For months after the shootings at Columbine High School, every story about the event was dominated by one overarching question: Why did they do it? People kept talking about bullying, teenage alienation, video games, antidepressants, Marilyn Manson, goth culture, parenting styles—as if Columbine were a play and the rest of us were theater critics trying to understand its nuances.
Now, 14 years later, the bandwidth of our public conversations about mass shooters has shrunk dramatically. The charitable folks talk about mental illness, the not-so-charitable talk about "evil," and everyone assumes their usual position for another gun-control standoff. People seem less interested in peering into the depths of a shooter's soul.
But back in 2010, choreographer Dayna Hanson was transfixed by a seven-minute video of a school-board shooting in Panama City, Florida. "It really got under my skin," Hanson says. "It's so rare to see an incident like this captured on video, where you have the opportunity to look at each person and what they did, what they said, how they moved their hands."
In the video, the school board is having a routine meeting when a 56-year-old ex-con and licensed massage therapist named Clay Duke announces: "I have a motion." He pulls out a pistol and tells everyone to leave except for the school board's six men. In an almost comical moment, a female school-board member sneaks up behind Duke and ineffectually whacks him with her purse. He gives her a second chance to leave—she takes it.
At a Panama City, Florida school board meeting in December 2010, a mentally ill man barged in and held board members hostage for six and a half minutes. One grandmotherly-looking woman tried to disarm the gunman, Clay Allen Duke, with her handbag. Duke died. Everyone else lived.
This isn't an event I thought I'd ever see translated into dance but Dayna Hanson's new piece at On the Boards, The Clay Duke, goes there and from what I can see in the rehearsal video above (which is also six and a half minutes), she does an damn amazing job of it. In the video, Hanson explains the foundations of the piece: "It's inspired by the [shootings] and combined with studies of Checkov and how he treated suicide in his dramatic writing as well as looking at the Death Wish films from the 1970s." This is heavy shit but pull-offable if Hanson's track record is any indication, and she's well-backed by big-time Seattle artists Wade Madson, Sarah Rudinoff, Dave Proscia, and Peggy Piacenza, as well as Thomas Graves of the Austin-based ensemble Rude Mechs. The piece combines the group's massive amount of research, dance, music, singing, and lots of cool experimental-theaterish stuff (there's a pet carrier in the rehearsal video—please, please let there be a dog in this piece. I've always wanted to see a dog in a dance performance).
Instead of going home to weep into a bottle of gin after The Clay Duke, head down to OtB's post-show salon for a screening of their first-ever Instagram Dance Film Contest for 15 Second Dance Films.
So there are big banner ads everywhere (check up top, there!) that say “Go Health Yourself,” and we’ve already written about this big event—which is tomorrow!—on Line Out and officially Suggested it. But just why is everyone so damn excited about something that looks like a health-care fair? I called up the spokesman from SEIU, who’s co-sponsoring the event, to find out.
Hi! Um, why are we doing this “Go Health Yourself” thing again?
Jackson Holtz, SEIU: What happened is the Affordable Care Act passed—that’s Obamacare—and everybody should be really psyched about it. But there’s a concerted effort among the right wing and big corporations to do everything they can to make it seem like the Affordable Care Act is something horrible. [Editor’s note: For example, see this creepy Uncle-Sam-all-up-in-your-vagina ad.]
So you guys decided to throw Obamacare a big ol’ party. Sweet! But what exactly is it?
Well first, there’s great music—it’s Hey Marseilles, and that’s awesome, and then there’s the Emerald City Soul Club. So I’m excited! Also, you’ll be able to find out what resources are available to help you sign up for quality affordable health care.
Tell me more. What am I gonna find, health-care-wise, if I show up to Chop Suey tomorrow night? Other than sexy people dancing and playing music, which is very health-inducing.
What people will find at the event is that signing up [for health insurance] is easy. It takes a little bit of time and a little bit of homework, but we’re gonna have people there to help everyone prepare for what they need to know and to show them what kind of coverage is available for their income. For some people, there’s free health care available. For others it’s low-cost. Obamacare is accessible, it’s affordable, and it’s the right thing to do.
What happens if you skip this whole process—you just say fuck it, I’m not getting insurance? You could pay a fine, right?
You could potentially pay a tax penalty—if you don’t enroll by next March 31, you can face a $95 fine or 1 percent of your income, whichever is higher, when you file your 2014 taxes. But what really sucks is that you don’t have health care. We’re here to counter the argument that the other side is saying—that this thing sucks. We’re saying no, it doesn’t suck. In Washington State, we’re in the top three in enrollment. We have a functioning health plan website, we’re a progressive community, this is what we do. Signing up for health care doesn’t suck! Talk to people, find out how much it sucks to break your arm and have to deal with the emergency room and then deal with follow-up care and physical therapy. Or talk to your friends who get MS in their 20s. Or who just have a really bad flu. Or go skiing and break their leg. You don’t think it can happen, but in reality that happens. It probably happens to more people than you know. The Affordable Care Act is what we, as a nation, have decided is the best way to take care of each other—having health care is an important part of being part of just being a healthy community. [Editor's note: As is dancing, music, sweating a lot, and sexy people. Right?]
