Sunday, June 10, 2007

Snappy Dance (wow)

This afternoon I took my 7-year-old son to see a show by the Snappy Dance Company (it wasn't a kids' show per se, but he likes dance). We're friends with Bonnie, one of the dancers, but the schedule has never worked out for me to see a whole show.

Wow. I don't know a lot about dance or the vocabulary that does with it, but I guess you'd call them a contemporary dance company, with a strong emphasis on visual imagery and acrobatics. I'm interested in some the basic ways that dance differs from theatre, one of which being that while the show is in progress, it's a perfectly acceptable thing for you (in the audience) to say to yourself, "Wow. How do they do that? I could never do that." Whereas during a play, that's a bad thing. For a play, the "wow" moment should ideally only come at intermission and when the show is over. If you're admiring the acting during the show, something is wrong.

Not to say that Snappy never pulls you in. Some of the pieces are simple, and the rhythm and imagery conjure up a whole range of emotions. Some have a narrative thread (my son liked the one about a couple who are having a very hard time sharing the Sunday paper), but in general the pieces are fairly abstract. It's a good mental exercise for me, as a playwright, to release my mind from strict narrative confines.

Of particular interest this afternoon was a new piece they've just developed, String Beings. Double wow. This was a long routine (taking the whole second act of the performance) that used a live guitar player and a violinist (she got picked up and twirled around while she was actually playing), and a whole multi-media/video setup, using cameras on stage to project images onto a scrim in front of the stage (of the dancers, but digitally altered) as the dancers are on stage. (Or sometimes with a slightly delay.)

I wish I could see it again (without trying to manage a squirming 7-year-old at the end of his attention span. Did I mention that our seats were in the very center of the very front row?), so I could better piece together all the thematic elements and narrative connections . The effect was almost a kind of delirium, with both laughs and serious moments, and a recurring series of ghost-like images. It has to have been one of the most effective uses of video I've seen on stage with live performers--it wasn't used constantly during the piece, but when it was, it generally enhanced the performance, so that the audience has an experience that has an entire extra dimension (4D dance). Kudos to my friends Kathleen Rogers and Rick Teller for co-commissioning the piece.

I'm sure I was even more impressed by the physical aspects of the performance today, because I played in a pickup soccer game this morning (I haven't played in years). I am not 17 years old anymore, and my body was strongly reminding me of this fact all afternoon. The thought of jumping and stretching and contorting seemed especially out of this world.

So, if Snappy comes to anywhere near you, don't miss them. (They tour all over the world. When I told my son that they performed for the King and Queen of Sweden, but he kept looking around the audience for the King).

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