Interview with a choreographing ballerina – Eve Mutso

 

Thoughts on her work for SFIAF 2017, “Unknown

The morning after Eve Mutso appeared as “Blanche” in the Scottish Ballet’s Zellerbach performance of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” we met to discuss her work “Unknown” which will be premiered at the San Francisco International Arts Festival on May 27 at Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater. Eve was pleased to talk about this piece and her work.

 

JGH: How did the SFIAF performance of “Unknown” come about?

EM: I was one of four women who were commissioned by a group called “Tramway” to perform works at the Edinburgh Festival in 2016. Andrew Wood, director of SFIAF, saw it there and invited me to join the Festival this year. It’s worked out well since the Scottish Ballet toured here and in LA and I can stay in San Francisco for the event.

JGH: Tell us some more about your work?

EM: I danced first with the Estonian Ballet. I was born in Tallin and moved to the Scottish Ballet since my husband was studying and then working in UK. For many years I’ve been dancing other choreographers work. I felt that it is time to do my own work.

I realized that at this point in my dance career, I wanted to do something different, to explore my skills and ideas. The work is, in a way, unknown, as the title suggests, since I’m discovering just what those skills and ideas are. The solo is 15 minutes. The first three minutes build the frustration that is expressed later.

JGH: Are you dancing to music? with a particular set?

EM: My musician is Merlin Bonning. He is a freelance Scottish composer. He composes using electronic methods and field recording. He has recorded by heartbeat and my feet in the rosin box. I wanted to hear the cracking of the spine, my heartbeat, and the inside of my body!

I have a very talented set and lighting designer, Matt Strachan, who has built an equilateral triangle, as a set piece that moves during the performances. I dance in bare feet and wear a long dark skirt and hardly use my legs. I want my heart and soul to move in my piece. The energy pours out of my back. These restrictions build the expressive aspects of this work.

JGH: What is the motivation of your dance?

EM: I will always be grateful to the Scottish Ballet. The company and corps have always been dedicated and responsive to me. But now I have new directions. I am a free lancer, so I want to find my voice, apply for residences and support so I can get funding for my new projects in Scotland. I live in Glasgow and my family and I are very happy there. But it is important to go further, to spend time with other artists who help you learn and grow.

JGH: Who are the choreographers who inspired you?

EM: I’ve worked with San Francisco’s Val Caniparoli. He, Forsythe and Balanchine gave me the ‘core’ of my work. I call them the ‘ghosts’ of my work. All these come out of my body as a medley, so I can address these feelings in my new work. I want to touch the audience and give them something to relate to… what I’m trying to say. I am so interested in the human condition.

JGH: Tell me more about your set designer?

EM: Matthew Stachan does a lot of freelance stuff. I was thinking about a ‘frame of mind.’ We built these two equilateral triangles, which lift, above my head. He’s incredible: he thinks like me. He is very present, having seen me dance for fourteen years, so he joins me in collaboration.

JGH: I look forward to seeing you in SFIAF on May 27 and 28. There will be a panel discussion at 6:30 PM before the May 27 performance. Eve Mutso shares the performance evening with Levy Dance (Garance Maneur, choreographer) and Alyce Finwell.

Joanna G Harris, PhD
joannagharris@lmi.net
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065
www. BeyondIsadora. com

The Scottish Ballet – “A Streetcar Named Desire”

 

May 10-12, 2017 Cal Performances UC Berkeley

Through the body/mind of The Moth

In the play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the author, Tennessee Williams, early on, described the leading character, Blanche, as a “moth,” attracted to light but very easily destroyed. The Scottish Ballet’s production uses that image throughout the performance, beginning and ending with Blanche reaching for the light. Choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa had added the ‘backstory’ to the ballet:  “Blanche’s early years at home in Belle Reve and the circumstances and death of her young husband. These events haunt her life continually, even after she enters her sister’s house.” The play usually begins there: in this ballet they form the early scene of Act I. Then, faced with her sister’s house and husband, the circumstance of her despondency and alcohol dependence, and the rape she suffers, takes Blanche to the madness that follows. All these are dramatically danced.

