Fall Dance Preview: Things are moving around town

Kick up your heels!
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  September 14, 2010

MAYBE SHE SHOULD GET OUT MORE Paula Hunter will present Home Alone 3 on October 29 and 30.

This fall’s dance events include reprises at local companies — The Nutcracker (Festival Ballet Providence and Island Moving Co.), Dracula (IMC), and Carmen (FBP) — new works by Fusionworks Dance Company, Paula Hunter, and JUMP!; Providence College, Rhode Island College, and Roger Williams University dance companies; and out-of-state compa-nies sponsored by FirstWorks Providence and the Performing Arts Series at RIC.

FirstWorks (first-works.org) will present Blinking, a new piece by local choreographer Jamie Jewett and his company, LOSTWAX (at the Pell-Chafee Performing Center October 14-15). It’s an exploration of what happens during those times when we blink. And a new work by PILOBOLUS, Hapless Hooligan in "Still Moving," will be presented on September 25, at the Providence Performing Arts Center.

Pilobolus has always been known for its collaborative choreographic process, but in the last decade, they’ve reached beyond their dancers to artists in other media, including, most recently, cartoonist/graphic novelist Art Spiegelman (Maus).

For the better part of a year, Spiegelman, Pilobolus co-artistic director Michael Tracy, and the company’s six dancers worked to find ways to bridge the “melodramatic caricatures,” in Tracy’s words, of the cartoon world and the abstract movement of modern dance. Once Spiegelman and the dancers began to interact, through his drawings projected onto a large screen and through the skills of animators Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson, of Hornet, Inc., the piece began to take shape.

“Little by little, this single shadow character is revealed,” Tracy explained in a phone conversation from his Connecticut office. “He draws his own world in two dimensions, with no color. And then he draws his mate, and they re-draw each other. These are funny little stories that read like cartoons, but the audience relates to the live dancers in a completely different way than to a cartoon.

“The piece progresses from a real person living in a cartoon, behind a screen, to real people in cartoon-like costumes, in front of the screen,” he continued. “They start out trapped in this black-and-white world but end up downstage in full color. It’s surprising and intriguing.”

The character of Hapless Hooligan evolved from Spiegelman’s strong connection to Happy Hooligan, a popular cartoon character from 1900-1932, and. “Still Moving” refers to “still” drawings taking on motion.

Admitting the challenges posed by dancing with projected animation and by combining two art forms, Tracy stressed, “That’s exactly our interest here: we’re used to these single, unalloyed media — it could be literature, dance, comics, film. They don’t usually infect each other and change each other’s DNA. But that’s what we were after.”

Elsewhere on the dance scene, FESTIVAL BALLET PROVIDENCE (festivalballet.com) opens its season October 1-3 at the VMA Arts & Cultural Center with the first full-length piece they commissioned from Viktor Plotnikov, Carmen. FBP also continues its interest in the work of Georges Balanchine with All Balanchine: Who Cares?, Tarantella, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, and Apollo (November 6 and 7, also at VMA), in conjunction with the Rhode Island Philharmonic. And the perennial holiday favorite, The Nutcracker, will be performed at PPAC December 17-19.

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