A Tale of Lost Luggage
Poems New and Collected
1957 – 1997
by Wislawa Szymborska
Translated from the Polish
by Stanislaw Baranczak
and Clare Cavanagh
Reviewed by Merilyn Oniszczuk Jackson
For The Inquirer
April 19, 1998
Reading Wislawa Szymborksa’s poems is like gazing into Poland’s famed amber. What does the cracked, ancient resin refract? An insect’s eyelash, a fish’s scale? Her verse exposes the universe’s most mundane rubbish and mankind’s banal indifference to all in its grip.
When she won the 1996 Nobel prize, Szymborska titled her acceptance speech, (included in this book) “The Poet and the World.” She spoke about the respectability of being a poet and places poets in “a select group of Fortune’s darlings.” The world is their subject.
Not surprisingly, Szymborska writes about the conflicting desires in the world; how they multiply and cancel each other out with dizzying speed. Every minute, every word is a wild card waiting to be dealt. Clothes parses no less than two dozen parts of clothing; nevertheless it presents a model of terse economy. The doctor tells the patient that for now it’s not too bad, and the matter-of-fact tone belies the relief in the lines:
…to pull out of handbags, pockets, sleeves
a crumpled, dotted, flowered, checkered scarf
whose usefulness has suddenly been prolonged.
At age 75, Szymborska has published nine volumes of poetry. This welcome new English translation of Szymborska’s poetry is by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. Baranczak, beloved as a poet and activist in Poland and respected as a poet abroad, holds the chair in Slavic literature at Harvard University. Cavanagh, is a professor in the department of Slavic languages at the University of Wisconsin. Cavanagh and Baranczak received the 1996 PEN Translation Prize for their View with a Grain of Sand. One hundred of Szymborska’s poems appeared in that 1995 volume, also published by Harcourt Brace & Co.
This latest translation is punchier, more direct, closer to Szymborska’s understated perceptions than the 1981 English translation by Robert A. Maguire and the late Magnus Jan Krynski. Some differences are worth noting because the present translation better projects Szymborska’s ironic voice.
A brief comparison between some of the older titles and the new, shows the earlier translations may be more lyrical, but wordier. What had been Two Monkeys by Breughel, becomes Breughel’s Two Monkeys. Four in the Morning is now Four A.M.
A sea change in cadence also occurs. In one of her most famous poems, A Million Laughs, A Bright Hope, it is “easy to drown in a teaspoon of ocean.” The subject in the current volume’s No End of Fun is “easily drowned in the ocean’s teaspoon.”
Szymborksa more or less repudiates a 1952 collection written in the political themes acceptable during Stalinist times, and her 1954 publication is inexplicably ignored in this translation as well as in the Krynski/Maguire edition. Both begin with the 1957 collection, Calling Out To Yeti. With the addition of 64 previously untranslated poems, including seven written in the last five years, this volume becomes the most complete English-language collection to date.
Her poems can be innocent and wise or truckling and truculent. Szymborska revels in contradictions like these. Seance ends “radiant and deceptive” and Sky in “rapture and despair.”
For Szymborska though, a word is only one consonant away from being a world, one continent away from being free. As a young adult living in the circumscribed world of post-war Poland, in the smoke-blackened, medieval town of Krakow, her writing found flight for her and her readers. She wrote a host of poems on poetry, death, and of course, war. In The End and the Beginning, she provides a formula for cleaning up after war where
Someone has to lie there
in the grass that covers up
the causes and effects
with a cornstalk in his teeth,
gawking at clouds. p.228
She takes us, her readers, with her on microscopic visits to the insectal world of “ants stitching in the grass” (No Title Required) and beetles “for such great despair/that beetle’s six legs wouldn’t be enough” (Interview With a Child.) And just as simply and swiftly she telescopes us into the universe. In Over Wine, she describes perhaps her own coquetishness at meeting a man:
And I tell him tales about
ants that die of love beneath
a dandelion’s constellation.