Eve Mutso, the leading ballerina for the company, is a dramatic virtuoso.

Except for the early scene (the young Blanche is danced by Aisling Brangan) Mutso is able to accomplish the descent into madness retaining the fragility of ‘the moth.’ She is given five or six scenes, each demanding both strong ballet technique and the dramatic ability to project this complex character.

Joining her as her sister Stella is Sophie Laplane, Christopher Harrison as Stella’s husband Stanley and the fine corps of dancers who are the community. An early duet between Victor Zarello (Blanche’s husband) and Constant Vigler (his lover) is very powerful. The returning dance quotes from their scene and the husband’s death are recalled and repeated throughout the ballet. They form a strong part of Blanche’s painful memories.

Peter Salem, composer, has written a score that gives each scene a unique character, but does not necessarily become a cohesive whole. As each scene brings varying events in New Orleans, a bowling alley, a poker game, the revelation of Blanche’s past, her courtship with a gentleman, etc., the music emphasized the dramatic situation. This and the many roles created for the corps, crossing and re-crossing the stage, moving boxes, echoing the action, sometimes makes for lack of cohesion for the ballet as a whole. As a work, the whole might be tightened and become more pointed for the central drama.

The stage direction is by Nancy Meckle, set and costume design by Niki Turner, lighting by Time Mitchell. It is a complex yet fascinating work.

 

The Scottish Ballet: corps in “ A Streetcar Named Desire”

Macintosh HD:Users:joanna:Desktop:0_Scottish-Ballet-2-credit-courtesy.jpg

Joanna G Harris, PhD
joannagharris@lmi.net
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065
www. BeyondIsadora. com

Pascal Rioult Dance Company NY: Bach Dances

 

April 6,7, 2017 Cal Performances UC Berkeley

Dancers: 10, Projections 8, Choreography ?

Pascal Rioult claims his dance heritage from Martha Graham. That is visible in the flexed feet, the contracted falls to the floor, the use of shoulders and hips and the many leg extensions … as well as the bare chests displayed on the men dancers. All were Graham characteristics.

What Rioult has lost of Graham’s work is the drama and the dynamic.

All four of the works on “Bach Dances” program are very similar in staging. The dancers face downstage, move slowly and almost always ‘on the beat’ of the music. There is endless use of isolation activity of shoulders, hips, feet and legs. The dancers can execute all these with great skill, but it is endlessly boring to watch them, since they don’t “add up.” Dance is essentially about dance-movement, but in Rioult’s work, the projections and videos on the back screen tell more than the dances themselves.

One piece, “City” for four dancers appeared to reflect city dynamics. There outfits were appropriate to city life; they danced before endless moving projections of New York City buildings. In one duet, a couple accomplished (with many convoluted twists and holds) the endless task of rising from the floor. As in the other works, the spotlight moved from dancer to dancer, from duet to duet, reflecting city tensions. The four company members are: Cathrine Cooch, Corinna Lee Nicholson, Michael Spencer Phillips and Sabatino A. Verlezza. “City” was danced to Bach’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 6 in G Major,” recorded as was all the music works.

ieSometimes the music is interspersed with nature sounds, as in “Views of the Fleeting World” where we hear summer insects, rushing wind and a gurgling stream. Would Bach, the composer of the “Art of the Fugue” approve this intrusion? Another quarter. “Polymorphous” to “The Well Tempered Clavier,” danced by Brian Flynn, Charis Haines, Jere Hunt and Sara Elizabeth Seger, displayed the similar split stage arrangement, as in “City.” The couples echoed each other with similar lifts, falls and balances.

Celestral Tides” closed the program with the full company to “Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat Major”. The opening section, Allegro, found the dances shadowed by the figured projection. For the next movements they emerged in what appeared as bathing trunks and suits giving us a lively, but already viewed vocabulary of downstage activities. At the very last, they performed some welcome locomotion, leaps and runs to liven the action. The dancers earned great applause that they deserve.

Rioult might give them more varied activities and us more dynamics. He seems, in this program, to offer the same movements over and over (swishing hips, one arm lifting triumphantly over the head, overuse of cannons, movement constantly facing the audience), accompanied by the dizzying projections, left this reviewer less than enchanted, pleased with Bach, amazed at the dancers’ skills, irritated by the projections and disappointed with the choreography of Pascal Rioult.