Hey, the details! They're right here if you missed the other thousand links!
WTF? Go Health Yourself, the Obamacare Party!
W[here]TF? Chop Suey!
W[hen]TF? Tomorrow night, starting at 8 p.m. (doors at 7)!
How TF much does it cost? $7! Get tickets here!
For as long as I've been covering theater and dance in Seattle, I've heard performance-minded people complain about the "blue hairs"—a demographic of old boogeymen with conservative tastes but liberal pocketbooks who push regional theater towards tamer programming by voting with their dollars.
Even before I started covering theater, back when I worked at the ACT ticket office—way back, when people still waited eagerly for the annual announcement of the next year's season—some plays were dismissed as "blue hair shows." They can't all be exciting and new, we told ourselves. You gotta throw a few to the blue hairs. (In retrospect, I realize it was callow to assume that dusty plays are categorically less exciting than new ones. We were young.)
This assumption about a phantom constituency of relatively moneyed, relatively conservative theatergoers was borne out by the fact that when people called to complain about the newer, "edgier" plays, they were typically older. It didn't occur to us at the time that anyone who called to complain about anything was typically older.
The first time that assumption was seriously challenged happened at ACT as well. I was watching some new, grim, unsettling play—maybe The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh?—and sitting next to an ancient-looking couple. During intermission, and I think even before intermission, several people walked out, looking offended and put-upon.
They were all young—not a single blue hair on their collectively aggrieved heads.
As we settled back into our seats for act two, the lady half of the couple and I started talking about the people who'd left in a huff. "Young people are so conservative," she said (I'm paraphrasing). "We older folks have been around the block a few times, we've seen more of the world—it's harder to shock us."
I thought about that lady earlier this afternoon, when I saw an article in the Telegraph about a new, 500-seat, contemporary dance theater that will be built in London because retirees can't get enough of the new stuff:
A new generation of “daring and adventurous” pensioners are embracing edgy contemporary dance works, it has been claimed, as one of the world’s foremost venues announces plans for a new theatre to cope with the demand...
Georgie Shields, director of development at Sadler’s Wells, added research carried out by the company had shown a body of “incredibly adventurous, open-minded” older visitors were increasingly willing to embrace challenging modern works.
She added some older donors had already specified their donations must be ear-marked for “risk-taking” and “daring” new commissions, rather than continuing the status quo.
Research carried out over a recent festival showed the number of visitors over the age of 65 now matches those aged between 20-24.
Compounding the issue: This generation of "adventurous pensioners" grew up in a different cultural moment than the new pensioners of 10 or 20 years ago.
The myth of the blue hairs might be in its twilight.
Exit/Exist is one of those titles that seems completely innocuous at first but takes on increasingly complicated dimensions—and can even suck you in, void-like—when you stare at it, and the thing it's titling, long enough. (Other titles in that category: White Teeth, Lolita, Waiting for Godot.) Is the "exit" of Exit/Exist a death, the exit from existence? Is exiting, as in dropping out, a way to assert one's individual existence? Is it hinting at some reversal of Heidegger's Dasein?
This solo dance piece—with live guitar and four stunning vocalists—by South African dancer/choreographer Gregory Maqoma, whose dance pedigree includes study with the legendary Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, rubs up against all of these implications. Exit/Exist impressionistically tells the story of his ancestor, a 19th-century Xhosa chief named Jongum-sobomvu Maqoma, who waged guerilla warfare against British military colonizers. He lost, as you might guess, and died under mysterious circumstances in the same prison that held Nelson Mandela for 18 years.
Are you a smart youngster who gives a care about live performance and writing? Do you know someone who is?*
If so, the Teen Tix blog is looking for an editor. Read more about the opportunity and application process over here.
And if you don't know about Teen Tix yet, you should—organizations that provide teenagers with $5 tickets to the opera, ballet, and every theater in town are key to the future of theater, dance, and other performing arts. As everyone knows, things are changing in that world: subscription models are increasingly untenable, the engines are rattling in arts organizations across the country, and the future of philanthropy—along with the future of wealth in America—has become more of a question than a certainty.
