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As Jean Cocteau demonstrated — by having the same actor morph from the Beast into the Prince in his 1946 film version of the fairy tale, both adroitly and equally embodied by Cocteau’s muse Jean Marais — “The Beauty and the Beast” is as much about the beheld as the beholder, and her power to see and perceive beyond appearances. Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s eternal tale of spiritual clairvoyance and connivance gets another reading starting tomorrow night at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art from NYC nouveau cabaret legend Julie Atlas Muz and her real-life partner London cabaret and side-show artist Mat Fraser. (And who unfortunately do not credit de Beaumont, at least in the MoCA press release. Creative sources matter; the phantasmagorical wasn’t born with Julie Atlas Muz.) Joined by a pair of marionettists from the UK theater company Improbable, they draw on song, dance, puppetry, shadow-play, and custom-made prosthetic arms for Fraser (born with phocomelia). Directed by Phelim McDermott, the show is also performed December 4, 8, and 11. A “relaxed performance” December 9 will, according to the PR, foster “a welcoming environment for people with learning disabilities and/or sensory communication impairments,” as pertains to “noise and movement in the seating area” and with “modified house lighting and sound.” The artists will lead a workshop on December 10, and Fraser will take part in a free discussion on sexuality in the disabled community on December 11. Bronwen Sharp photo courtesy Chicago MoCA.

Flash Flashback, 11-30: Blister Me — Michelson & Muz Raise the Stakes

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000, 2016 Susan Yung

(Originally published April 10, 2000. Julie Atlas Muz performs with husband Mat Fraser — who she met while both were performing in the Coney Island Circus Side Show — in their company Oneofus’s production of Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast,” December 1, 4, 8, 9, and 11 at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.)

NEW YORK — Sarah Michelson & Julie Atlas Muz fear nothing. To paraphrase the hot-button words they use to accompany “Blister Me,” neither the shallow nor the deep. They do not fear public scrutiny of their bodies; nor the failure of making perfect logic of an evening’s performance. Not getting right up into the audience’s face in a big primal scream, not even the smaller things, like slipping on a wet floor or landing from a fall onto a bare hipbone or spine. Nothing. The result is that “Blister Me,” their collaborative hour-long performance seen Friday at Dixon Place’s quirky theater at Vineyard 26, hits notes in every key and octave, high and low.

To get the rest of the article, subscribers can contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at artsvoyager@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Complete articles are $5 or three for $10. Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($119 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) and receive full access to our Dance Insider Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading dance critics of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2015. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $129 (institutions) Purchase before December 15 and receive a second, free copy for the recipient of your choice — the perfect holiday gift. Contact Paul at artsvoyager@gmail.com .

nugmeghpadsm(Advertisement) Founded in 1969 by Sharon E. Dante, the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory (above, in Petipa’s “Don Quixote”) is committed to providing professional-level ballet training to aspiring young dance artists. Under the watchful eye of artistic director Victoria Mazzarelli, the Nutmeg Ballet is recognized as a leading professional ballet training organization and is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance. Residential and Day Student high school and post high school year-round training. Onsite accredited high school academic program available. Three rigorous summer intensive programs. Start your Nutmeg Ballet journey today! Visit www.NutmegConservatory.org .  (To advertise your Ballet, Modern, College, or University dance programs with the Dance Insider, e-mail Paul at artsvoyager@gmail.com by pasting that e-mail address into your browser.)

Flash Review, 11-22: A Star is Born — Akram Khan… and company

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Akram Khan and musicians (including the triple-threat Yoshie Sunahata – see story — on taiko) performing Khan’s “Gnosis.” Photo courtesy Theatre de la Ville. Photo © & courtesy Laurent Ziegler.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2010, 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

Originally published on May 11, 2010; appropriately enough, Martha Graham’s birthday. The Theatre de la Ville presents the Akram Khan company in  Khan’s “Until the Lions” December 5-17 at La Villette and in his “Chotto Desh” December 21-January 6 at the les Abbesses in Montmartre.

“You can’t always get what you want But if you try sometimes, you might get what you need.”
— The Rolling Stones

PARIS — About a year ago, Akram Khan, the London-based choreographer with a penchant for mixing up Kathak and modern dance — actually more of an enterprise, with three companies touring his work — traveled to Sado Island in the north of Japan in search of a male taiko drummer to collaborate with for his latest piece, “Gnosis,” which opened last night at the Theatre de la Ville – Abbesses in Montmartre as part of a world tour (excluding the U.S., but we’ll get to that). “I wanted a man,” he recounted to last night’s audience towards the end of part one, featuring Khan engaged in interplay with a musical ensemble including two male singers (Faheem Mazhar and Sanju Sathai), and players on the tabla (also Sathai), the string instrument the sarod (Soumik Datta), the Taiko drums (we’ll get to her), and cello (Lucy Railton). “They kept telling me, ‘No, you want this girl.'” They are Kodo, the renowned Japanese drumming group. The girl was Yoshie Sunahata, a.k.a. the latest performing arts triple threat and the most thrilling discovery I’ve made 10 years covering dance in France.