Along with inversions like these, Szymborska, like other great Polish writers, uses irony and self-mockery. An Opinion on the Question of Pornography, is a disquisition on the intelligentsia’s preference for “the forbidden tree of knowledge to the pink buttocks found in glossy magazines.”
Though Szymborska talks overtly about love or falling in love in at least five poems, she too, steers away from pornography. Two lines in Ruben’s Women, however, are powerful enough to make up for any lack of eroticism:
thick-whiskered Phoebus, on a sweaty steed,
riding straight into the seething bedchamber.
As intimate as her poetry can be, Szymborska is an intensely private person. She does not care for the attention she’s received since winning the prize and is said to go out even in Krakow in disguises. Fellow Nobel laureate and countryman, Czeslaw Milosz, [cq] wrote about writers in internal exile behind the Iron Curtain. In her poetry, Szymborska found internal freedom and so shared with her readers a space to breathe. May our continuing discovery of her poetry not diminish her freedom.
By Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer
Posted: January 30, 2015
You probably know what continental drift is – but what’s Choreo_Drift?
Simply put, it’s the movement of choreographic ideas that relate to one another, to art and politics, and to society and communities across the continents. It’s the brainchild of Italian-born, Sweden-based choreographer and theorist Cristina Caprioli, and the collaborator/dancers in her company, ccap.
The project, which takes many shapes, has this week drifted down from the Museum of Modern Art’s PS1, in Queens, N.Y., to Philadelphia. Aaron Levy, a founding director of Slought, the gallery, lecture, and performance space on the University of Pennsylvania campus, is hosting its local premiere, “Choreo_Drift: Choreography and Disenchantment” – three days of multimedia, interdisciplinary performances, films, and conversations exploring choreography, embodiment, and power that’s open and free to the public.
Caprioli and Tulane University’s Felicia McCarren, author of French Moves: The Cultural Politics of le hip hop, opened the series Wednesday with talks and audience conversations, plus choreographic input of Caprioli’s dance “att att.”
Thursday features conversations with Temple University’s Mark Franko, Egyptian choreographer/dance activist and archivist Adham Hafez, and Mattias Gardell, Swedish author of Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Again, there will be dance interludes throughout the gallery.
Choreo_Drift culminates with a collective talk followed by a full performance of Caprioli’s Omkretz (Circumference) at the Annenberg Center on Friday.
Caprioli first came to Philadelphia last year to explore possible venues for Choreo_Drift, and, after meeting Levy, she decided Slought was the logical place to moor. She already knew Franko, who directs Temple’s graduate studies program in dance, from his own choreography and his many books on dance, and it wasn’t long before the three concluded his work and Slought’s programming would mesh.
Temple’s monthly dance colloquium is “the only program like it in the region,” Franko says, “and the fact that we live-stream the colloquia, which is free to the public, makes it absolutely unique on the East Coast.” He says people too often see dance only as play, or feel it can’t be thoughtful or engage with ideas and politics, as do other art forms.
His 2005 book, Excursion for Miracles, dealt with his time in New York in the ’60s with Paul Sanasardo and Donya Feuer, cofounders of Studio for Dance. Feuer (1934-2011), was a native Philadelphian who eventually moved to Sweden and was a longtime collaborator with director Ingmar Bergman.
So when Franko came to Philadelphia two years ago from the University of California at Santa Cruz, there were connections linking him, Philadelphia, and Caprioli.
“Cristina had invited me to Stockholm several times,” he said. “I’m never quite sure what I’m supposed to do or if I’m doing enough, but she just likes to have certain people around to bounce off of.”
When she was organizing a conference in Stockholm in 2010, she invited him to help her program it.
“It was called Weaving Politics, and she’s been extraordinarily generous. She provided an apartment for me for a month,” Franko said. “She brings me so that I can just be there. And I work, I write, we talk, I interact with the company.” He helped conceptualize the conference, which brought together choreographer William Forsythe and Bulgarian French philosopher Julia Kristeva, who called dance “a nimble movement of incorporated thought.”
Afterward, he proposed publishing the paper that resulted, “but Cristina said, ‘No, it’s your paper, but you should keep developing it, let it drift.’ So she’s the one who made the connection for me with Slought.”
