Well, almost none, except for this: Angelin Preljocaj certainly knows how to make us listen to empty words.
What an interesting, albeit challenging-to-sit-through performance at the Joyce Theater last Sunday when Ballet Preljocaj presented its final performance of Empty Moves.
Preljocaj continually comes up with radical, interesting, executable ideas in modern dance that not only reflect his own vivid imagination but carry the clear imprinting from his study time with Merce Cunningham in the 1980s. Anyone who honestly holds reverence for Cunningham will not be able to resist adoring much of what Preljocaj creates, particularly his Empty Moves.
The sound for the dance was excerpted from the recording of John Cage reading Empty Words Part III at Milan’s Teatro Lirico in December of 1977. Together, Parts I, II, and III go on for about ten hours. Cage’s performance of Part III was a mere three or so hours. Cage created Empty Words through the deconstruction by iChing method of Henry David Thoreau’s 700+ page Journal. Sentences were reduced to phrases, words, syllables, phonemes, allophones, and silences.
The Italian opera house crowd, which was expecting some kind of music, went nuts. As the 65-year-old Cage calmly sat at a desk with lamp and read his gurgles, groans, syllables, and occasional words, the audience at first laughed, then jeered, then demanded that Cage stop. Rather than simply leaving the theater disappointed, they became enraged and began trying to disrupt his performance with their own shouting, whistling, singing, jumping on the stage, and swiping Cage’s glasses from him. Cage continued in true Thoreau form while the protesters screamed for him to stop, called him a fool, begged him to cease provoking them – all with the typical profanities. The unruly crowd’s reaction to Cage’s civil disobedience is to this day a fascinating recording. [Photo by Maurizio Buscarino]
Preljocaj’s choreography was created over a decade as Parts I, II, and III. At times it reflected modern dance movement like we have seen throughout the years (Cunningham, Pilobolus, etc.) but mostly disrupted into mayhem much like the unruly crowd in Milan. Although Parts I, II, and III were introduced with the same sequence of choreography, what followed were movements and phrases that only occasionally repeated. How the four marvelous dancers (Nuriya Nagimova, Yurié Tsugawa, Fabrizio Clemente, and Baptiste Coissieu) managed to remember it is anyone’s guess. They never left the stage during the 1-1/4 hour performance except to retrieve a bottle of water which they then shared while continuing to dance.
Cage’s Empty Words includes a Part IV. If Preljocaj someday decides to complete his dance with another section, we may not be able to sit through the whole thing again in order to see it. But we’re glad that we made the effort this time.
We have no words, well almost none, for how absolutely thrilled we were with Blaine Hoven’s excerpt from Stars and Stripes opposite Gillian Murphy at Monday night’s beautiful Dance Against Cancer Benefit, produced by Daniel Ulbricht and Erin Fogarty. Most of the young performers, like many of us, have lost parents and other loved ones to the disease. No matter how old you are when your mom or dad dies of cancer, you still feel orphaned for a long, long time. It was good to be reminded Monday night of the courageous survivors as well. The dancers volunteered their time to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Everyone’s performances were exceptional (Lauren Lovette’s Fascinatin’ Rhythm, Stella Abrera’s Nikiya variation, Brooklyn Mack’s Gopak, Ian Spring in Parson’s Caught, and more than a dozen other fantastic group, solo, and PdD dances), but Blaine simply knocked everyone out.
We have no words, well almost none, for ABT’s selection of a new Assistant Artistic Director. It has always flummoxed Haglund how ABT can think that retired corps dancers, who rarely if ever distinguished themselves through their dancing, are qualified to coach dancers in principal and soloist parts that they, themselves, never danced. This most recent appointment is a clear signal of the entrenched director’s willingness to damn the artistic product in favor of keeping a chokehold on the company.