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

October 27, 2009

Dance in Columbia a la’ Stir Magazine

If you haven’t had a chance to read my Art Scene column in the latest issue of  Stir Magazine, you can pick up a copy of the swanky-looking publication at some of the finest spots in town, (I got mine from Mr. Friendly’s), or you can take a look at the whole cyber spread by clicking this –>www.stircolumbia.com and turning to pages 8 – 9, or you can read my piece only below.

I tried to at least give a nod to everything going on dance-wise in the city, but I may have missed something, and I hope you’ll let me know if I did.  I’d also like to hear what you think about my argument for multiple dance companies in Cola town.  Do you think that a multiplicity of dance companies in one city raises the barre (pun intended), or does it dilute the audience and funds? Chime in — it’s a debate worth having.

Now for Something a Little Different

Everyone who loves the arts has something they love the most; a medium that most satisfies their inner cravings for meaning and soul-baring expression.  For one woman it may be the theatre, and the houselights don’t go down at TRUSTUS without her feet beneath the seat of one of the cozy chairs Kay and Jim Thigpen keep warm down on Lady Street.  The next guy may be all about music:  he thinks Charles Wadsworth is Jesus and can hum the cello suites in his sleep.  For someone else it may be the visual arts with the sun rising in Mana Hewitt’s metalworks and setting in David Yaghjian’s oils.  I’m like most art geeks in that I love it all – my favorite time is opening night and I’d seriously consider voting Morihiko in as mayor if he’d run.  But the thing that does it for me most is dance.

And that means I live in the right place.

As a city, Columbia has more than her share of dance entertainment opportunities, and unlike some folks who argue that one dance company to a town is enough, I heartily disagree.  Just as no two dancers are the same, neither are any two companies.  Each brings something different to the stage.  From the sultry undulations of Unbound to the rhythmic punctuations of Terrence Henderson’s Leo Award winning Vibrations; from Martha Brim’s mature and modern Power Company, to the scarily cute kids from Dale Lam’s Columbia City Jazz; from Dancewordz Ballet that combines movement with poetry, to Wideman/Davis that is poetry in and of itself; from CMFA’s Carolina Ballet, which has been around forever, to USC’s Dance Company which has come into its own; and from William to Radenko – there I said it – they all have something unique to offer.  And the benefactor of this wealth of diversity, this embarrassment of riches, is the Columbia, South Carolina dance audience.  We never have a reason for being bored.

One of the freshest and most exciting dance ventures in town this fall is Miriam Barbosa’s new iteration of the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company, housed by her Gyrotonics studio down on Lady Street.  Inklings of this company began back in 2007 when Miriam was still on faculty at USC, with those inklings developing into a two-person performance of Story Lines earlier this year, original Barbosa choreography staged around Beth Melton’s textile installation at the Columbia Center for Contemporary Art on Whaley.  Since then, the company has grown in number – there are eighteen professional dancers now; in support – Marvin Chernoff and Chuck LaMark have both signed on as associate executive directors; and, in target audience – performances are already booked in Columbia, Charleston and Charlotte and the calendar seems to grow every day.

The premiere performance for this newly re-formed company is coming up on September 17th, at 7 p.m., at the Koger Center for the Arts, and there are two pieces on the dancebill.  Miriam’s previous life as a dancer in the Martha Graham Company allows her the licensure to stage Maple Leaf Rag, the last piece choreographed by Graham before her death in 1991.  Set to the turn-of-the-century music of Scott Joplin, Maple Leaf Rag was inspired by Graham’s visit to Charleston when her company performed at the 1989 Spoleto Festival.  I had the opportunity to watch a rehearsal of the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company perform this piece on a muggy afternoon in August, and though my toes told me I was in Columbia, Charleston all but came alive in that sweaty brick studio in the Vista.  Staged around a massive black lacquered joggling board that could have easily just bounced off a portico somewhere South of Broad, the dancers perched and pranced and balanced in time to the seventh chords and syncopations with, dare-I-say, glee.  Unlike so much of Graham’s heavier choreography, this piece is seventeen upbeat minutes of fun.