In a Skype interview from MoMA last week, Caprioli proved an animated 61-year-old who seemed much younger – dancers tend to age less dramatically than the rest of us.
“I am convinced that choreography is not only the best [art] form to buy a ticket for, it is also an orchestration of encounters, the setting up of encounters between different minds,” she said. “I hope we give audiences the possibility to enter the choreography themselves, but also to intellectually stimulate the publics we encounter, more than just satisfy them and try to do it very gently, not aggressively.”
“I really cherish this. It is a shame for dance and choreography to be still happening in conventional theater. It’s not really about just watching a piece, but to share the event of the piece. It’s so easy to get into this product thinking.”
Omkretz, which had its world premiere in October in Florence, Italy, “has two dancers and a musician on a saxophone. The live music gives it a strong atmosphere.
“The dancers and the music are dealing with the idea of throwing the bow and arrow – thrust, momentum, trajectory, and distance,” said Caprioli. “When they come to the edge, they have to turn and drift back.”
Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer
Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 3:01 AM
A few months before martial law was declared in Poland on Dec. 13, 1981, the poet and samizdat writer Stanislaw Baranczak arrived at Harvard. He was the Alfred Jurzykowski Professor of Polish Language and Literature there until Parkinson’s disease forced him to retire in 1997. He died of pneumonia Dec. 26 at age 68.
Baranczak was a cofounder of a pre-Solidarity organization, the KOR, was arrested for supporting the workers, and was fired from his teaching post at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. He then edited Zapis, an underground literary journal. After the regime banned his work, he finally accepted Harvard’s repeated offers of an appointment. Even then, the Polish government denied him a visa for years, making him wait.
A few months after Baranczak got to the United States, I wrote him, asking how I could help the thousands imprisoned or detained by the Polish government. He wrote back promptly, putting me in touch with activist and exile Irena Lasota in New York and linguistics professor Henryk Híz at the University of Pennsylvania. Within weeks we would form a committee to support the Solidarity movement, mainly the underground press.
Baranczak’s letter ended with characteristic commitment and irony:
“Being a newcomer to America (I arrived here nine months ago) I am still astonished by how much sympathy this country has for the Polish cause. But I am also getting used to the fact that this is the country where some basic values of mankind are still considered essential.”
The following year, our Solidarity support committee produced a Solidarity exhibit at Moore College of Art. Besides artifacts and mementos smuggled out from the detainees, it also included a photography exhibit by Reuters photojournalist Joseph Czarnecki, whose photographs graced every major publication worldwide, exposing the brutality of the regime Baranczak had escaped.
In March of 1987, our committee organized a reading for Baranczak at Drexel University. I still remember his soft, gentle voice reading these incongruously harsh words from his poem “Because Only This World of Pain”:
Because only this world of pain, only this
body in the vise of earth and air,
flogged with bullets, put into the hands
of torturers, cracking at the bone-seams
of the skull struck with a truncheon, only this
thin crust of human skin, gushing
blood, salty with seas of sweat,
between the blow of birth and the blow of death.
In an essay titled “The Revenge of the Mortal Hand,” which appeared in the 2007 anthology Polish Writers on Writing, edited by Adam Zagajewski, Baranczak spoke of what is accomplished by the poet writing in protest: “Don’t we find pleasure in writing because writing, as such, even though it doesn’t make the pain actually disappear, is nonetheless a way of retaliating against what causes the pain?”
Irena Grudzinska-Gross, research scholar at Princeton University’s Slavic languages and literatures department, was one of that exhibit’s organizers. Reached by phone, she spoke of Baranczak’s “unusual mastery of languages, a talent for rhyming, punning, word creation, great knowledge, wisdom, and wit – quite an unusual combination. He enriched both Polish- and English-language cultures enormously, and brought new literary forms into both cultures. For example, he is the most innovative pure-nonsense author in Polish.” Baranczak even translated American limerick master Ogden Nash into Polish.