Getting young people in the door isn't just about giving them access—it's about letting them help the rest of us think through some of the problems. Just their presence can make a difference. If theaters only see the faces of middle-aged people who can afford $75 tickets, that influences their thinking. If 16 year-olds who love theater and dance but only have $5 begin showing up (and they've already started showing up), that will influence their thinking as well.
Helping the Teen Tix blog grow, getting some of their voices into the mix of the public conversation about the future of culture in Seattle, can only be a force for good.
That's the gamble, anyway. And, over the years, Teen Tix has developed a strong relationship with The Stranger. I've gushed about it in the paper and have taught its young critics' workshops several times, as has David Schmader. Lindy West recently hosted their first-ever Teeny Awards bash.
So if you know a young person who might want some serious experience writing and editing a teen press corps on a robust blog—blogs are the new newspapers, don'tchaknow—see here.
* And if you don't, please hold your scoffing. When I started teaching for the Teen Tix program a few years (several years?) ago, I was surprised by how many people between the ages of 14 and 18 would show up regularly for an unpaid, unaccredited class in being an arts critic, of all things. But they're out there. For awhile, we called the class/corps FUCA—pronounced "fucka"—for "future unemployed critics of America," but as it got bigger, the Teen Tix ringmistress, Holly Arsenault, decided that name was too depressing/obscene. Nothing gold can stay.
Conceived by comic artist and memoirist Alison Bechdel, the "Bechdel Test" judges a work of fiction on one criterion: Does the work contain at least two female characters that talk to each other about something other than a man?
Tonight, some of Seattle's top burlesque artists take the Bechdel test to the stage, where they'll "gather to celebrate female fandom through the art of striptease....all without having conversations about their boyfriends!"
It's a great concept, stripping burlesque of all male-centric notions of "naughtiness" and titillation and somatic advertising. Plus, beautiful and hilarious women with stage-ready racks! Full info here.
Last weekend at On the Boards, audiences squirmed through the quartet, Heather Kravas's punishing, four-act vivisection of different dance genres: sinister naked cheerleading; agonizing ballet with dancers performing an interminable series of sous-sus steps (a hop up onto the toes and back down again) that should be banned as torture under the Geneva Convention; a revved-up, Broadway-style chorus line whose only lyric was "want"; and disturbingly cartoonish European folk dance (disturbing because the cartooninzation of folk culture is always a first step towards fascism).
And I confess I felt a thrill of evil glee watching people's expressions change as they figured out what they were in for. The first section was all nudity and cheerleading, punctuated with four-person pornographic tableaux and scored with experimental guitar playing club-style beats. So far, so groovy. People nodded to the music, gawked at the bodies, and lightly groped their dates. But as the quartet transitioned into severity and scariness (ballet automatons, vicious mockery of musical theater), the smiles slowly melted—and, in some cases, turned into grimaces.
Kravas played her audience like a kazoo—and the snippets of conversation I heard in the lobby afterwards were buzzing with resentment. I did not necessarily enjoy every minute of the quartet. (Does anyone? The dancers must dread performing it.)
But I admired its ambition, its audacity, and its artful cruelty.
More words about arts stuff in this week's Loose Lips.
Velocity Dance Center threw a party last night, and in the process I got my own private basement dance party, sat in the back seat of a Subaru station wagon while two women had an awkward front-seat get-to-know-you exchange, and got caught on camera staring at the pierced nipples of a mysterious masked dancer.
The Big Bang Performance Party rang in Velocity's 2013-14 season by packing dancers, sculpture, performance art, music, and spoken word into its three-studio digs on Capitol Hill (and on the street and in the loading dock and in the basement). The result was kind of mind-boggling. I have a wicked cold and hadn't left the house all day so I thought I'd stay for half an hour, grab a Hilliard's tallboy to help my 10 pm Nyquil along and then trot on home to snuggle with my boyfriend—but that was before Dani Long got me all pumped up with his basement booty-shaking and oral history of the vogueing movement. Did you know it was invented in Harlem in the '80s as a way for gay men of color to express themselves, taken from the pages of Vogue magazine? I didn't, but got all learned up thanks to Dani. I wonder how much more I would have retained in high school if my history teachers had moved like that while lecturing about Reconstruction.
At a lecture and demonstration last Wednesday night, legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp called her artist-in-residence commission at Pacific Northwest Ballet “an invitation to fall in love.”
As PNB's first artist in residence (really!) since its 1972 inception, Tharp saw an opportunity to create "something I can't live without." From this broad and dramatic (in other words, very Tharp-ian) declaration, Waiting at the Station was born. Tonight will be its world premiere in Pacific Northwest Ballet's all-Tharp program at McCaw Hall.