The stage gets more serious during the second act of the night when the dancers perform a piece of Barbosa’s original choreography called, Catharsis. Set to the music of Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla, Catharsis was choreographed in conjunction with the visual art of Marcelo Novo who has found the theme of catharsis rise often in his work of late.  The ballet is performed in three acts and takes on issues of love, passion, chaos, war, and purification, hence catharsis, and incorporates Marcelo’s original images into the backdrop and set.

Miriam explains that Marcelo’s completed work, “found voice and movement within my own experiences and so the collaboration was a fluid exchange of ideas that fit together perfectly, also reflecting a lot of our shared South American background.”

The choreography is full of typical Barbosa faire – fullness, strangeness, lyricism, and athleticism.  It’s almost as if the limited dimensions of the dance floor aren’t enough, so she takes her dancers into the air and actually suspends a few of them above the stage, using harnesses to simulate flight.  Previously performed in 2005, there are changes to the choreography including the addition of a tango performed upside down.  She’s also changing up her costumes a bit and has Barry Sparks, Columbia’s great thaumaturge of all things light and sound, doing her lighting, giving us even more to look forward to from this performance.

With Columbia’s dance season upon us, there is no shortage of excitement in store. Full length dance follows fantasy storylines that range from the frightening – hunchbacks and vampires – to the frivolous – mermaids and genies in bottles.  Wideman/Davis takes on homelessness, while USC gives a nod to the classics and a wink to contemporary choreography a la’ Alan Hineline. There is dancing to poetry and there’s the poetry of dance.  And God knows there’s a plethora of Nutcrackers, with Columbia City Jazz offering not one, but two Claras this season.  There is plenty to love on the dance floors of our good city.  Not too much and, thankfully, not too little.  When it comes to a good thing, we’ve got it good.

For more information on the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company visit their website at www.scdanceco.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.

April 15, 2009

Stir’s new column — Brett Flashnick and some Grey Egg, too

Despite an economic environment that all but crucifies the arts as trivial and unnecessary, there are at least a few good publishers and editors who are willing to put it on the line and keep discourse on the arts and arts related activities aloft.  Mark Pointer, of Stir, is one of them.

Check out the new issue of Stir online at http://issuu.com/stirmagazine/docs/stirvol5web?mode=embed&documentId=090414211529-95e5a254ad28451699c5f002c1971174&layout=grey

And please be sure to turn to page 14 to check out my new Art Scene column — this month entitled, Owning Our Own.  To those of you who have read my previous posts on the Hootie ballet & earlier on the arts community as a family, you’ll recognize a common thread here.  And those of you who have suffered my ranting on how every single freak and curmudgeon (and freaks and curmudgeons, you all know who you are) has a place in our community, then (sigh) here we go again — but this time I’m talking about a new guy.

Actually, Brett Flashnick isn’t new.  He’s always been a part of Columbia even though his work is more likely to be seen on the pages of the New York Times or the Washington Post.  Brett is a freelance photojournalist who is in the process of recognizing the artist in his soul — and is doing so via a solo exhibition as part of the Edge of the Vista event, sponsored by the Columbia Music Festival Association during Artista Vista next week.   You can also check out Brett’s work at his website http://www.brettflashnick.com/

I’d also like to direct your attention to another piece in the new Stir that I wrote about one of the oddest and most talented musical groups I’ve seen — and I got to see them in Columbia at the Hunter Gatherer.  Grey Egg is a funky and cerebral troupe of musicians who both confuse and mesmerize their listeners. Read my article about them on page 12 in Stir

And please give our Stir advertisers a bit of your appreciation for their sponsorship of such an art-forward publication.  Everyone has a part to play in keeping the arts, and consequently our culture, alive and well in difficult times.  Visit a gallery or shop whose owners are willing to put it on the line for the arts, too.  Then we’ll all be doing our parts.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.