With Clare Cavanagh, his former student, he won the PEN Translation Prize in 1996 for a translation of the poetry of Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, who won the Nobel Prize in literature that year. Earlier translations were ponderously formal, but theirs captured Szymborska’s ironic, modern lilt.
He also translated English into Polish. Allen Kuharski, chair of the theater department at Swarthmore College and translator of Polish and English texts, called Baranczak “the most significant contemporary translator of Shakespeare’s plays into Polish: 25 of the Bard’s works since 1986, with almost 200 productions staged by the country’s most noted directors.
“The combination of Baranczak at Harvard and Czeslaw Milosz at Berkeley powerfully buttressed the status of Polish poetry and literature in the U.S.,” Kuharski continued. “Their promotion of other major Polish poets such as Szymborska and Zagajewski as outspoken public intellectuals and dissidents ushered in a period of unprecedented interest and prestige for Polish poetry in the English-speaking world.”
The life and career of poets like Baranczak make us realize that it may take electricians and trade unionists to finish a revolution, but it’s often a poet who begins it.
Merilyn Jackson writes regularly on dance and Polish culture for The Inquirer and other publications.
Izabela Chlewińska in Tralfamadoria
By Merilyn Jackson
For the Inquirer
Posted Sept. 16, 2012
Three Polish dancers made their American debuts Friday evening at the modest Mascher Space up on Cecil B. Moore Ave. Though their paths have crossed in Poland and two have worked with each other in the past, their movement esthetics diverge except for the fact that each uses sound/music very minimally, if at all. Izabela Chlewińska lives and works in Warsaw, but has also performed in Germany, Mexico and Japan. In a doll-like little white dress, she writes out the story of her concept on an easel filled with large sheets of paper. She takes us to the land of Tralfamadoria, a riff on Kurt Vonnegut’s work (which was very popular in Poland) in that her work is non-linear, episodic and elliptical. It’s when she strips to her body stocking that we see what an original mover, even a contortionist, she is. In the Zoo section, she takes to the floor in an exquisitely high back-bend, head facing us and scuttles crab-like from side to side. She strikes sharply angled poses, bent-elbowed arms splayed out along her body while her chest and torso rise pointing to the ceiling or lies on her side like an odalisque or such as you might see when a leopard is in repose. Finally, she dedicates the dance to her father. But why? Did he introduce her to Tralfamadoria? Is this a remnant of a childhood memory lived just before the bizarre life lived under Communism dissolved? Maybe nothing of the sort, but I love works that raise more questions than they can answer.
Marysia Stokłosa’s Vacuum didn’t spare us from questions either. Wielding a vintage Electrolux canister vac (I had a similar one for many years), she literally swept the entire large space with it, criss-crossing from right to left, even insinuating it under the feet of the people in the front row. She re-covered the entire space from front to back running in reverse, so I thought, probably incongruously, of a warp and weft imaginary weaving of the space into one large fabric for her to dance upon. Lest you think this sounds too serious, Stokłosa disappears into a side restroom and runs the shower returning to us in a bathing suit the same vintage as the vacuum cleaner, and sopping wet, belly flops on the floor, flinging and flopping like a fish out of water. To Chopin, she dries her hair with the vacuum. Hah! Is she saying it’s time for Poland to wash that fusty romantic self-image away? I hope so, but that’s just me.
Each dance seemed born of a big idea realized with an economy of movement and a great take-it-or-leave-it confidence including the final work, Le Pas Jacques. By Magda Jędra, who is co-founder of Good Girl Killer in Gdansk, she starts with both feet planted on the floor while she scoops and swoops the air with her arms. She pulls a Babci shawl from a nearby paper bag and ties her ankles together with it, her wrists with another piece of clothing and then bruisingly jumps around, falling often until she loosens her bonds. I had to leave for another show so I regrettably couldn’t stay to see the rest. But I ran into her at the supermarket today and she had cabbages in her cart for tonight’s show. So, Kapusta anyone?
$15 Mascher Space, 155 Cecil B. Moore Ave. tonight and Sunday night, 8 p.m.
Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer
Posted: Saturday, April 5, 2014, 3:01 AM
Choreographer Niki Cousineau and the shadow of her designer husband Jorge Cousineau
Watching and reviewing Niki Cousineau’s choreography and dance for more than 15 years, I have noted a certain delicacy, even reticence, coming through. She’s not a flashy, over-the-top mover, but allows her intellect and commitment to craft to put her dance theater work over.
It helps that in 1996 she hooked up with the precision-minded Jorge Cousineau, an award-winning set, lighting, and sound designer. As the duo that has constituted Subcircle since 1997, they unveiled their latest work Thursday at the Performance Garage for a weekend run that ends Saturday night.
Their title is “All this happened, more or less,” the opening line of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, which centers on the World War II firebombing of Dresden, Germany, Jorge’s birthplace. His set consists of crazily tilted white structures that could be from a Fritz Lang film. The dancers easily break them down and realign them, or make them explode into the rafters.
Jorge made his performance debut dancing with wife Niki. He moves quite naturally, if a bit shyly, in this piece that serves as a retrospective of their work, life, and love together. The other dancers – Christy Lee, Scott McPheeters, Christina Zani – had each performed with Subcircle, and helped move the memories along by calling out the years as they danced.
The Cousineaus opened in silence with sign language, later ending with little arabesques. Sections were taken from shows such as 2000’s “Banking Hours,” and 2002’s “ADA,” the inaugural show at the Performance Garage. Much of the movement, once in full swing, had elbows jutting back and other angular moves echoing the architecture of the set.
Rosie Langabeer’s guitar chords warmed the atmosphere, and Jorge’s video projections, live and taped, enlivened the white set, falling on the structures and screen backdrops. Fast-forward to 2048, and they “draw” each other’s outlines on a screen with a projector. Niki draws water through them, dissolving their outlines in mist. As Jorge quotes Vonnegut: “So it goes.”
Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer
Posted: Saturday, April 19, 2014, 1:08 AM
Adryan Moorefield and Janine Beckles of Philadanco.
The program included a mix of newer and older pieces.
To a packed house, Philadanco brought back Donald Byrd’s 1995 BAMM at its spring offering at the Kimmel’s Perelman Theater Thursday night. I first saw it in 2004 with the now-retired force of nature Odara Jabali-Nash as the center of its centrifugal force. This time, six dancers revolve around veteran company dancer Roxanne Lyst like numbers on a spinning clock.
The missing hands of this no-tick-tock clock are Mio Morales’ quick-pulsed percussive score, which ultimately hurls the dancers from the circle and into various patterns around the stage. The men walked off and on stage ramrod-stiff, almost militaristic. But the spitfire Lyst remains in control, leading the others through Africanized, hunched-over skipping. Their fists pumped to the floor, pushing their shoulders up in synchronized rhythms.
It was such a sweet surprise when many of the same dancers came out next in Gene Hill Sagan’s ballet Suite en Bleu, to the music of Handel and Bach, which, with its metronomic formalisms, mirrored Morales’ score. Lyst, Rosita Adamo, and Janine Beckles, in soft hyacinth-blue gowns and ballet slippers, flared out their skirts in their tours, Tommie-Waheed Evans, Dwayne Cook Jr., and even the towering Adryan Moorefield lifting them joyfully as if they were flowers.
The company premiere of Ulysses Dove’s 1984 Bad Blood, to Laurie Anderson’s “Gravity’s Angel” and “Walking and Falling” and Peter Gabriel’s “Excellent Birds,” seemed a little off-kilter on opening night. This normally sure-footed company did not yet have the piece in its belly, where they need it. It is a furiously brutal work about the search for connection through physical impact. I could see Beckles cross herself before running out from the wings to throw her spread-eagled legs around one of the men who had to take her impact without faltering. I have no doubt they will ultimately devour the piece with their typical fierceness.
