So, the first round of Morphoses reviews are flowing in. Thank you Tobi Tobias for saying what I was trying so very hard to say way too late at night (there are plusses and minuses to writing immediately after a performance: on one hand the “afterimages” in Arlene Croce speak are the most vivid and fresh that they’ll ever be, but on the other sometimes your brain needs to chew things over a bit). Particularly resonant with me was Tobias’s paragraph about Wheeldon not engaging the emotions of his audience, or even perhaps himself. And thank you, Ms. Tobias for giving me one brief glimpse into the value of “Slingerland.”
One thing Tobias mentions that struck me: she says that she doesn’t know if Wheeldon’s desire to give the dancers too much free reign in the dances’ creations is a good thing. I’ve now heard several choreographers (Jorma Elo, Wheeldon, and most recently Nacho Duato — promise I’ll get to that review today!) say that the way they work is that they have some vague notion of what they want when they go into the studio, they choose the music, they have a general idea in mind, then they let the dancers go and figure it all out, discover the movement and how best to convey that idea. Helen Pickett even said at a Works & Process event that she lets her dancers improvise right on stage, during the actual performance. So what is the choreographer then? The music selector, the originator of the basic idea? I’ve heard theater and film people laugh when someone asks if they’d thought of a co-director. No way, they all say, there’s got to be one person and one person alone behind the helm of a project or everything just gets all confused and there’s no “voice” to the work and meaning is lost. I wonder if that’s partly what’s happening to me, I can’t always make sense of things in dance because there are too many interpretations going on at once on that stage and there’s no single voice or authority (ie: that of an older person with life experience and well-developed artistry) in control?
Anyway, I so would have liked to have gone to the Morphoses open rehearsal yesterday, but unfortunately couldn’t take off work. Kristin went and wrote a bit about it — apparently it was a rehearsal of Mesmerics, one of the pieces on Program 2, wherein Wheeldon corrected and instructed dancers on the movement, but it doesn’t seem that he talked about his process. There was an audience give and take but Kristin didn’t write anything about. I always like to hear what audiences have to say about something, what others get and don’t get and what they want to understand and know from an artist. Oh well, maybe next time I can go. Damn work interfering with my blogging life!! Also, maybe Works & Process can institute a little audience Q & A into their programs in the future?
Here’s Sir Alastair’s review. He echoes others, saying that the most notable thing about the company thus far was the fame of the dancers (true), but also adds that in his opinion, Wheeldon doesn’t take seriously enough his female dancers, makes them too passive. It’s an interesting take and something I hadn’t thought of.
Joel Lobenthal in The Sun gives a very fair, balanced review saying Wheeldon may not be the “great white hope” of ballet but is nevertheless a young, very talented choreographer “still in the process of finding himself.”
Apollinaire’s Newsday review is also fair and balanced (as always with her), and I love this paragraph in particular: “The sculptural twining of limbs yields imagistic sparks, but they don’t light a fire this time. Wheeldon seems to have gotten carried away by his own dexterous invention.” So, my “meaningless weird abstract shape after meaningless weird abstract shape” gibberish expressed much more eloquently She also gives me more to understand regarding Forsythe.
By the way, speaking of my phrasing, James Wolcott linked to my write-up (so wonderfully nice of him!!), calling it “a trembling ordeal of terror worthy of the Simpsons’ Halloween special” as I found myself “buried under a paper mache rock slide of ‘meaningless weird abstract shapes,’ and live[d] to tell the tale.” Hehehehe, I couldn’t stop laughing. I guess it did sound like a nutty Simpsons-esque Halloween cartoon! Good, imaginative writers can make things sound so nice… (Off the topic of Wheeldon but on the topic of Wolcott, he has an entertaining, socio-cultural history of the Twist in the November Vanity Fair.)
And here is Philip, who said what I thought he would, focusing on all of the great dancers involved in the program (although he is also a big opera lover and talked about the beauty of the music a bit too).
Here’s a Washington Times review.
Here’s what Ballet Talk balletomanes had to say.
And, in case I left something out, here is a fuller list of reviews, including those from London, where Morphoses premiered in September.