PNB's lecture/demonstrations are a fascinating way to dig around at the foundations a dance work and catch a glimpse of what happens before the curtain goes up. Is there a story behind the work? How are the dancers chosen for the roles? What do they look like in normal clothes and out of stage makeup? On Wednesday night, Tharp guided the audience through the development of parts of Waiting and Brief Fling, two of the pieces in this weekend’s season opener. The program will also feature Nine Sinatra Songs, a glamorous ballroom-esque ballet set to the music of Frank Sinatra, although it was not discussed or demonstrated at the Wednesday lecture.
I love Twyla Tharp's choreography because it is familiar. In the same way I'll pop in a DVD of Anne of Green Gables when I'm sick or pick up a Tom Clancy novel for a long plane ride, I turn to YouTube videos of Nine Sinatra Songs and other Tharpy things when surfing the net for dance videos to stare at while drinking wine on the couch.
From the New York Times:
According to a survey on public participation scheduled to be released on Thursday by the National Endowment for the Arts, one out of every three Americans, or about 78 million people, visited an art exhibition or attended a performing arts event in 2012. That figure represents a drop across the board since the last survey in 2008, but the slide was steepest for musicals and plays. For musicals, the 9 percent drop in the attendance rate between 2008 and 2012 was the first statistically significant change in that category in more than 25 years. Straight plays fared even worse, with a 12 percent drop over the same period, a figure that has contributed to a whopping 33 percent rate of decline over the past decade.
The percentage of adults attending opera stayed the same (2.1 percent), and jazz participation went up from 7.8 to 8.1 Ballet sank from 2.9 to 2.7 but dance overall rose from from 5.2 to 5.6. Art museums are also seeing their numbers sink, but those are insignificant differences compared to the drop in theater.
How has theater leadership responded? By trotting out the same old, plaintive we-don't-know-what's-happening-but-we're-pretty-sure-we're-indispensable line that's probably been in circulation since movie theaters began to replace vaudeville palaces.
“At the end of the day, I’m not troubled by it,” said Heather A. Hitchens, executive director of the American Theater Wing. “I believe that all this technology is fantastic, but nothing is going to replace the live experience.”
The problem is, I don't think most non-theatergoers see it that way—watching a movie is a live experience. (What's the alternative to a live experience? A dead experience?) I think she means to say "nothing is going to replace the unmediated experience," but the difference between different kinds of mediation (screen vs. stage) is, again, not that dramatic for most people (for them, acting is acting is acting). And many people, obviously, prefer the mediation of the screen over the mediation of the stage.
But Hitchens is right—some people will always want to see live performances. There just aren't as many of them as there used to be.
I suspect much of that has to do with the twilight of the regional-theater model. For a generation and a half, Americans were largely told that to go to The Theatre meant going to a place like the Seattle Rep or Intiman and fringe theater was just that—on the fringes.
But as regional-theater audiences age and vanish faster than young audiences can replace them, regional theaters themselves are either shrinking, dying, or trying to reinvent themselves. (Over the years, I've heard several artistic directors wonder privately whether it would be better to chop up the resources of their regional theaters into tiny little pieces to hand out to smaller companies.)
Regional theater is just an experiment, one that's not even a century old. And, as Andre Gregory said in the early 1960s, just a few years after the experiment started: "I'm scared that the regional theater, by the time it is mature, will have bored the shit out of millions of people all over the country."
So it makes complete sense that "theater," in terms of the received idea most of us grew up with, is falling away. The question is whether and how "fringe" companies—attic theater, barroom theater, trespassing-in-some-abandoned-warehouse theater—can reinvent what the word "theater" means.
After all, "dance" has unhitched itself from "ballet"—and the survey says that dance is up while ballet is down.
Matthew Richter is on a mission: to find out how many cultural square feet there are in Seattle. How much bookstore brick and mortar. How many seats for theater butts. Stages and backstages, studios and galleries. Movie houses. Music boxes of every kind, with oboes and altos and DJs.
In his new role as the city's cultural space manager, he's counting them all. The idea is that you can't work to improve something until you know what you've got.
I hear artists out there all the time talking about needing spaces—affordable spaces, better-located spaces, better-equipped spaces. Or maybe you're a building owner thinking you have a home for an arts group.
Tell this guy! Here: more info, contacts, and a quick online survey. Once all the data is collected, we'll all know more.
And speaking of good news about cultural space, the mayor's budget for 2014 includes $300,000 to equip Washington Hall in the Central District with an elevator, meaning the historic venue (such a cool place) will finally be able to accommodate everybody—including leaders of resident arts groups who're super-excited to go to their spaces, but have to get other people lift their wheelchairs and carry them into their own offices.
Cultural space management!