That hunched-over Africanist skip returned in Rennie Harris’ 2007 Philadelphia Experiment, only this time as a ghost of itself, haunting us from the centuries of slavery where even the muscle memory diminishes. Evans ferociously spurred the full company through its paces past Philly’s darker moments – shown in a video collage by John Abner – to embrace the joy and fulfillment that hip-hop and dance bring to many of us in Harris’ paean to our city. With so many slam dunks throughout the show, I wanted to jump up and shout: BOOMSHAKALAKA!
In music, the part of a sonata or fugue that introduces the themes is called the exposition. Merce Cunningham’s choreography, though never created with music in mind, nonetheless looks very musical, and seeing his 1999 BIPED at Annenberg Center Thursday night, it struck me that the piece was an exposition of the bones of ballet.
The first time I saw BIPED, at its 1999 Lincoln Center premiere, I drank in the decor and was dazzled by Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar’s projected animation imagery. The murky, sonarlike thuds of Gavin Bryars’ score and the dancers’ shimmering tourmaline costumes conveyed an underwater impression; the choreography too swam as if under water – and receded, wavery and elusive.
But on second viewing, when the dancers began tracing demilunes with their toes pointed on the floor, I saw what I had not seen the first time – the ghosts of ballet, spare and skeletal. Whether à terre or balancé, the classic rond de jambe was one of the dance’s emerging themes. Deep pliés, unorthodox arabesques, lifts and jetés were a second.
Appearance and disappearance was another theme. The 13 dancers often exited or entered through concealed openings in the backdrop, which swallowed one dancer up after her brief, etchy solo. She emerged momentarily with two other women on each side. Had she been reproduced in quadruple?
Technology also created illusions. Red and blue horizontal stripes floated down the scrim like lines on a page, tracings of motion-captured figures bubbled across it like champagne, diagonal shards of color drifted down like pick-up sticks tossed into a jar of mineral oil. All the while, Aaron Copp’s lighting changed the sense of time, as if the dancing on the ocean floor were illuminated by refracted sunlight.
John King and David Behrman, each of whom has composed for Cunningham, performed Bryars’ 45-minute score live on electric guitar and keyboard. Cellist Loren Dempster, son of the Cunningham collaborator and trombonist Stuart Dempster, also played; at one point, his somber attenuations were shattered by what sounded like a large glass snapping in two.
Some viewers complain that Cunningham’s work lacks emotion. But there is no rapture like that of contemplating pure beauty, and BIPED‘s beauty cannot be overemphasized.
The big buzz of this concert was for eyeSpace, with Mikel Rouse’s 60-minute iPod score International Cloud Atlas, which in its Philadelphia premiere was whittled down to a 20-minute “shuffle.” While some audience members listened to the ambient soundscape created by King and Behrman offstage, most took advantage of the preprogrammed iPods provided.
It was pretty comical to see the electric-blue-clad dancers leaping and lifting to lyrics they could not hear, like “I almost lost my fork” or “Look who’s shopping on the Gaza Strip mall now.” Many in the audience took advantage of the freedom to laugh or make comments, given the feeling of privacy wearing earbuds provided.
Henry Samelson’s gorgeous backdrop was playful too. It looked like a red desert with fireworks bursting from hundreds of prairie dog holes; when the dancers were in upright diagonal positions, they became part of the fiery display.
Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer Published Saturday, January 18, 2014, 3:01 AM
The world premiere of Susan Rethorst’s THEN, with Group Motion and artistic director Manfred Fischbeck, was a bright, cheery, even cheeky little dance, only 50 minutes long. But it packed a lot of information into that short time.
A presentation of Philadelphia Dance Projects, in conjunction with the University of the Arts School of Dance, the new work encapsulates Rethorst’s first year in Philadelphia, which began last season at Bryn Mawr College. Her “Wreckings” have been a hallmark of her creative exploration and research. In them, she allows other choreographers to take over her dance rehearsals to deconstruct or even destroy her work before giving it back for her to return the favor.
In light of this risky practice, it seemed that THEN‘s clean, concise sections, like much of Merce Cunningham’s work, could be reordered for each performance and still be highly readable. Watching it through this lens, I thought it wouldn’t matter if I began this review by describing a middle section and then cycling back to the beginning, or by writing about the ending first.
