Posted 11 November 2009 - 03:59 PM
The question of who will perform the work and how is one of the reasons why I've been wondering if perhaps this two-year blow out, followed by a winding down isn't the best course of action.
The problem with Cunningham technique is how ferociously difficult it is to learn and develop and how misunderstood it can be in the hands and technique of ballet dancers; who assimilate and approximate into a balletic lexicon.
The most obvious example of this for me was the 1988 filming of ABT dancing Duets, originally made by Cunningham for his company in 1980. In the hands of the ballet dancers the rhythmic subtleties and nuances had been abstracted down to counts of 2,4 etc balletic counts, the use of the back was totally absent, the way Cunningham plays with extensions, setting them against curves and turns of the spine was substituted for developpes and arabesques, the men seemed content to be playing the Cavaliers in the Rose adagio, glissading prettily, supporting the women, bringing none of the wit and weight of a modern dancer schooled in Cunningham.
Which is the problem, if the technique isn't taught, who will dance the work? And a ballet dancer isn't a contemporary dancer, let alone a Cunningham dancer - though Cunningham's modern work is appealing to ballet dancers because the technique with its onus on extension, beats and balance does at first glance seem balletic. If no one is left to work closely with the ballet companies and school them properly in the technique - an impossiblity given financial & time constraints, how will ballet companies ever give performances of Cunningham works?
The other problem is of course the music or lack of it. Cunningham dances are dances of counts and rhythms taught and learnt independently of music, the rhythm is in the steps. Ballet of course is in its most basic sense inextricably linked to the music. Moreover, the sound used for Cunningham is alien, abrupt, sometimes abusive and aggressive - the very great Cunningham works provoke intense and hostile emotions on a pure level of sound. The antithesis of what ballet audiences are used to or expect. The works which have passed into ballet companies are palatable in terms of music: Duets, Pond Way, Points in Space none of them have the coruscating soundscapes of Canfield, Rainforest, Winterbranch.
And this is an issue Cunningham's choreographic legacy is marvelous, troubling and provocative - if all that will be allowed onto a ballet stage are polite and unobtrusive soundbites performed as ballet exercises, what is the point?