Massive Monkees's hip-hop dance academy The Beacon is staying in the ID. This is the best news to come out of Storefronts Seattle this year—and possibly the best news to come out of Storefronts Seattle ever. Storefronts is the program (it's a program of the art-supporting organization Shunpike) that puts arts groups in empty retail spots, usually only temporarily. But Massive Monkees has done so well having its own space in the old Milwaukee Hotel that they're signing a long-term lease with building owner Coho Real Estate. Huzzah!
The Beacon's full schedule of classes for adults and kids is here. I took a curious, intermittently reluctant, totally inexperienced 9-year-old there, and he started pulling new moves right away, and insisted on going back. The teachers, the energy, the studio—the Beacon's pretty great.
This post has been updated.
The last of the Nights of Genius series at the Frye began with lots of cheering for Smirnoff—for sponsoring the series but also for not being Russian. Russia may have produced some of the most famous dancers in world history, but it also produced so many dicks. If a Russian vodka had sponsored the Genius Awards, we would have dumped them by now. But thankfully, Smirnoff is British! Up with Smirnoff, down with Russia.
Amy O'Neal is like "if Merce Cunningham and Janet Jackson had a baby," Stranger performance editor Brendan Kiley said in his introduction of her. During their onstage conversation, they talked a lot about butts. Asked how she would explain twerking to someone's grandparents, O'Neal said, "Twerking is what the twist was in the '50s. It's the twist of our generation." A recent evening-length piece of O'Neal's involved a video of her going out into public and asking people about their asses, and responses were all over the place. "I am from Turkey," one guy said, "and we tend to shake our butts." Another guy, asked about his butt, offered to go somewhere private with O'Neal and take off all his clothes. "People's attitudes about butts say so much about their attitudes about everything else," O'Neal said. She also talked about sneaking out of the house when she was a teenager to go dance in clubs she wasn't supposed to be going to, about trying and failing to inspire audience participation ("I learned early on you can't force a party on your audience"), and about drawing so heavily on hiphop music, rap culture, and booty popping. "As a white girl who likes to do that, I get questioned. As well I should be."
Zoe | Juniper, the choreography and design team of Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey, went next. Scofield said that the reason she used to balk when Brendan described their work as "feral ballet" is because she's from the South: "In Georgia, or in the South, a woman who's feral is a woman who is undone, or who has passed beyond all reason, put out to pasture, or gone crazy. As someone from the South, I was characterized as crazy, or undone, so that's how I hear it." Brendan clarified that he really just meant "animalistic," and Scofield said, "I think the idea of the animalistic makes sense. I'm really interested in an unmediated experience, and this is what just comes out of my body. I don't go into the studio and go, 'How do I be more animal? How do I be more undone?'" Shuey talked about the layers in his designs and "having each one be something that you wouldn't expect to happen next," and connected that idea to "the interruptions in Zoe's choreography." His intent, like the intent of those interruptions, is "to open up for the audience a wonder, so they go: What is that?"
With Pat Graney, Brendan said, "I don't know where to start"—she's been making work in Seattle since 1981. "I think in some ways my work is about women and the lives of women," Graney said. "Taking the ordinary in women's lives and eulogizing it. People's everyday movements are pretty interesting." In addition to her formal dance works, they talked about Graney's work in women's prisons. "In prison you're not allowed to dance. Or sing. Or do anything expressive. Even their physical bodies are state property," Graney said. Essentially she's going in and creating a space where all that can happen. As for prisoners' attitudes toward dance, Graney said, "You know, they don't care about modern dance. They think it's the weirdest thing they've ever seen." The year Michael Jackson died was also the first year that prisoners were allowed to wear costumes—that was Graney's 15th year of working in the prison—and Graney had them learn the dance to Thriller. "There's something about seeing performance by people who are not trained in it—it's very raw, very authentic." And then she talked about her ongoing dream of taking houses that are going to be torn down and putting them all in one place for ex-cons to live in together, and then have "residencies for artists to work with ex-cons."
It is officially too late to come listen to any Genius Award finalists talk about their work this year, but the Genius Awards party itself is still a month away. The Genius Awards is where the best artists in the city come together to dance, drink, conspire, commit adultery, and watch a big show anchored by Seattle Rock Orchestra. It takes place September 28 at the Moore Theater (which is being renovated right now and will have just opened by the time of the Genius Awards). Get your ticket now.
Over the past month or so, a quorum of Seattle's culture constituency has convened every Wednesday night at the Frye to get to know the fifteen nominees for this year's Stranger Genius Awards (so far we've hung out with musicians, artists, filmmakers, and writers) and generally muse, drink, kvetch, and gossip.
This Wednesday night, you can get to know the four dance artists who are up for this year's performance award: Pat Graney, Zoe Scofield/Juniper Shuey, and Amy O'Neal. We will talk about bodies, bugs, rejection, prison, sneaking out at night to attend dance clubs in foreign countries during one's teenage years, and the pleasures and pains of being on display.
