I’m still feeling energized and thankful for a stunning production by Dance Theatre of Harlem at the Auditorium Theatre last weekend.
It’s the time of year for valuing the people in our lives. I’ve been having a relaxing time with family away from the city for Thanksgiving, but part of my heart is still at the Dance Theatre of Harlem student matinee with my students. Continue reading
December always seems to fly by, doesn’t it?! This time of year I’ve been traveling quite a bit and not around as much for the fabulous Chicago performances this time of year. But I still found myself engaging with the arts through new media and the internet.
Technology really is changing the way we look at performing arts.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can’t have the arts without people. But there are so many ways technology is giving us more opportunities to be consumers of performing arts.
I’m examining 3 hot, recent examples that are changing the way we think about what performing arts should be.
What do you think has the most potential? What do you think the future holds?
So this is really crazy to me. I went to open on new tab on google chrome and there, at the bottom of my screen, something like “click here to explore the performing arts.”
Thought #1- “Gosh, google analytics know me well!” Click! Thought number #2- “Yes! The internet is actually working to make performing arts accessible.”
Then I played with it for a bit and investigated more.
There weren’t many full length performances which I was really hoping for. But it was really lovely and a great foundation for what could be with buy-in from cultural giants around the world.
I watched ballet, I looked at archives, I went onstage at Carnegie Hall, I took a tour of the Kennedy Center all from my computer chair.
I was excited when on my travels, I got to take a tour of the Kennedy Center irl.
However, Continue reading
Before Turkey Day, I went to another Thursday event at the Harris Theater, Mix at Six featuring Lucky Plush Productions.
The Mix at Six structure is interesting. Affordable, short performances on a weeknight so people can attend after work at 6pm. They build enthusiasm for the artist’s other full length performances at the Harris Theater.
A social event for young, hip artistic types that otherwise don’t have plans on a Thursday. It’s a smart move to increase audience awareness, but are there some flaws? But what about people who don’t work in the loop? Is the concept popular?
Seats were general admission, which would make it easy to invite friends at the last minute with tickets only $10 at the door. But, everyone at the performance fit on the orchestra level. Considering there are 3 balconies, it certainly wasn’t a full house.
I’m in full support of low ticket cost and promoting theatrical events to make them more accessible to the community. Mix at Six is an excellent test case to see what this type of series could do for a community. I think much smaller scale cities would see brilliant results from this type of program with not a lot of competition for a Thursday night slot. I’m curious to see what it looks like as the series continues.
Lucky Plush Productions seemed to be a great fit for the evening as well. I’ve wanted to see them perform for a while and admire their mission to create “work that is richly complex while also being broadly accessible.” It’s a challenge to strike that balance, which makes the troop especially intriguing in my mind.
Their work has a delightful fusions of dance with theatrical, comedic story arcs. I was impressed with the honesty of the performance.
Especially the second number, struck me as an inventively realistic critique of reality tv. A part that really stuck with me was one of the performers dancing with her phone between her ear and her shoulder all while carrying on a conversation.
We are drawn to watching one another in “real” form on tv and on stage. This is essential to performing arts, but also eery with technology observing our every move. Even the first piece “The Queue” set in an airport also had awareness of being watched as inherently important.
Lucky Plush reminds us that the performing arts are about being watched. And in our world full of technology, it’s trickier to define what it means to watch or be a consumer of performing arts. And they do so with an affable sense of humor mixed with a critical eye to deliver very entertaining work.
The pervasiveness of technology is used a lot as a theme these days. We are both drawn in and creeped out by all that the capability of the technology we use everyday. Especially for the arts, artists can use technology to help create/stage their work (youtube, garageband, vine etc.), but art can’t be done without humans at all. Different from the work of engineers, artists can’t be replaced by computers because their work is inherently humanistic. And that’s the important part.
I drew on this theme of technology and the ever watching eye. I recreated the iphone with signature background as a pencil drawing. We spend so much time staring at our phones like little zombies. I thought, what if the phone looked back at us? (…besides from the obviously creepy “periscope”-esque camera functions). So I added a subtle face in the stars peering back at the viewer.-
How much art is around us everyday that we don’t really see? How much art could there be around us if we were just looking in the right ways?
Lucky Plush shows the beauty, the humor and the poignancy of real life. When we engage with the world around us, art can be anywhere from an airport to the cell-phone in our pocket. Mark your calendar for their show Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip at the Harris Theater on March 3!
One of the first texts I read in college was the introduction of Tharp’s book The Creative Habit. Just stepping into my own routine for the first time in my life, I thoroughly embraced her thoughts on rigor and routine in developing creative ideas. This text really was formative for me. So with this performance coming, I checked the book out from the library to grow closer to her thoughts on creativity and to what had enthralled me as a college freshman.
Rika Okamoto is simply remarkable. It is clear watching her that she has worked with Twyla Tharp in diligent study. Something about the joy she exhibits and an indescribable nature of her movements reminds me of videos and photos of Twyla Tharp herself.
Check out this side by side. It really is remarkable how well she exhibits the style.
I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of her when she was on stage, particularly in Yowzie.
Lack of precision gave way to really show how individual dancers move. Even the bows were differentiated. I really think her work shows us about life as simple as it can be whole also hinting at the complexities of the relationships and the people around us. She lets her dancers be themselves, embody their character and life and then juxtaposes them together like a breakfast club of dance personalities.
What is the future of dance?
Especially in dance and classical music, today we start to expect robotic precision. Recording technology fights for our attention and the market for dance companies becomes even more elevated. During the performance, I thought about how great it is that this type of free-form performance can be sustained. But for how long? With video streaming and our dependence on technology, where is the place for live performance?
Perhaps grass-roots performance organizations can fight against this stigma of art-making being only reserved for the perfect.
Everyone can be an artist!
But what happens when arts are intersected with money?
Nothing in him doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange (Act I, Scene II, 399-401)
Let’s unpack these lines. One does not simply undergo a sea-change, but “suffers.” The weight of transformation does not come easily without pain. The material of the sea-change remains intact, as “nothing fades” but becomes something other, “rich and strange.” The sea-change is hauntingly dynamic because the sufferer comes out of it better (rich), yet marred (strange).
Dedication to art can be a type of sea-change. The artist’s identity is re-formed only through suffering to something “rich and strange.” Prospero fits well as a tortured artist. Sea-change has cast him aside and pushed his art practice. Through the suffering of his family abandoning him, over his magic initially and then as Miranda slowly steps away from him, we see before us a sea-change. Out on Navy Pier, with waves crashing up, the audience at Chicago Shakes experiences its own sea-change at the performance of The Tempest. Not fading the content of the story, but augmenting it with content that makes it more rich and strange.
Chicago and jazz just go together! Friday night of the Chicago Jazz Festival was something special in the midst of such great musicians with a large group of people in the middle on Millennium Park. Very special, very Chicago.
It is the time of year where we, in our northern climate, realize that the cold will come again, soon. And we try to squeeze in the maximum of free outdoor performances and activities in the last few weeks of summer that anywhere more temperate might spread out over the course of the year.
It’s one of my favorite times to be a Chicagoan.