In three venues—first at London’s Barbican, then at the Brooklyn Academy ofMusic, and finally at UCLA—an 80-minute performance of 100 overlapping solos will be overseen by MerceCunningham Dance Company alumni as the work of the late, great choreographer continues to invigorate the canon and astonish new generations.
“This Event, and the longstanding, continuing partnerships with these three premier organizations, are true signs that the Cunningham legacy is alive and well ten years after his passing.” — Ken Tabachnick, executive director of the trust
In Los Angeles, the event will be staged by Andrea Weber—a dancer with the company from 2004 to 2011—with DylanCrossman. JenniferSteinkamp designed the set at Royce Hall, and Jessica Wodinsky is the lighting designer.
Madison Greenstone, Bethan Kellough, Stephan Moore, Stephanie Richards, and Suzanne Thorpe will provide live musical accompaniment, organized by Stephan Moore.
The dancers for the Los Angeles section are PaigeAmicon, BarryBrannum, LorrinBrubaker, Rena Butler, TamsinCarlson, Erin Dowd, Katherine Helen Fisher, Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Casey Hess, Thomas House, Laurel Jenkins, Burr Johnson, Vanessa Knouse, Cori Kresge, Brian Lawson, Jessica Liu, Victor Lozano, Daniel McCusker, Polly Motley, Jermaine Maurice Spivey, SavannahSpratt, Pam Tanowitz, Ros Warby, Riley Watts, and Sam Wentz, with Cemiyon Barber and UnaLudviksen as understudies.
From top: Gerda Peterich, Merce Cunningham in Sixteen Dances for Soloist and Company ofThree (detail), 1952; Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled [Merce (III)] , 1953, courtesy of the RobertRauschenberg Foundation; Andrea Weber at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2012, dancing Cunningham as part of the exhibition Dancing Around the Bride, photograph by Constance Mensh; Cunningham (2).
Everyone knows the opening sentence of Joan Didion’s 1968–1978 essay “The White Album”:
We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
The 40-page piece jump-cuts through the undefined haze of Didion’s version of the 1960s in California. Stories are told, interpretations are made, impressions and coincidences noted, but verifiable sense and significance remain elusive:
We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.
Or at least we do for a while.
For Didion, things began to change in 1966:
I amtalking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling… During these years I appeared, on the face of it, a competent enough member of some community or another… This was an adequate enough performance, as improvisations go. The only problem was that my entire education, everything I had ever been told or had told myself, insisted that the production was never meant to be improvised: I was supposed to have a script, and I had mislaid it.
Didion—who lived during this period in a large rented house on Franklin Avenue, in a part of Hollywood that had once been expensive and was now described by one of my acquaintancesas a “senseless-killing neighborhood”—takes us to a recording session with Jim Morrison and TheDoors, and to the murder trials for the killers of Ramon Navarro and Sharon Tate. She spends time with the Black Panthers—with Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver in their home and with Huey Newton in jail:
As it happened I had always appreciated the logic of the Panther position, based as it was on the proposition that political power began at the end of the barrel of a gun… and I could appreciate as well the particular beauty in Huey Newton as “issue.” In the politics of revolution, everyone is expendable, but I doubted that Huey Newton’s political sophistication extended to seeing himself that way: the value of a Scottsboro case is easier to see if you are not yourself the Scottsboro boy.
At a university protest, she clocks the privilege of some of the participants:
Here at San Francisco State only the black militants could be construed as serious… Meanwhile the administrators could talk about programs. Meanwhile the white radicals could see themselves, on an investment of virtually nothing, as urban guerrillas.
Didion is beset by neural damage, and an attack of vertigo and nausea, [which] does not now seem to me an inappropriate response to the summer of 1968.
But the drift is more profound:
I was meant to know the plot, but all I knew was what I saw: flash pictures in variable sequence, images with no “meaning” beyond their temporary arrangement, not a movie but a cutting-room experience. In what would probably be the middle of my life I wanted still to believe in the narrative and in the narrative’s intelligibility, but to know that one could change the sense with every cut was to begin to perceive the experience as rather more electrical than ethical.
Lars Jan and Early Morning Opera will make theatrical sense of Didion’s essay in the CAPUCLA presentation of THE WHITE ALBUM, a staged performance at the “intersection between observation, storytelling, audience participation, choreography, and architecture.”* Mia Barron, as Didion, recites the entire essay from memory, while a group of actors and recruited audience members flesh out Didion’s famous take on “accidie.”
In VENEZUELA—Ohad Naharin’s long-gestating double take on perception and the “dialog between movement and the content it represents”—BatshevaDance Company mixes the intensely physical articulation of its familiar Gaga technique with a détournement of ballroom and tango forms, set to music by—among others—The Notorious B.I.G., Rage Against the Machine, and a selection of Gregorian Chants.*
This weekend, CAP UCLA will present two performances of VENEZUELA at Royce.
“As much as I’m engaged with it, with violence, I remain ever hopeful that change is possible and necessary, and that we will get there. I believe that strongly, and representing that matters to me: a sense of aspiration, a sense of good will, a sense of hope, a sense of this idea that one has the right, that we have the right to be as we are.” — Carrie Mae Weems*
The timeless themes of political power, social justice, gender oppression, and valiant persistence are brought to life in a modern context in PAST TENSE, Carrie Mae Weems’ multimedia take on Antigone.
Combining music, spoken word, video, and projected images, PAST TENSE—presented this week in Los Angeles by CAPUCLA—includes works by poet Carl Hancock Rux and composer Craig Harris, and will be performed by Weems, Eisa Davis, Francesca Harper, David Parker, Imani Uzuri, and Alicia Hall Moran, who brought the house down at Disney Hall earlier this week in Bryce Dessner’s Triptych.
*Megan O’Grady, “Carrie Mae Weems,” T: The New York Times Style Magazine, October 21, 2018, 140.
From top: Carrie Mae Weems, Past Tense, in performance; Past Tense production photographs (2) by WilliamStrugs; Carrie Mae Weems, portrait by Jerry Klineberg; Past Tense, in performance with, from right, Alicia Hall Moran, Imani Uzuri, and Eisa Davis. Images courtesy CAP UCLA.
“When I wrote Partita for 8 Voices, it was like if you had the little box of eight crayons for a long time, and then you suddenly have the box with 64, with the little pencil sharpener in the back, you kind of go all out.
“I like writing for string quartet because it’s not a wildly new palette, but there’s something constantly exciting about it. I don’t know why we make music, make art, or write… but [there’s] something about it—it’s like you just have to keep carving.” — Caroline Shaw, PARIS LA, 2017*
Join composer-musicians Caroline Shaw and Andrew Norman, the music ensemble Wild Up, and host (and viola player) NadiaSirota for an “enhanced concert” featuring live performances of Shaw’s and Norman’s work, and free-wheeling conversations about their process.
This celebration of music creation is presented by CAP UCLA in downtown Los Angeles.