To get the rest of the article, including more images, subscribers please contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at artsvoyager@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Complete articles are $4 or three for $10; contact Paul. Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($119 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) and receive full access to our Dance Insider Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading dance critics of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2015. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $129 (institutions) Contact Paul at artsvoyager@gmail.com .

1766.2001From the exhibition A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde, opening at the Museum of Modern Art December 3, where it continues through March 12: El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941), “Record,” 1926. Gelatin silver print, 10 1/2 x 8 13/16 inches(26.7 x 22.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Flash Flashback, 11-1: Grounded Flight — Butcher Returns to Judson

By Josephine Leask
Copyright 2008, 2016 Josephine Leask

(First published on December 4, 2008. Rosemary Butcher died of cancer on July 14 in London where, on December 17, Independent Dance is organizing a “Remembering Butcher” day.)

LONDON — Rosemary Butcher has been a quiet but significant presence in the British dance community for more than 25 years. An independent choreographer who has always been riveted by architecture and the visual arts, Butcher has chosen to work on the margins rather than at the center of dance, mainly situating her work in galleries or other buildings not specifically designed for dance. While she has detached herself from the mainstream, her work has always been included in both large and small dance and arts festivals, nationally and internationally. This year’s Dance Umbrella presented her recent creation “Episodes of Flight,” which I saw November 5 at the Riverside Studios in West London.

Conceived for one dancer — Elena Giannotti — “Episodes of Flight” is based on Butcher’s recent research trip to New York, in which she retraced the time she had spent there from 1969 to 1972, immersed in the Judson Church movement and its many off-shoots. On her return visit, she searched for the people and places that had influenced her own development and reflected on how the Judson legacy had been carried on in the work of many other choreographers over the last 40 years.

In the program notes, Butcher talks about how memory maps, prompted by places, sounds, and conversations with acquaintances in New York guided her back to her past; “Episodes of Flight” is a reflection on how she felt after her journey. A bare, intimate room at Riverside Studios, the performance space is long and thin, bordered by the audience, with two screens marking the extremities of the stage, on which are projected a moving collage of abstract diagrams and grids. The installation created by both the screens themselves and the diagrams projected onto them, by architects Matthew Butcher (the choreographer’s son) and Melissa Appleton frames and limits the performance space as well as illuminating the geometry of the city. It also responds to Giannotti’s movement, like a form of dance notation.

Cathy Lane’s soundscore mixes fleeting sounds recorded from the urban jungle — police car sirens, snippets of conversations, children’s voices, and traffic noise — with synthesized material. What is so powerful is how the soundscape travels up and down the studio and creates a three-dimensional environment which is both evocative and immediate. It reminds me of sitting in some quiet little square in the Lower East Side, just off a busy huge high street, immersed in the city but distanced from it as well.

I mention the aural and visual components before the choreographic because each are just as important in the realization of “Episodes of Flight.” Giannotti has worked intensively with Butcher over the years and has a deep understanding of how Butcher likes to represent movement, economically and with a neutral body. Here the material is uncompromisingly minimal and highly contemplative. Pedestrian movements are employed by Giannotti as she rigorously travels round her confined performance space: standing, lying on the floor, sitting or crouching. Prolonged periods of stillness are followed by fast scurrying dynamics as she shunts herself awkwardly backwards semi-reclined, supporting her weight on her forearms, or lying down, dragging her body over the length of the stage. Through the effort of enacting some of the more punishing actions, Gianotti’s visual countenance, which is otherwise calm, neutral and expressionless, stirs just a little in the wake of exhaustion. Because we the audience are sitting close to her we can detect that the absence of emotion in the choreography is replaced by an introverted intensity which lasts for the 45-minute donation of her solo. She is so absorbed in her own journey, physical, aural and visual, that any extraneous factor is denied in her performance. Thus the essence of Judson minimalism is recalled.

For some at the performance I attended, “Episodes of Flight” was just 45 minutes too long. There was some fidgeting and whispering, and a couple walked out, but mostly the audience seemed captivated. To be familiar with the ground-breaking work of Judson and the city in which it took place definitely helps one make a connection with Butcher’s work. But so do choreography, sound and installation which portray how memories are triggered and convey the indefatigable energy of New York.