The Blind Men & the Elephant | 10 Hairy Legs’ 2014 New York Season at New York Live Arts….
Randy James, Artistic Director for 10 Hairy Legs has a strong vision for the repertory company he founded in 2012, a company composed entirely of men. It is a vision of challenge, of exploration and more than a little taking of chances. The company is not meant to reflect a specific point of view about the male experience, but rather to celebrate and explore the tremendous technical and emotional range of the male dancer.
Mr. James is building an impressive repertory by some very exciting choreographers, Julie Bour, Claire Porter, Tiffany Mills, David Parker and Doug Elkins. Mr. James himself just received the 2014 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Choreographic Fellowship Award Recipient.
Julie Bour’s The Blind Men & the Elephant with a newly composed score by Kyle Olson, opened the evening for 10 Hairy Legs’ 2014 New York Season at New York Live Arts. The Blind Men & the Elephant is a well-known Indian tale from the Buddhist canon, but some assert it is of Jain origin. It illustrates the principles of pluralism and multiplicity of viewpoints, the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, and that no single point of view is the complete truth.
Ms. Bour, who danced with Angelin Preljocal and Ballet Preljocal, created a vision for this parable that was fascinating to say the least. The stage is a place of darkness, from varying angles light creeps onto the stage like a thief afraid of being discovered. Upstage left is Benjamin Heller’s scenic design/structure, part statue, part art object, dimly lit imagery that strongly, though not outright, suggests an elephant. A long ivory tusk, a leg, a large ear that would suggest a large head.
Alex Biegelson begins a solo but he is soon joined by Robert Mark Burke. Mr. Burke is smaller in stature and dressed in all black and against the black drapery in the background. He is more of an apparition than person, a shadow that follows, a thought, a fleeting memory. Mr. Burke is reflected guilt or perhaps a thought that services unwanted at random intervals.
The dancers’ kinetic energy is relaxed as it rides though the body, loosely limbs collapse at the height of a movement. Transitions are quick with synaptic response immediate. The choreography does not necessarily stop at any point in the work but there are moments of stillness, like a breath inhaled before the start to the next phrase of movement. The choreography is introverted, reflective, searching. Scott Schneider pauses and looks around, a perplexed expressions on his face as asking who or why.
Three dancers began a trio of movement, a conversation of individual thought, a conversation in their own language of movement. A language only they speak, a language of motion and emotion. They move around and with each other, sharing the burdens of one another, when two lift the shadow, Mr. Burke, there is a moment of shared intimacy, something felt but not spoken.
I am new to the work of Julie Bour, but if The Blind Men & the Elephant is any indicator what to expect from her then I am very excited to witness more of her work. Excellent endeavor by all involved….
The scenario for Claire Porter’s Piano, a text-driven piece, is simple, a world-renown pianist (Kyle Marshall), is ready to dazzle the gathered audience with his talent, he comes on stage with great fanfare, a true artist filled with his own self-importance…. Only to discover there is a slight problem…you see, the piano has not been delivered, the piano bench has arrived but alas, no piano. So, what does a world-renowned pianist full of his own self-importance do to stall for time till the piano arrives…he regales us with his peculiar idiosyncrasies and hilarious pre-performance rituals.
With a lot of bowing, kissing of his most cherished possession, his fingertips, Mr. Marshall takes on a rollercoaster of hilarity. His deadpan delivery of his all-consuming mental preparations and the sharing of information on what he planned to perform and how exactly he was going to perform it…complete with flourishes had everyone in stitches…
Randy James’ Closing the Glass Door set to Haendel-Halvorsen Passcaglia for Violin/Cello and performed live by Sarah Biber on Cello and Jane Chung on Violin was a duet and performed by Scott Schneider and Nick Scissione.
Mr. Schneider and Mr. Scissione begin the piece by standing side by side, first one leans over and places his head tenderly on the other shoulders and then the other does the same to him. The dance builds in intensity; the dancers come together, then separate utilizing the stage fully. Curvature patterns of motion can be seen, the body never truly traveling in a straight line from point A to point B.
Mr. James approach to the use of the body in space is to maximize on the potential of the movement. An extended leg arcs away from the body forcing the spinal column to twist around the torso and thus the energy is fully utilized as the catalyst for the following phrase of movement.
Mr. Schneider and Mr. Scissione must be commended for their performance in Mr. James duet. It was with out a doubt my favorite performance of the night….Superb performance in a superb piece….Bravo indeed!
Doug Elkins’ Trouble Will Find Me and set to music by the acclaimed Pakistani musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn is a work for five men. The choreography is a bit of hip-hop, part capoeira with a little salsa thrown in for good measure and then some deviations of Classical Indian Dance poured into the mix.
It’s a fun work and is what it is…dancing for dancing sake…no subliminal messages or deep examinations of one’s angst. The dancers show such joy dancing the work it is infectious. Runs, slides, backflips and tumbles abound is this very athletic work. The choreography has a natural feel, nothing is forced. Mr. Elkin’s B-boy background surfaces periodically that lends a freshness to the work.
Randy James, who is on the faculty at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University is among the foremost choreographers, educators and arts advocates, is the driving force of 10 Hairy Legs and serves as its Artistic Director. In addition to their work with 10 Hairy Legs, The dancers with the company are also dance with such featured artists with The Bang Group, Stephen Petronio, Doug Elkins, Tiffany Mills Company and Zvi Dance, among others.
The mission of 10 Hairy Legs is to advance the understanding of the male role in dance through the creation, acquisition and performance of exceptional work.