Monday, May 31, 2010

Trained Technique vs Spontaneity

I checked out the 'KeKe Palmer Super Jerkin Contest Winners' video.

A pair had won a choreography contest posed by KeKe Palmer to submit a 'Jerkin' dance routine.

The 2 winners joined KeKe and another dancer to rehearse the routine. What I saw re-raises a quandry that's lurked in my mind for quite a while: Technical Training vs 'Spontaneity'. KeKe and Co look like 'trained dancers'. They're tight in timing and movement. The 2 contest winners are great but one can notice that in many places their hands and arms are not in sync, especially with regards to placement. The video was edited with many short quick cuts, I suspect that this was purposefully done so that the difference in the quality of the dancers would be less noticeable.

But, which of the pairs is 'better' ? I'm not sure that I have an opinion. What one group impresses with as far as precision, the other group impresses with being able to convey a different kind of feeling.

Try to compare trumpeters Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis. Wynton Marsalis wins hands down for versatility and technical ability. Miles would never have made it as a symphonic trumpeter, whereas Wynton Marsalis had remarkably won both the classical and jazz Grammy Awards one year. But Miles had a voice all his own and sometimes I wonder if a perfect 'classically trained' tone would have helped or hurt his art.

That's the dilemma with dance, how to train precision but also not come across as a robot (unless you're doing the robot style, of course !).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Chromatic Polar Invert

Last night I was on my way to HipHop Dance class and noticed that the fellow sitting near me happened to be wearing colors similar to those draped upon myself only 'turned upside down'. How likely is that given this subdued shade of red ?

He graciously agreed to be photographed :-)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Romeo and Juliet

I went to see SF Ballet's production of Romeo and Juliet on Friday night. This was a 'complete' experience with a fantastic score, expressive choreography and an elaborate set and costumes. The score, by Prokofiev, is rich enough to just listen to alone. I recall vividly the first time I heard a section of it. In a crackling super-low fidelity ShortWave radio broadcast from 'Radio Moscow'. It was rich and dramatic sounding, I had to learn more about this music which was bouncing off the ionosphere traversing continents to reach me. Michael Tilson Thomas arranged a suite and recorded it with the SF Symphony, highly recommended.

The choreography struck me as classical ballet with modern touches (usually in the form of allowing some torso bending here and there). At one point, to demonstrate shared excitement through gesture, 2 of the dancers jumped up in the air to give each other the 'high five' (very contemporary !).

The performance looked sold out. The only floor level seat that I could get was off on the side (see photo). I prefer floor level seating because it allows me the best view of the dancers use of elevation. The seats at higher levels give a better view of the choreography and better acoustics from the orchestra, but for me it's mostly about the individual dancers so floor level it is.

I wish I could have taken (non-flash) pictures of the actual performance. Which leads me back to my main peeve about the 'old arts establishment'. In my humble opinion, they ought to get with modern times or continue to die a self-strangled death as their patrons slowly fade away. So.... I cannot point you to any exciting and interesting pictures of the performance on a photo sharing site because it's not allowed.

Earlier in the day I heard a podcast interview with Principal Dancer Maria Kochetkova. At one point the interviewer brought up the fact that she is on Twitter. Every time he asked a question about her 'tweeting' habits he and the audience could not suppress laughter because it sounded so funny (i.e. foreign and unknown). I'll grant SFBallet that they now have stuff up on YouTube and that there's a company Blog and an official Twitter account. But I think the next step is to relax the tight control and to allow patrons themselves to capture and relate their excitement about the SFBallet scene with their own media taken from their own point of view.

Socially evolved or not, I'm really looking forward to their next season !