So the second section has Gregory Holt doing a snaky Mick Jagger strut. Several sections have ice-dancing moments: death spirals and side-by-side forward waltzing. But all are marked by exaggerated and risibly dramatic silver-screen-style gesturing.
Lindsay Browning rubber-faces expressions hilariously while tossing away David Konyk and Holt with a mere forefinger. Konyk and Holt hopscotch over Eleanor Goudie-Averill and Browning’s splayed bodies. Lesya Popil glyphically poses, surrounded by the others as if in mock awe. In unison, all rise on tiptoe, calves trembling as if this is a difficult feat. But then an instantaneous return to control shows it’s nothing. There are horsy head wags, madcapping to the theme from Beetlejuice, slo-mo running.
Also strongly visible was the architectonic display of how the body stands or responds; such displays created living sculptures among the dancers. Renée Kurz’s playful costumes of dark, loose pants fringed in red just below the knees and swingy tops of red, turquoise, and yellows added a certain smirkiness to the whole. The shapes and colors against the charcoal back wall often made me think of a Miró painting, animated.
All of this began and ended with video of the dancers by Rethorst, lighting designer Matt Sharp and the dancers, first on long, white planks – moved about by the dancers to “wreck” the picture – and later danced with. And then the video rides the walls until it disappears, and the dance is over. The word then may imply sequence, but THEN is a work that doesn’t need to follow that rule.
Additional performances: 8 p.m. Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday at Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St. Tickets: $25. Information: 484-469-0288 or www.danceboxoffice.com
Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer
At the Painted Bride on Thursday night, the artists of Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers bared heart and soul, combining them with superb technique.
This retrospective evening of dances choreographed by Lin (first seen in New York through the 1990s to 2001) included four that received Philadelphia premieres. Lin moved the company here just five years ago, building it into the highly regarded Philadelphia fixture it now is, with a studio called Chi-Mac on South Ninth Street.
Liu Mo – whose background is Chinese classical dance and who has trained in contemporary dance with Lin for only about a year – takes the powerful solo “Moon Dance” (1993), originally danced by Lin.
Stepping onstage, he instantly put me in a thrall that lasted to the show’s final moment. Bare-chested and wearing a long muslin skirt, he angled wing-like arms, jerking them into flying motions. With astonishing balance, he ever so slowly dipped his head to the floor in a perpendicular arabesque. Then, mercurially, he changed direction, channeling Lin’s intensity while making the dance his own.
Lin and another male had originally danced “Run Silent, Run Deep” to Les Tambours du Bronx’s music and narrated poems. Here, with Evalina Carbonell bursting onto the stage, skittering in jarring spurts of movement, the evening’s thrill ride continued. Vuthy Ou joined her, and the pace grew more ferocious, with daring leaps, lifts, and catches that then slowed as she sensuously slithered downward along Ou’s body to his ankles.
In yet another revelation, Rachael Hart stuttered across the stage as if with a broken wing, struggling to stay in flight and mournfully dauntless in her trajectory in 2000’s “Butterfly” to “Un Bel Di.”
Former company member Olive Prince created “to dust.” (Disclosure: I’ve taken barre class with some of these dancers, including Prince; the most recent was in August, days before she gave birth to son Noah.) She had the company rush offstage and reenter to pose and slouch away, shoulders sloping, bodies angling into and out of stunning groupings. Prince later soloed in Lin’s 1998 “Renaissance,” exquisitely emerging chrysalislike from her cocoon of red netting.
Mo’s feminine litheness melted into Brian Cordova’s masculine strength in 1999’s “The Song That Can’t Be Sung,” a gut-wrenching duet of forbidden love. The full-company tango, 2001’s “Shall we . . . ?”, had a cheekiness best expressed by Jessica Warchal-King and a drunkenness best articulated by Eiren Shuman. Flawlessly danced with spiky footwork and sexy, thigh-brushing barridas, this was no milonga triste, but a happy ending.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20131109_Superb_Kun-Yang_Lin_Dancers.html#gAUSw1jWYSfxJ6O2.99