Monday, January 5, 2009

First Night SSD Review

My Winners:
Top performance of the night must go to the Kathak soloist from India. Kathak is one of India’s multiple classical dance forms. According to one scholar “Kathak is less concerned with covering floor space than creating a soundscape of tonal variations, through its footwork and ankle bell sounds.” That final warp-speed series of pirouettes, called bhramari, is a defining feature of Kathak. Our soloist was expertly trained in this classical tradition and provided us with a virtuosic introduction to it. It was the only performance of the night that made my heart leap with joy.

Argentine tango deserves first place in the duet category. It was an outstanding example of theatrical tango (stylistically different from café tangos). Although it has come to epitomize the glamour and elegance of high society, with women in sleek glittering evening gowns and men in tux and tails, the tango originated in society's underbelly--the brothels of turn-of-the-century Argentina. World tango underwent a resurgence in the mid-1990s with the production of touring shows like “Forever Tango” (1994) and “Tango Argentino.” The style we saw on SSD was created for these theatrical stages (they are both alum, I believe), which typically means that the movements have to become bold and flashy. I thot it was beautifully executed and would have won Best of Night if the Kathak had not come along.

The best group piece of the night was the Irish number. These Riverdance/Lord of the Dance alum performed to expectation demonstrating the visual power of group synchrony, a skill developed in these large theatrical productions. Irish step dancing was originally a solo dance performed by men at social events. Dancers were judged on how small a space they could dance in: six square inches was the ultimate challenge. For Riverdance (first performed in 1995), the choreographers reinvented the form by, among other things, adding chorus lines and large group choreographies.

I think the judges completely missed it with the beautiful Chinese ribbon dancer. I admit a fondness for this form and I was very impressed with her control of the fabric. The judges perhaps didn’t understand how hard that was. My own recent attempts at working with a silk veil have been illuminating (and frustrating). A skilled dancer makes it look easy to keep the veil in motion while dancing with it. But it isn’t easy. It gets tangled and caught under feet; it snags on your jewelry; it slips out of your fingers; it falls flat when it should be floating thru the air. Last nights performance was flawless and deserved higher scores.

The rest of the evening was, I'm sorry to say, dull. Don't know what to expect for tonite. I'll make more critical comments later.

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