Dance in America's Great Outdoors Special on PBS Monday Night

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 :)

Check here for local listings.

5 Comments

  1. ooh, thanks for the heads up! I would have been disappointed if i missed this, project bandaloop is really amazing. the underwater stuff looks cool too, a little bit of cirque de soleil’s “O” mixed with dance and an amazing locale.

    I’ve been impressed with PBS programming lately, having just watched Jock Soto’s “Water Flowing Together” which i LOVED.

  2. This sounds really interesting. I think what you said about the focus on the process interfering with the magic of the performance is thought provoking. On one hand, it can deepen one’s appreciation of the work through better understanding the challenges, but on the other hand sometimes we just want to see the darn performance. One thing I like about the “DVD age” is that we can choose to learn more about the process through the extra features– or not. Anyway, I’ll be curious to see how it plays out in this special.

  3. Those first pictures are absolutely amazing. Just another thing that I wish I could’ve seen for myself.

  4. I saw the program and I liked it for the most part. It was nice to see modern dance on TV especially Streb, the company that I performed with. I did not think the Doug Varone work with the large video behind the live performers worked as I believe it never does when the video competes with the live performance. But. . . then again it was nice to see my friends Adrian and Eddie on TV and Barbara who works with Wolftrap.

  5. PBS is so annoying that it doesn’t show the same programs everywhere — my mom didn’t get it in North Carolina either… Oh, I forgot to mention Streb, Borris — thanks for reminding me! That was fun with the flying. I didn’t know you used to be with them! You know everyone!

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