Tickets are almost sold out (the poster below says they're sold out) but you can jump for the last few over here.
Doors open and booze cascades into glasses at 5:30 pm. We sit down and start watching dance clips and having conversations at 6:30 pm.
What happens next is up to you.
Some bar mitzvah videos can't wait until 11 AM:
Sam is a man now, people! (Via Gawker.)
Strictly Seattle is a three-week series of classes for dancers of varying backgrounds, taught by notable Seattle choreographers. It ends with a performance that will happen this weekend. Our dance critic Melody Datz, once a semi-professional ballet dancer, decided to put her hair up in a bun again and take some classes. (Tonight’s performance is sold out but you can buy tickets for tomorrow's matinee and evening performances.) —Eds.
The last time I owned a pair of pointe shoes, I had two good ankles, small boobs, and some serious substance habits. Thirteen years later, I have one ankle made of metal, an additional 50 pounds on my frame, and a set of ample breasts. My addictions are limited to kale recipes and World War II history. I gave up dance—and a lot of other things—to get here, but I fucking miss it. I recently recognized that I was writing about dance only as an observer, that I had completely forgotten what it felt like to move this way. I needed to know what it felt like to dance with this body and from this perspective. So I went back to ballet class.
I am not in bad shape. I biked from the University District to class at Velocity Dance Center's Capitol Hill studio without barfing and was happy to find myself in a room filled with all ages, body types, and levels of dance experience. The teacher, Ellie Sandstrom, is a comfortable, sometimes foul-mouthed creature who made an intermediate ballet class feel as casual as a crowded pub at happy hour. My mind knew what to do and my body complied, mostly, and where it could not obey it compensated in smaller movements. My arabesque, the popular ballet pose where one leg is raised high in back with the arms extended forward or to the side, did not extend upward of 90 degrees like back in the day—there was an ass in the way now. (That's fine, it's a good ass.) I made adjustments and kept moving. Pirouettes, a turn on one foot with the other pointed to the knee (think tree pose with a pointed foot) was simply not going to happen on the right side—my newish right ankle, which I shattered in an accident a few years ago, would not accept responsibility for all my body weight, and I respected that.
I took a few other classes over the next few weeks, some through Velocity's Strictly Seattle summer workshop series and some in my living room to Billy Joel records.
The Boss is a bar next to Jumbo Seafood Restaurant & Lounge, which in turn is next to a business that sells jewelry and furniture, all of which are contained in a building, Rainier Mall, that's painted the color of white flesh and has near its entrance impressive statues of roaring lions and ancient and curvy Greek women dancing in a way that would excite and wet the dreams of a 19th-century German philosopher.
...for doing a little porn?
Jeppe Hansen, 22, had danced on stages around the world and studied in Montreal, New York City and his native Denmark before joining the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in September 2012. Hansen beat out many others for a spot and a scholarship in the prestigious dance school's professional division. "My identity is built on being a ballet dancer," he told CBC News. "For me to come there was a big opportunity for me."
But earlier this year, Hansen appeared in his first pornographic video—a side project and an opportunity, he said, to express himself in a new way—and RWB officials found out. "They told me... they didn't have any space for me because I did porn," he said. According to Hansen, school administrators asked him to sign a letter stating that he voluntarily withdrew from the program.... Hansen said he left the school in late March. In April, he left Winnipeg and moved to New York City to pursue adult entertainment full-time under the screen name Jett Black.
Royal Winnipeg Ballet officials told CBC News they cannot comment on personnel issues due to privacy concerns.
Now, I can understand firing a high-school teacher for doing or having done a little porn—it's stupid, it shouldn't happen, but I can wrap my head around the sex panicky rationale behind it (think of the blahblahblah children, etc.)—but a ballet dancer? Will watching Jeppe "Jett Black" Hansen do a grand jeté or lift a ballerina somehow corrupt a ballet audience? Is an orgy going to break out in the boxes? It's not exactly unheard of for ballet dancers—or ballet companies—to trade on the sex appeal of male dancers. I don't see what the issue is here—except prudery, of course, as well as sex/porn phobia.
And if you want a guy to stop doing porn—if the dopes who run the Royal Winnipeg Ballet wanted Hansen to stop doing porn—is kicking him out of school for doing a single porn short really the best way to get him to stop? To punish Hansen for doing porn the Royal Winnipeg Ballet took dancing away from Hansen... and now Hansen has dedicated himself to porn fulltime. What might've been a little dabbling or an adventure is now a career. Good work, pornphobes.
Is burlesque losing steam? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Click the photo, to weigh in (and see some slightly NSFW photos).
