Sunday, February 23, 2020

Fighting the End of Light



        He walked stiffly to the small round chair, as if uncertain where his body should go. He talked carefully, sometimes hesitantly, often slowing to silence. Was he collecting his thoughts, or was this  a way to emphasize what he was saying? Because he said a lot, this pioneering stage director now in his 78th year appearing before a large rapt audience in DC's Hirshhorn auditorium. It was difficult to believe that he had already that day been in two other cities and would fly to Bulgaria - BULGARIA? (no explanation) - in the morning.  Apart from the arts center established under his direction in Water Mill, NY, where, he proudly remarked "there are no doors," he would seem to have no real home. His home was in the interstice between the horizontal and the vertical - within the realm of light that he calls the secret to all good design. Though it seemed that his own light  was fading - he had to be helped to stand erect before an easel holding a large pad of white paper and then ushered back to the chair.
       Trained as an architect at Pratt in New York, Robert Wilson have been a pioneer in theater and opera since the 1950s putting his faith in such statements as "without light there is no space" and quoting Einstein saying "light is the measure of things. Light is structural." Movement enters in, too, in abstract  but geometric ways.  "Time is the line that goes through the center; space is horizontal.And "it's always the space in back of you that makes the space in front of you strong." He is unconventional, to say the least - if that word has any meaning at all in the aesthetic realm. He once created a play using the texts done by a young autistic boy  named Christopher whom he met in a facility supposedly dedicated to helping the so-called developmentally disabled. Or handicapped in ways most people did not understand. Wilson could decipher much of what the boy wrote in terms of patterns that were the boy's language.
        He didn't try to explain the meeting of abstraction, taking for granted a sense of acceptance in how he viewed the world.  The title of the talk - a conversation between Wilson and Hirshhorn director Melissa Chu - was "Re-Setting the Stage."   Revising a person's perception of art and how it is made and received on stage as well as life.
       

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Keep On Moving

Step Afrika came to Apple's most recent Washington area campus on Sunday February 16, for the first time,  offering free their high energy percussive art form that is unique in this country.
The appearance of eight black African-American dancers stomping and slapping  under the renovated Carnegie LIbrary's hard white floors  drew crowds, as expected, and  were in turn given a short history of the tradition and background going back to the 18th century when drums - the African drums - were outlawed.  Performers turned to their own body for expression, using all appendages  and rhythms to create a wholly original means of communication. Stories are told without words . The ensemble of  highly trained, regimented dancers are all college graduates (arts and science) cementing  a history that began with competition between in the sororities and fraternities of traditionally black universities and colleges. To see is to believe....the compulsive creation of community Now in its 25th year, the company is based most of the year on H St. NE in the Atlas Theatre.  Give it up to their infectious movement, and their slogan 'We are better when we step together," between pyrotechnical  seemingly inhuman feats of motion by individual members..
So why an Apple store, of all places?
 The company says it is celebrating Black History month by offering this and similar programs, hoping to attract a wider audience than might usually be found in that austere white building in the middle of a green park. Apparently it worked. Onlookers were stretched over the atrium on upstairs balconies. Small children were captivated on the ground floor. The upbeat, solid steps of these highly disciplined irrepressible  eight performers -- all different in physical styles - were contagious in their call outs (giving instructions to the audience on when to participate) and facial expressions. The lesson to children in the crowd: keep moving! But it wasn't lost either on a feisty woman with purple hair named Heather raising her hand during the Q&A to request "do something for seniors." In other words, think of offering classes (which the company does when they aren't traveling) for an older generation as well.
You go, girl!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Washing UP

And now this, just in from Mineola, NY, uninvited - the so-called Homeland Security newswire, whoever they are.

Handwashing will save us.

A study (I could not dig up) reasons that if people were more careful with their habits, the virus might get delayed. And it targets ten of the world's busiest airports, most likely in some of the world's largest cities. There it is, in cold print, the evil ones among us who have no consideration and refuse to take due measures at the sink after using toilet facilities. Because the advice says go slow, 15 seconds minimum, use soap and water. (Be aware, too, the need to avoid handles or buttons - hardware the virus likes. Protect yourself with paper when using handles.)

Odd how commonsense can easily evade us.