Production credits: Harry Feiner, Scenic design; David Finley, Lighting design; Brian Clifford Beasley, Projection animation; Karen Young, costumes.

Rouilt Dance Company: ”View of the Fleeting World

Macintosh HD:Users:joanna:Desktop:th.jpg

 

Joanna G Harris, PhD
joannagharris@lmi.net
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065
www. BeyondIsadora. com

“The Temple of Glory” New York Baroque Dance Company

Le Temple de la Gloire – (The Temple of Glory)

New York Baroque Ensemble – Photo by David Taylor

Opera in three acts with a prologue.

This reviewer, overwhelmed as we were by the enormous effort and artistry of this historic production, will concentrate on the New York Baroque Dance Company. Although the event was marked by gorgeous solo voices (some from France), a well-tuned orchestra familiar to Bay Area devotees of the Baroque, supported by the 25 member Philharmonia Chorale and set with amazing design and costumes, it was the baroque dancing, choreographed by Catherine Turocy, that left the greatest impression. Performances of baroque dance are rare indeed!

Baroque dance, a style practiced in the court ballrooms (particularly in France) was the forerunner of the classical ballet style we generally see in today’s ballet companies. It is gentler in its gestures, less overt in style and steps. Yet the graceful turn-out is there, the pointed toe, small jetés and multiple turns. There is also a reference to contra dance, as adapted from country-dances. Arm gestures are careful shaped and sculpted.

The eight Baroque Company dancers took many roles in the opera. Turocy has not only presented that style of dance for courtiers (those who dance before Apollo) but also for shepherds and shepherdesses, muses, bacchantes, and satyrs. In the finale, children, from the Berkeley Ballet School dance around a maypole! The eight dancers (often in masks) change costumes several times during this three-hour masterpiece of music, staging and dance.

Caroline Copeland performed as soloist as a shepherdess with the group. She also appears as a dance ‘muse’ with Carly Fox Horton, Alexis Silver and Maggi Sweeny Smith. Olsi Gjeci is a soloist ‘hero,’ accompanied by Brynt Beitman and Andrew Trego as other heroes. In the second act, the heroes reappear but the others are transformed as bacchantes, satyrs, a faun, a lumberjack and most astonishing, an ostrich! To add to the spectacular dance versatility, Andrew Trego dances as Mars, with full feathered head gear and Meggi Sweeney Smith dances Venus in a huge gown complete with panniers. Ting and Copeland continue their roles as shepherd and shepherdess and the others all are ‘court’ dancers. The finale thus is transformed in the characteristic French 18th century ballroom. It is all an amazing accomplishment, beautifully staged and performed.

Background and Notes on the Opera.

Nicholas McGegan, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale’s (PBO) Music Director, leads PBO’s first-ever fully staged opera in a world-premiere production of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s original 1745 version of “Le Temple de la Gloire” (The Temple of Glory), with a libretto by Voltaire, April 28, 2017 at Cal Performances in Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

This modern-day premiere was created in partnership with Cal Performances and Le Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles. An international cast of soloists and the New York Baroque Dance Company joined PBO for this lavish period production

The Jean-Philippe Rameau’s “Le Temple de la Gloire” was an extraordinary original source manuscript score and libretto found in the collection of UC Berkeley’s Jean Gray Hargrove Music. This project has been a dream of Nicholas McGegan’s since he first learned of the existence of the original manuscript score and libretto. McGegan hoped to one day mount a major production of the entire opera. He is quoted as saying…

“Being able, finally, to be part of a fully staged production of “Le Temple de la Gloire” is the fulfillment of a dream for me. Nearly 25 years ago, Philharmonia recorded some of the dance music from this magnificent score and now, after many years and several attempts to see it staged. Rameau made it to please both the King, who was unhappy with the political undertones of the original 1745 version, and Parisian tastes at the time. The public wasn’t accustomed to experiencing an allegorical opera without a love story. Voltaire originally intended the work to be a philosophical reform of opera: an allegory centered on the idea of the Temple of Glory, and a grandiose spectacle with moral and political overtones.”