Are you interesting? (Of course you are!) Do you dig On the Boards? (You should!) Do you want to be one of OtB's new "interesting-person" ambassadors? (That question probably doesn't mean anything to you yet!)
The project’s goal is to bring new voices and perspectives to OtB and to engage new communities in programming and activities. The Ambassador Project seeks to activate dialogue and engage communities in conversations about OtB events and performances. Fifteen individuals will be selected to form three-person teams, with each team partnering with OtB for a two-month period.
"I'm trying to do less of my job," artistic director Lane Czaplinski joked when I called him for a little more detail. He added that he thinks it can be stultifying when the artistic director is always the one facilitating the conversation at her/his institution. So he dreamed up this little experiment.
The idea is to bust the bonds of insularity and assemble five three-person teams to call some shots at OtB, including curations, artist interviews (onstage and on the website), and parties. On the Boards is looking for all kinds of folks: programmers, DJs, sculptors, musicians, graphic designers, architects, editors, photographers, rappers, gamers, vinters and distillers, and other people who grapple with aesthetic issues on a day-to-day basis.
"We want to deepen the experience of coming and hanging out here," he says. "Each team will also determine an event: It could be humanities programming, it could be a speed-dating party, it could be a naked ping-pong tournament... We want to arrange it so they feel like they have the keys to the place and can determine a bit of what happens here."
Czaplinski is especially hoping that younger and older folks—and folks who aren't dance- or theater-makers—will apply for the ambassadorships. (He's already got plenty of middle-aged performance geeks hanging around the place.) "My big hope is that people who aren't always already at the table, already shaping the conversation, will show up."
If you're interested, download an application here.
We're currently in the middle of this summer's Seattle International Dance Festival, produced by the Khambatta Dance Company. Last night, critic Melody Datz went to see one of its "Spotlight on Seattle" events, in which local choreographers curate an evening of some of their favorite performers. This round was curated by Stranger Genius Award nominee Amy O'Neal. —Eds.
The performance felt like speed dating—a rush of ten intensely personal dance solos performed by their choreographers in a breathless race to an hour-and-a-half finish line. I left with a mess of disjointed reactions—some of the pieces were freaking awesome, some were disturbing and confusing, and during others my mind wandered off the stage and into fantasies about what pasta sauce recipe could best utilize the overabundance of sage in my front yard.
In this week's theater section, we have Melody Datz on the upcoming Seattle International Dance Festival:
At noon this coming Saturday, June 15, the Seattle International Dance Festival (SIDF) will kick off its “Art on the Fly” street party in South Lake Union, with free performances (including local b-boy heroes Massive Monkees), open classes, bands, margaritas, and a beer garden. Even I, who will freely throw down dozens of dollars for a three-hour ballet in a chilly theater, am much happier about seeing dance if I can watch it while sitting on the grass with a keg cup in hand.
The two-weekend SIDF, produced by Khambatta Dance Company, melds professional dance culture—including an Inter|National series with performers from Israel, Guinea, and Ghana—with an easygoing summer atmosphere.
Also: Cienna Madrid on the Comedy Womb, Seattle's first feminist comedy night, with a detour into Lindy West blowing up the internet last week by suggesting that comedy might—just might—have a lady problem:
It's a Tuesday night in the basement of the Rendezvous, and, up until a minute ago, the room was packed with the kind of crowd comedians dream of—attentive, polite, and quick to laugh. But that all ends when a young male comedian takes the stage with a set that revolves around domestic violence and date rape jokes. "If a girl asks to jerk me off, I'll crack her in the face," he says.
That's precisely the type of comment that doesn't go over well at this weekly open mic, known as the Comedy Womb. The crowd is stonily silent. He pushes on. "I've never understood date rape," he says, nervously running a hand through his hair. "I'd never date a girl after I raped her."
"Get off the stage," someone shouts, breaking the Comedy Womb's no-heckling rule.
"I guess I'll leave you with that," he says.
"Yes, please do," shouts another audience member.
Also-also: I write about Other Desert Cities at ACT (it'll be in Suggests soon):
Picture the Wyeths in their grand Palm Springs living room on Christmas Eve: Dad is a gentle Republican politico and John McCain doppelganger. Son is a goofball TV producer. Daughter is a lefty writer. Mom is a drolly cruel Reagan-worshipper. “You are never going to meet anyone,” she says to the daughter, “if you continue to dress like a refugee from a library in Kabul.” When the daughter announces that she's written a dangerously revealing memoir about her radical leftist older brother who later killed himself, the living room becomes a battleground. Watching the sparks fly between mom (Pamela Reed) and daughter (Marya Sea Kaminski) is like watching two people angrily welding at each other.
