The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

November 5, 2009

Main Street has taken over my brain — FOM, Anastasia, CCJC, Miriam, Good Time Chuck, Ashley, Vista Ballroom — plus more

It’s the first Thursday of the month and that can only mean one thing — Main Street will be rockin’ the arts tonight.  Big time.

Big goings on this month, too, because the happening trifecta traditionally provided by Mark, Chuck and Travis — aka Frame of Mind, Gotham Nights and White Mule –– is getting a major boost just a bit down the street at the Sheraton where Anastasia Chernoff is opening her show cleverly titled ex true sions.  Given that I will fight you for the title of Anastasia’s biggest fan, I couldn’t be more thrilled.  Anastasia has subtitled her show as — deep emotions squeezed or forced out and reformed through a medium — because she created these works while under hypnosis.  See?  Hypnosis doesn’t necessarily make one bark like a dog or speak like Rush Limbaugh when she goes under.  (Although I’d much prefer the first to the latter.)  Even if you aren’t an arts geek like me, do let your curiosity get the best of you and stop by Posh at the Sheraton at 1400 Main Street between 5 and 10 tonight to have a drink at the bar and check this show out.

And the big news up the street (or is it down?  I admit that sometimes I am directionally challenged — but I always know where the wine is, which is a life saver) is that Mark Plessinger has put together way more performing artists than any one Main Street deserves to complement his FOM (Frame of Mind) Series, which this month features the local artist Evelyn Wong.  Evelyn is both a performer and a mixed media artist so you never know what she will come up with, and I’m excited to see what she has going on with this showing.  Her work will continue to be on display at FOM throughout the month of November.  Performance-wise though, Mark has seriously got you covered, with short features presented by Miriam Barbosa of the SC Contemporary Dance Company, solos by the lovlies Sherry Warren and Ashley Bennett, and ensemble presentations by Columbia City Jazz Company, Vista Ballroom, and Carolina Ballet.  Whew!   We’ll be kicking off this delicious dose of arts immersion at 5 and running it until 9 at Frame of Mind — 1520 Main Street, directly across the street from the art museum.

At the risk of completely overwhelming you I also have to share that both of Mark ‘s neighbors — The White Mule and Gotham Nights — have stuff going on that you are absolutely going to have to stop into as well.  White Mule has a free wine tasting and a happy bar that is always ready to pour/mix/splash you a cold one, plus some of the coolest, edgiest art in town hanging on its walls — though I hear someone has her eye on one of Mike Krajewski’s pieces, but I’ll not divulge which one lest she get beaten to the punch and I have to suffer the consequences of my big mouth.  And Good time Chuck over at Gotham Nights (Gotham Bagel, by day) will be partying down with Tim McLendon, schwing dancing, plus a fridge full of fine beer and wine by the glass.

But please be forewarned — do not stay out too late tonight as Friday and Saturday nights have a glorious show in store for you at the Koger Center.  The USC Dance Company is on the stage again, so not only will my baby girl be dancing, but Thaddeus Davis has choreographed a new piece on former Boston Ballet principal/now USC instructor, Kyra Strasburg, to the music of Andre Previn.  That plus Balanchine plus more new choreography —  more info to come tomorrow, but rest assured, you dance & music lovers don’t want to miss this show.

See you tonight on Main!

 

 

 

September 8, 2009

Marcelo Novo, Twyla Tharp, the if ART Gallery, and the thrill of creativity

I spent an hour or so last week sitting down over coffee with local visual artist Marcelo Novo.  We wanted to talk about Marcelo’s contributions to the upcoming performance of the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company’s Catharsis, choreographed by Miriam Barbosa.  The take away message?  Collaboration is good and Marcelo Novo is brilliant.

The story of how Marcelo and Miriam met is interesting in that they were introduced after the 2004 Verner Awards ceremony by a  mutual friend who thought their common South American heritage would provide a pleasant point of departure for conversation — and it did.  They spent the evening conversing in Spanish, comparing notes on assimilation into North American culture, and talking about art.  When the evening was done the two artists parted as friends, exchanging numbers with the promise  that they would one day work together on something special. 

Still feeling the ache of his father’s passing, Marcelo’s art had recently been inspired it seemed by the need to cope — to get through difficulties, to survive and grow.  Miriam had also experienced some deeply personal challenges of late.  When the artists met over coffee, it was toward the concept of catharsis,  the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through art, that their interests leaned.  Within a year’s time the artists had developed the ballet Catharsis, and now, five years later, we get to take another look at this ballet with new dancers, new costumes, and new surprises.