It is terrific that Philharmonia has collaborated with several other organizations to put on this production. Cal Performances is producing the whole event on campus; Le Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles and its dynamic leader Benoît Dratwicki have provided the French members of the cast; the New York Baroque Dance Company is performing the ballets. Julien Dubruque has prepared a fine edition of the score. Catherine Turocy is staging and choreographing the work and Scott Blake is the set designer. Additionally, lighting designer Pierre Dupouey from Parisl created Baroque-inspired lighting to bring the “Le Temple de la Gloire” to life while preeminent costume designer Marie Anne Chiment made elaborate costumes designed to replicate those worn during the French Baroque period. Audiences were amazed and delighted with to the full Baroque effect with all the drama and lavish ornamentation that one might expect from this sumptuous French Baroque opera score.

Credits:

Nicholas McGegan, conductor; 
Gabrielle Philiponet, soprano; 
Chantal Santon-Jeffery, soprano; 
Camille Ortiz-Lafont, soprano
; Artavazd Sargsyan, haute-contre; 
Aaron Sheehan, haute-contre; 
Philippe-Nicolas Martin, baritone; 
Marc Labonnette, baritone; 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale, New York Baroque Dance Company, 
Catherine Turocy, director; 
Philharmonia Chorale,
 Bruce Lamott, director; Catherine Turocy, stage director and choreographer;
 Scott Blake, set designer
; Marie Anne Chiment, costume designer;
 Pierre Dupouey, lighting designer.

joannagharris@lmi.net
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065
www. BeyondIsadora. com

Providence to pass wide ranging Community Safety Act ordinance

The ordinance passed its first vote, second vote scheduled for June. Summary below was copied from the Providence website [full text of the ordinance]

 

Key Points of the CSA

Prohibition on racial profiling and other forms of profiling

Police cannot use race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, physical or mental disability, or serious medical condition as a reason to suspect someone of a crime.

Standardized Encounter Form

Every time police stop someone, they must fill out a card with race, gender, and age of the person stopped; reason for the stop; if there was a search, and the results of the search; how long the stop lasted; results of the stop (ticket, arrest, nothing); and officer’s name and badge number. They must provide a copy of the form to the person who was stopped.

Video Recording by Police

For dashboard cameras, body cameras, and any other devices, recording must start as soon as the officer tells someone to stop, or arrives at the scene where a person is stopped, and recording continues until the stop is ended or that officer leaves. On duty police CANNOT use their personal phones to record anyone unless they are subject to the same policies as department cameras.

Video Recording by People

Police cannot interfere with, harass, or intimidate members of the public who are recording audio or video of police activity in any place that person has a legal right to be.   Any officer who violates this section may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and/or a jail term of up to 15 days.

Traffic Stops

Police have to tell the driver why s/he was stopped before they ask ask for any documents and can only ask for driver’s license, car registration and proof of insurance, unless they have probable cause of a criminal offense. Police can’t ask passengers for ID without probable cause of a criminal offense. If the only criminal charge is driving without a license, police cannot arrest the person; they can only give the person a summons to appear in court. Traffic violations are not enough to arrest someone.

Searches

Police cannot ask for consent to search a person, his or her car, or belongings without probable cause of some criminal activity. Police must ask the person what gender officer is appropriate to search the person. No canine (dog) searches allowed without probable cause of criminal activity.

Surveillance and Privacy

Providence Police cannot collect or store information about individuals or groups, or engage in electronic or physical surveillance, or undercover infiltration, without reasonable suspicion that the activities they are monitoring relate to criminal activity.

Privacy – Youth and Immigrants

Police cannot ask youth for proof of identification beyond name and address and cannot photograph juveniles (except as part of the booking process if the youth is charged with a crime or through the automatic cameras, like the ones used in police cars).  Police may not inquire about an individual’s immigration status, and any identification issued by a government outside the U.S. like a consular ID, foreign driver’s license, or passport, will be accepted the same as an ID from a U.S. government agency.