I'm on the floor at Velocity, looking up into Zoe Scofield's armpit and thinking, "Damn. That is a nice armpit. The muscles in that armpit could crush me." My brain is banging against my skull as dancers run back and forth down the length of my body. I love this. Me and just a few other people make up the entire audience for the 3:30 pm showing of zoe|juniper's newest installation, No one to witness or adjust #4, which is a work in progress of sorts, a chamber study for a larger piece. We're on the floor, legs stretched out, heads resting on lavender-scented pillows. The room is warm and on the ceiling a film of gentle, negative silhouettes plays on the ceiling. It's like naptime at some super artsy daycare center for grownups and I want to stay there forever.
How intimate is that? How brave and incredibly loving is it for artists to share their work this way? Any artist is sharing a part of themselves with their audience, but usually it's rehearsed to death and polished and as perfect as possible before we catch a glimpse. It's wacky, but the creative partnership of Zoe Scofeild and Juniper Shuey comes up with some wacky stuff. Scofield, a trained classical dancer, describes herself as someone "who was sort of excused from the ballet company." The woman oozes creative energy, and whether people attending this two-day, 16 "performance" gig liked the work or not, I bet I'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't think it was, at the very least, really interesting. Shuey is a video installation/sculptural performance artist and photographer. This new piece is an experiment to see exactly what happens when the audience becomes part of the installation, viewing the performance from below the dancers, rather than set away in the typical stage/audience configuration. The result is strange, off-putting, and potentially freaky. As typical audience members at typical dance shows, where the audience sits in chairs, we are sequestered in a dark shadow of near-anonymity, able to let our faces betray reactions of confusion, disgust, laughter, whatever. When you're laying on the ground underneath the bodies of the people performing for you, feeling their sweat, smelling their heat fill up a room—not so much. They see every flinch. They respond to you as much as you respond to them. Comfort zones for both parties are banished.
The feel of a dance studio floor and this kind of proximity aren't foreign to me. I used to spend my life in the studio. Granted, I never had dancers tower above me, hands painted bright pink as they created multiple dimensions between my prone body, their bodies, hanging white plaster casts of various body parts suspended in the air, and projections on the ceiling. There was a rhythm to the room, a bouncing of reactions between the audience, Zoe, her dancers, the lights, the music, the swinging paster casts. At one point, looking right up at Zoe, almost right up her nose, I realized how infatuated I could become with her face, her intensity. She looked like Charlotte Gainsbourg in Jane Eyre. Another dancer moved to my left, her right arm gracefully floating up to prompt a corkscrewing of her upper body, torso, and waist. I wanted to watch her midsection move—in my peripheral vision I could tell that it was really cool—but I couldn't tear my eyes from her face, even as she made eye contact with me and then gently looked away, floating out of my line of vision to another part of the room. This is a dangerous proximity if you, like me, have a tendency to get attached to facial expressions, to let the intimate expression of a dancer's physical movements get under your skin. With this piece of art, there's no where to run. There's too much to look at, to get caught up in, to love and to loathe and to long for. It's intense as shit.
There's only two days left in the fundraising campaign to help the Massive Monkees lock down a long-term lease on The Beacon—their temporary studio located in Seattle's International District. These amazing folks aren't just teaching adults and after-school crews of little kids how to breakdance—they're creating community, and turning people into better and more confident humans.
Check out this short video, and please consider donating a dollar or three. Only two days left! Donate, and read so much more right here.
A few weeks ago, we published a short essay by dance critic Melody Datz titled "Swan Lake Is So Goddamned Boring." Some local dance folks freaked out and enjoyed a sustained, satisfying whine. (Who knew that taking aim at a hoary, lucrative, sacred cow would be so provocative?) Angry blog comments, responses to those comments, a flurry of email from experts and amateurs, extended phone calls with dance people—including employees of Pacific Northwest Ballet—you name it. The indignados of Seattle dance never had it so good.
Snail mail, of course, takes longer. This arrived yesterday:
Which contained this:
You're on notice, Melody. An anonymous, snail-mail troll who calls you "Melody Ditzy Dame" says you have no class.
You'd better scrape some up before your next story, young missy. And that's an order.
Yesterday, I was having a conversation with our (newly infamous) dance critic Melody Datz about the common notion that ballerinas get trained to do all kinds of nutty things while danseurs (aka, "boy ballerinas") mostly learn how to lift chicks and hold them in the air—that ballerinas are the branch, leaf, flower, and fruit of ballet, and danseurs are just the root.
"Oh no, no," Melody said and talked about about male dancers she'd known who'd take the pointe shoes out of their friends' bags and go take class.
A few hours later, she sent me evidence in this "pas de dudes" by her latest choreographer-crush Trey McIntyre. Enjoy.