Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mike Versus the Fine Arts: My Night In Baltimore

Firstly, let's deal with the title of this post. That's right, I live in New York City and go to Baltimore for my exposure to the arts. If any of you want to stop reading now, I don't really blame you. For those of you still here, last weekend I packed up a bag of random things (65% of the weight of which was composed of books) and took the Chinatown bus down to the B-More, which is eternally beloved by BOB (And yes, I do realize Cindi is the only person who will understand that). A few words on the Chinatown bus(es): It is great. Many of these buses have sprung up making routes around the East Coast in direct competition to Greyhound, whose incompetence is legendary in my personal brain. These companies typically charge $35 for a round-trip ticket to the city of your choosing, and then after you pay this ridiculously low fee the bus goes directly to your city. Express. They actually get you there when they are supposed to. This is awesome. All you have to deal with is the knowledge that they are probably smuggling crack or weapons-grade plutonium or Charles Manson or something in the cargo hold. But for a $35 ticket anywhere on the East Coast, I'll try to smuggle Charles Manson across the border on a Big Wheel® while smoking crack. I'm not proud.

The purpose for this excursion was to attend a dance-based extravaganzical evening entitled 'Singing the Body Electric,' organized by a friend who shall remain nameless for no good reason unless I forget and type her name out (I've now finished writing this, and not mentioning names did not at all work. Unfortunately, my delete key is malfunctioning. Her name is Cindi L'Abbe). So I attended. Now, I know some people out there know many things about dance. I happen to be one of them, as there was this one time in college I consumed a substantial number of root beers, which affected my mood and/or fine motor control to the point that I found myself swaying in what was presumably a rhythmic fashion (I can't remember) to music that did not technically exist outside of my own head. Armed with this formidable background, I got a beer (Oatmeal stout, brewed in Maryland. Fairly impressive) at the bar (Yes! They had a bar at the dance show! Awesome!) while the dancers warmed up backstage. Once I and the rest of the audience (Okay, just me (Further note: The place was packed. Not bad)) were suitably warmed up, the lights went out, revealing the three randomly-placed pieces of glowing tape onstage. I like shiny objects. Then the lights came back on and the dancing commenced.

A little bit of structure here (About the dancing. There's no hope left for this post). The evening was arranged in two acts of six dances apiece, with an intermission between the two and six different people handling the choreography (It's a bit like the book of Revelation with a different favorite number). The music was a mix of canned and live, with one original composition (More on that later) (Unless I forget). The dancers generally worked with a single choreographer, allowing for minimal time spent setting up. Which was nice, because it meant the show moved right along. I would have felt weird about walking in front of everyone to rebeer during a dance.

Now, I suspect a lot of people have a preconceived notion of dance as some sort of pretty means of expression through movement. This is not the case when Cindi is choreographing. Her dances can best be described as ugly. This is not to say they are not watchable. Far from it. Just that they will not be mistaken for a revival of Swan Lake anytime soon. Cindi's style of choreography has much less in common with Tchaikovsky than with Compton's Most Wanted, in that you go pop pop pop and watch the sucker hit the floor. Act 1 featured a trio of choreographers providing two pieces, with Cindi starting things off with a new piece featuring original music from the generically-named David Ross. Quite frankly, I find myself having a hard time remembering specifics from this dance. There were some excellent visuals, including a wonderful image that sticks with me of Cindi hoisting a fellow dancer on her back while she (not Cindi (while we're on the subject, what was her name exactly?)) continued to make leg motions akin to pedalling a bicycle; as well as several hops, which are rapidly becoming a sort of signature move. Trying to focus on the music, the dancing and my beer proved a bit much; and I am left with more a series of dreamlike images than anything concrete. As the piece is entitled Wake Me When It's Over, this may have been the point all along.

From this entertaining beginning we rapidly went south. Now, let me first state that my opinion of dancing offers little more than random whims in terms of actual opinions and analysis. I come from a background much more of music than of movement, and a poor choice of audio can ruin a piece for me quicker than any on-stage stumbles. Disclaimer done, the two dances choreographed by Reggie Cole were somewhere between bad and awful. Don't get me wrong. Reggie seemed like a wonderful dancer, and has absolutely phenomenal body control (and, I have been told, is one of the most surprisingly married men out there. Yeah dancer stereotypes!). He is awesomely graceful on stage. And I wish he would stick to dancing at others' direction. It's possible his placement in the program did him a disservice, as following the intellectually challenging first piece with a puff piece that would not be out of place on So You Think You Can Dance© was a bit more than jarring. Factor in that he chose to assault the audience's ears with some unholy combination of Herbie Hancock and Annie Lennox and this rapidly became unforgivable. His second work was set to the strains of what sounded like an Evanesence knock-off and ended with both dancers making the shape of the cross onstage. Nothing to see here, folks.

In between these two was a dance that I recall liking at the time, but in my memory it is reduced to the opening 45 seconds being repeatedly run. This involved two dancers offstage running out towards each other, doing a sort of do-si-do and returning to where they came from behind the curtain. I spent most of the time this was happening thinking about how awesome it would be if they ran into each other (intentionally), fell down and then lay in the middle of the stage for a minute or two as the music continued to play. This is why it is a good thing that I am not a choreographer (other ideas I had: dancing on bubble wrap and dancing while wearing velcro™, with the audience throwing things at the dancers in an attempt to get them to stick). There was a Cindi-choreographed trifecta of duets, complete with couples who progressively liked each other less and fun with plastic props. Also, somewhere along the line there was a sixth dance. I know because the program tells me.

Moving along in a strictly linear fashion, we (collectively) reached Act 2 after an intermission. this consisted of six dances, among which were Reggie redeeming himself a bit by taking my suggestion from earlier and just dancing twice, and one other bit that sticks out. Now, let me state that I wish to do this [searching for perfect word] thing full justice, so I shall hereby report only facts.

Fact: An upright piano was wheeled onstage, with two cymbals and a bell sitting on it.
Fact: A vocalist came out next to the piano.
Fact: Two dancers came out and sat in rocking chairs, facing each other.
Fact: I thought this writing format would be a lot more fun than it is.
Fact: The vocalist then sang single words from nursery rhymes repeatedly. When she finished, the pianist would play while the dancers ran about the stage.
Fact: Sometimes the cymbals would be crashed to emphasize an especially dramatic point.
Fact: This point was nearly always "London Bridge is falling down."
Fact: I will never have to watch this again in my entire life. And am not overly saddened by this.

The final dance also happened to be the best of the night, Cindi's dance spinoff of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. I'm not even going to attempt any sort of summary here, as I feel incapable of doing it justice (Also, this got really long sometime when I wasn't paying attention. I feel like Joe Posnanski right now). So this will have to suffice: I have used a lot of colons in this post. Also, Cindi manages to dissect the internal workings of Raskolnikov well enough that I feel I alomst know his character just as well from the dance as I do from reading the book, and with quite a bit of time saved (wish I'd known about this dance before I read the book (THAT IS A LIE)). The night's performance ended as one always should, with a pile of bodies freshly strewn across the stage (Actual quote from later in the night: "We love performing that one because if we slip and fall it looks like part of the dance"). And really, isn't that what dancing is all about? No, I'm really asking. I have no idea.


Cindi Lynn said...

"her" name is Andrea, and she was sleep-walking and is exceptionally cute.

lemming said...

NO one else is aloud to post comments in lemming territiory SubmiT Or (dieing sounded to harsh) watch something with Bob sagit in it (actually that's worse than dieing.)