For me though, the excitement of seeing the ballet this time will be enhanced by the fact that I feel like I’ve already seen it, when I really haven’t.  Yes, I sat in on a portion of rehearsal a while back and I saw brief pieces of a grainy film on a small screen, but no, I did not see the dance itself.  I saw something not necessarily better, but certainly more intimate. 

I was allowed the luxury of looking through Marcelo’s sketchbook and viewing the images of the ballet as it was born from that sequestered space in his subconscience through his hand, to his pen, and onto the paper.  Sketched sometimes on scrap pages, I saw the seminal work, the very beginnings of what would eventually be a fully realized artistic endeavor — the lines of the leotards, the surreal masks, the details of what would ultimately be quilted wings, tediously applied make up, and lights falling over dancers and onto a stage floor. 

Sometimes Marcelo recorded his thoughts in complete sentences and formed them into paragraphs that provided a narrative he would ultimately return to as the process of creation continued.  At other times he just jotted down words, phrases and visual flashes that sparked off of concepts that were revealing themselves to his consciousness at a rate too rapid to fully comprehend.  A teaser; something to come back to later.   There were frame-worthy sketches on coffee napkins — complete characters as well as small details of costume design.  It was astounding.

And as I write these words I know that the reader might think me fawning over the attractive Marcelo, but I’m not.  What I am in awe of though is this process of creation — no matter who gets to experience it.  Hell, I’m even thrilled with myself when I turn the clever and occasionally eloquent phrase.   As I told Marcelo, I am reminded of a book I picked up by the choreographer Twyla Tharp called, The Creative Habit, written in 2003.  Tharp opens the book with the words, “I walk into a white room …” and she goes on to explain how she transforms the emptiness of that white room through creativity into art.  “Filling this empty space constitutes my identity,” she says.  And I find that sentence humbling, too.

If like me, you’re a sucker for the creative process, your own or somebody else’s, check out these three things:  Catharsis, presented by the SCCDC on September 17th at 7pm at the Koger Center; the opening of Marcelo’s new show at the if ART gallery on Lincoln Street on the following night; and Twyla Tharp’s venture into the written word, The Creative Habit:  Learn it and Use it for Life.

 

Oh, and here are some important websites as well:  www.marcelonovo.blogspot.com and www.ifartgallery.blogspot.com

August 19, 2009

Miriam Barbosa and The South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company

I had the opportunity to spend an hour this afternoon watching a rehearsal by Miriam Barbosa’s new group, the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company.  Miriam gathers her dancers into a small but nicely sprung space that is just by her Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis studio down an alley off Lady Street. 

The company is rehearsing a program they have scheduled for next month at the Koger Center.  They’ll be performing two exciting pieces.  The first one on the docket is the Maple Leaf Rag — the last piece Martha Graham choreographed  before her death — and the piece that was inspired by her 1989 visit to South Carolina.  Miriam dances the principal part to music by Scott Joplin, but her other dancers are amply used in this whimsical number that is fun and upbeat and not nearly as somber as many of Graham’s other choreographic works.  It makes me happy to think that this was the music and these were the movements last on Ms. Graham’s mind before she shuffled off to the next realm.  Happy, peaceful and fun.

The second number the company will be performing is a re-do of one of Miriam’s pieces, Catharsis, on which she collaborated with local visual artist Marcelo Novo.  I saw a lot of what I’ve come to recognize as classic Barbosa choreography in this piece — fullness, strangeness, lyricism, and athleticism.  It’s almost as if the limited dimensions of the dance floor aren’t enough for Barbosa, so she takes her dancers into the air and actually suspends a few of them them in flight above the stage.  This dance was harder to visualize in the studio but Miriam let me watch the video of a previous performance done in 2006.  She’s changing up her costumes a bit and has Barry Sparks, Columbia’s great thaumaturge of all things light and sound, doing her lighting, so there’s even more to look forward to from this performance.

But probably the most exciting thing about my experience this afternoon was seeing a number of familiar faces from other local dance troupes working together on the floor.  There was Maurice and Misha and Eddie from William’s house; and Sergei and Julia from down at John’s; English from up at the university — just to name a few.  It was a cooperative dance in a city that is full of outstanding dancers, but hasn’t always been known for letting them share their talents with one another — or with us, their audience.

Kudos to Miriam Barbosa for bringing these artists together and making this company happen.  And kudos, too, to Marvin Chernoff and Chuck LeMark who are standing behind her as she does so.  I look forward to seeing the performance on the night of September 17th at the Koger Center — and I look forward to seeing what else this company can bring to our city’s stages.

I’ll be writing more on the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company in the next issue of Stir Magazine — in the meantime, for more info take a look at their website at www.scdanceco.com.

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