sound and the Fury” for example, offers another way of expressing innocence.) In its use of soul motivated, face-to-face, gesture to tell a public tale of grief endured and peace achieved, as well as its significance in the history of dance “Dark Elegies” is a monumental work. More importantly, however, as an exemplar of art “Dark Elegies” reminds viewers that art is a way of knowing life.

Performances given at the Boston Conservatory Theater, Feb, 15-17 at 8 PM, and Sunday, Feb 18, at 2 PM.

For more information go to: http://www.bostonconservatory.edu/perfo ... endar.html


Last edited by S. E. Arnold on Wed Jan 31, 2007 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 4:15 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2001 11:01 pm
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
Thanks for the great review of the performance. I love Dark Elegies. I wish someone out here would do it.


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 Post subject: Review of the Boston Conservatory Concert, in Boston, Feb 15
PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 6:03 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 131
Location: Southwick, MA, USA
The many meanings of the word ‘yearning’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary include: the object of an intense desire or compassion, the action of that intense desire or compassion, and the braying of hounds in the hunt. Additionally, a poetic use of the term described the great bulge of a ship’s wind filled sheets as “yearning sails.” Of the three pieces on the Boston Conservatory’s Spring Dance Concert, it is clear that “Dances for Isadora,” choreographed by Jose Limon, and “Dark Elegies,” choreographed by Antony Tudor, meet the first two aspects of ‘yearning.’ The work, however, that both playfully meets the term’s third use and that opened the Concert was “Galleria,” choreographed by Michael Uthoff.’ Commissioned and premiered by the Conservatory, the work takes its title from the mega-mall in Houston, Texas or perhaps its replications in St. Louis, Missouri- where Uthoff now lives and works- or again in nearby Cambridge, Massachusetts. In any case, Uthoff’s “Galleria,” which is set on five male and six female dancers, uses the lexicon of ballet to picture the tails up excitement of shoppers yearning after the scent of sales.

Certainly, the bright D Major key of Mozart’s Piano Concerto #5, along with the colorful motley of the ladies’ costumes, the vivid shirts of the male dancers and/or blouses worn also by the musicians, and the unabashed enjoyment the dancers find in each other’s company, particularly in the Second Movement pas de deux, contribute to the bright smile of “Galleria.” Happy and breathless too, as the work features rapid comings and goings, continuous textural exchanges of dancers, and a plethora- but never over done-of turns and jumps and combinations of them. And Uthoff too on opening night, regaled in a pin stripped blazer and subtle polka dot tie smiled with “Galleria.”

Where pianist Karolina Rojahn provided the sparkle in “Galleria’s” grin, so too pianist Rasa Vitkauskaite provided the deepening turbulence in “Dances for Isadora’s” torment. In five solos Limon looms the threads of Isadora Duncan’s public and private life together. All in minor keys and with increasing agitation, the six piano pieces by Chopin inform four of the “Dances” five sections (#5 is in silence) titled, Primavera, Maenade, Niobe, and La Patrie, with interpretative content. The very thing Duncan was about. Neatly and subtly too, the costumes, an airy light yellow-green for Primavera, a wine-dark red chiton for Maenade, a mournful drape for Niobe, and a bright red gaudiness of La Petrie certainly match the music’s agitated moods, but also reflect the tension of the tritone shaped wedge plotted in the keys of the pieces. (The keys progress, for example, from c minor to f# minor, then quickly returns to c minor.) The sudden silence of the Scarf Dance emphasizes the now frowzy and frowzily costumed Maenade’s isolation. Here Duncan’s relationship with gravity turns from surrender to struggle. And in this key of dark silence, the emptiness of her yearning’s wasted reach becomes palpable. Isadora the Maenade, whose life can be seen as a celebration of Dionysus ended as such celebrations do with a sacrifice- hers; and when brought to pass by her signature scarf, her death and life became, as Nietzsche might say, a source of tragedy.

If one replaces ‘yearning’ to describe the humans in “Galleria’s” shopping chase with “singing’ then “Dark Elegies” on a more serious note both sounds and pictures the three aspects of ‘yearning’ cited above. Rucker’s lyrics for “Kindertotenlieder identifies the object. Gustav Mahler’s setting, particularly his combined use of instrumental color (to depict, for example, the struggle of light over darkness), dynamic makings, and descriptive motifs such as the ‘sigh’ and the ‘inferno,’ sonically incarnates the action. And in a powerful gestalt Tudor’s choreography sings it all. “To mean is to sing,” wrote Wittgenstein, and one can hear Tudor agreeing but paraphrasing him and saying, “Yes, to mean is to dance.” And this prompts a reminder of Donald Mahler’s words on the subject of the lady’s solo in the Fourth Song that hers, “Is not a symbol of feeling; it is the feeling.” Leaping now, consider that “Dark Elegies” pictures how persons from the realm envisioned by Wittgenstein or Tudor, where one’s language means by singing or dancing (where meaning never stops short of its composed fact), create art or view the world. From this perspective, the structure of “Dark Elegies” in all of its aspects (think “strophic” spacing, repeated lines of 'verse,' moves that rhyme, effaced accompaniment, and the composition’s calling attention to particular words/gestures, etc) shows a lyrical rather than a ritual activity. In this sense, one feels that words that define ritual such as solemn, ceremonial, devotional (of a religious sort), routine (of a tiresome sort), and sacrifice (of a murderous sort) hardly fit indeed do a disservice to the contemplative and perhaps didactic, “Dark Elegies.”

“They got it!” became a joyous refrain to the performances of “Dark Elegies.” One heard it countless times from the many Tudor veterans that served, for example, with the National Ballet of Canada, American Ballet Theatre, and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet as well as from those that studied with Tudor at Julliard. “They got it,” each said about the casts, orchestra, and guest baritone, David Kravitz. “They got it.” “They got it.” “They got it.”


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