Tomorrow night (Monday, April 21), PBS is airing a dance special honoring America’s national parks. Several choreographers made site-specific dances which were performed in various outdoors national monuments including: Yosemite National Park; the U.S. Virgin Islands; the Coral Reef National Monument off the coast of St. John Island; Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, from which the Wright Brothers first took flight; Mammoth Cave; and Hawaii’s Volcanic national park.
I was fortunate enough to be given an advance preview. My favorite parts were the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Team performing underwater amidst the beautiful corals and exotic sea life of the Virgin Islands, the dancers often looking like tantalizing sea creatures themselves; members of Donald Byrd‘s troupe performing dances evoking freedom and slavery set first on Cinnamon Bay, Virgin Islands, then in ruins of an old Sugar Plantation on St. John’s Island. I also liked the very end, Doug Varone‘s troupe dancing to folk music in the Mammoth Caves. Varone uses film and video in his productions as well, to good effect. I also loved seeing the footage of the Hawaiian volcanic beaches — breathtaking. And Project Bandaloop (whose dancers perform airborne activities, often while climbing large mountainous rocks), whom I know other bloggers like, is included as well.
Overall, I felt this program, which is 90 minutes long, gets bogged down in too much discussion of process – the choreographers trying to figure out what they want to evoke, how best of evoke it, instructing the dancers on the same, the dancers telling us how best they feel they can draw something out, how difficult it can be to do so — it’s too much, and it gets boring and ruins the magic of the performance. Anyway, it’s worth watching for everything I mentioned above even if it gets tedious at points. And since it’s not on until 10:00 (ET), it won’t interfere with Dancing With the Stars