“Gang” list

Police must have a written, public list of criteria or factors before they mark someone as a “gang” member on any list or database. “Associating” with someone else on the list cannot be one of the factors.   If police put someone on the “gang list” they must send that person a form to appeal. If the person denies being a gang member, the accusation may not be shared with anyone else including schools, courts, or prosecutors. If the person is not convicted of any crime within two years , his or her name must be removed. Every year, Providence Police must produce a report with the total number of people on the “gang list,” and a breakdown by age, race, ethnicity, and gender, and the number of people who have appealed being put on the “gang list.”

Language access

The Police Department will create a language access hotline. Officers who don’t speak a person’s language fluently, may not question that person until a qualified interpreter is present. Police may not use family members, friends or bystanders as interpreters except in emergency. No Police Department employee may serve as interpreter during interrogation. Miranda Warnings, and all other important written materials, will be available to a person in her or his primary language. At each police building signs must be posted in the most commonly spoken languages stating that interpreters are available free of charge.

Collaboration with other law enforcement agencies

Formal agreements between Providence Police and other law enforcement agencies must be approved by City Council and posted to the PPD website. The outside agency must comply with all the terms of this ordinance. No one acting on behalf of the City of Providence shall assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law or gather or disseminate information on the immigration status of individuals. The Providence Police Department will not honor requests by ICE to arrest or detain any individual.

Accountability and Enforcement

Quarterly reports of all violations of this ordinance will be posted on the Police Department website and provided to the City Council. The Providence External Review Authority (PERA) will have power to review and recommend that Public Safety and Police Department budgets be reapportioned toward youth recreation and job training programs for failure to enforce this ordinance.

SanFrancisco Ballet “Cinderella”

 

Friday, April 28, 2017 SF Opera House

April 28-May 7, 2019

Cinderella” On Stage

San Francisco Ballet’s concluding production of the 2017 season is a remounting of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Cinderella,” last seen here in SF in 2013. It is not the ‘fairy godmother’ Cinderella but it refers to some aspects of the original Grimm fairy tale. Wheeldon makes much of the tree burial site of Cinderella’s mother. The birds who assist Cinderella in the original story become “Fates”. The production is elaborate and complex in its stage effects. It adds two prologues concerning the early years of both Cinderella and the Prince. What saves this current performance was the brilliant dancing of Frances Chung as Cinderella, Joseph Walsh as the Prince and Taras Domitro as the Prince’s friend Benjamin. The choreography is dull;  the dancing great.

Wheeldon’s efforts at making the step-sisters (Sasha De Sola, Ellen Rose Hummel
) and the step-mother (Jennifer Stahl) into funny characters often falls flat, since the humor dissolves into ‘kick in the pants’ action. The step-mother, drunk at the ball, is not funny at all.

But the lovely lyricism that Chung brings to the tile roll is fascinating. She is a fine actress and a brilliant dancer. She brings real but gentle projection to each scene. Walsh matches her, partnering with chivalrous care even through the complex lifts Wheeldon provides. Taras Domitro as the Prince’s friend brings the real comic element to the show. He poses as the Prince so that Cinderella’s character is tested and is a lively jester throughout.

The four “Fates” provide the magic we usually attribute to the Fairy Godmother. (Actually none appears in the original story. The tree and the birds provide the dresses for the ball.)  Daniel Deivson-Oliveira, Francisco Mungumba, Mingxuan Wand and Wei Wang as the “Fates” are masked figures who bring about Cinderella’s release.

The scenic, costume and lighting personnel deserve huge credit and applause for the elements that dominant this production. Julian Crouch is the Scenic and costume designer; Lighting, Natasha Katz, Production design, Daniel Brodies and scenic associate, Frank McCullash. Basil Twist creates a special sequence for the amazing effects to produce a life-like tree and a magic carriage. It is worth of applause and admiration. But, alas, the effects often eclipse the gorgeous dancing.

Martin West and the orchestra provided fine accompaniment for the familiar Prokofiev score. SF Ballet’s “Cinderella” is a visual delight.

Frances Chung and Joseph Walsh in “Cinderella”
Photo: Erik Tomasson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joanna G Harris, PhD
joannagharris@lmi.net
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065
www.BeyondIsadora.com