THE DAY—a performative investigation of the diurnal rhythms of life and what comes after—is a superlative collaboration between avant-garde cellist Maya Beiser (who conceived the work), dancer Wendy Whelan, composer DavidLang, and legendary choreographer Lucinda Childs.
When [Childs started] choreographing dances, in 1968, it was with the predilection for keeping the movement vocabulary relatively simple, seeking complexity elsewhere—in the intricate design of spatial forms and in timing. But in the music-based works choreographed since 1979, which propose a much more complex movement vocabulary, Childs has broken radically with the anti-ballet aesthetic of the other ex- or neo-Duchampian choreographers with whom she has been grouped.
Of all the adepts of the rigorously modern among contemporary choreographers, she has the subtlest and most fastidious relation to classical dance… Childs does not feed balletic movements and positions into an eclectic mix but wholly transforms and reinterprets them. In this, as in other matters, she is adamantly anti-collage. — Susan Sontag*
THE DAY was commissioned by Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina, Jacob’s Pillow, the Joyce Theater, and CAP UCLA, and will be performed by Beiser and Whelan twice this weekend at Royce Hall.
*Susan Sontag, “A Lexicon for Available Light,” Art in America, December 1983. Collected in Where the Stress Falls (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001). Reprinted in Susan Sontag:Later Essays (New York: Library of America, 2017), 364–379.
Alastair Macaulay was unambiguous. Closing his 2018 review of the world premiere of FOURQUARTETS—a collaboration between choreographer Pam Tanowitz, artist Brice Marden, and composer Kaija Saariaho—with the following paragraph, the former New York Times dance critic made its case for posterity:
If I am right to think this is the greatest creation of dance theater so far this century, we’re fortunate that FOUR QUARTETS will travel to other stages. I long to become more deeply acquainted with the many layers of its stage poetry.
The drawback for Los Angeles audiences is that this landmark work will be performed at RoyceHall in early 2020 only twice—a highlight of a remarkably strong CAP UCLA 2019–2020 dance season.
The season begins at Redcat, where Adam Linder presents THE WANT—a contemporary opera/performance piece based on a play by Bernard-Marie Koltès, with music by EthanBraun.
Sankai Juku—Ushio Amagatsu’s all-male troupe of Butoh dancers, performing MEGURI—will be at Royce for one night only, as will Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Teaċ Daṁsa (House of Dance) in a new interpretation of SWAN LAKE, featuring a score by Slow Moving Clouds.
The great ballerina Wendy Whelan will dance at Royce, for two nights, in THE DAY. Choreographed by Lucinda Childs with a score by David Lang, Whelan will be joined onstage by cellist Maya Beiser.
The dance season closes in April 2020 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with the Dance atthe Music Center co-presentation of PALERMO PALERMO, a 1989 work by dance legend PinaBausch and Tanztheater Wuppertal.
“We begin as piano virtuosos and then start rummaging about and foraging in the human sciences and philosophy and finally go to seed. Because we didn’t reach the absolute limit and go beyond this limit, I thought, because we gave up in the face of a genius in our field. But if I’m honest I could never have become a piano virtuoso, because at bottom I never wanted to be a piano virtuoso, because I always had the greatest misgivings about it and misused my virtuosity at the piano in my deterioration process, indeed I always felt from the beginning that piano players were ridiculous; seduced by my thoroughly remarkable talent at the piano, I drilled it into my piano playing and then, after one and a half decades of torture, chased it back out again, abruptly, unscrupulously. It’s not my way to sacrifice my existence to sentimentality.” — The Loser, by Thomas Bernhard*
In the novel The Loser—Bernhard’s comedic 1983 screed on artistry, obsession, and mediocrity—a garrulous narrator recounts, with comedic vitriol, the lifelong consequences of a summer he and his friend Wertheimer spent with the young pianist Glenn Gould at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, all under the instruction of Vladimir Horowitz.
Once the narrator and Wertheimer—labeled “the loser” by Gould in the novel—finally realize that their talents will never equal Gould’s, they abandon their pianos. The narrator gives his Steinway to the nine-year-old daughter of a schoolteacher, who ruined it “in the shortest period imaginable, I wasn’t pained by this fact, on the contrary, I observed this cretinous destruction of my piano with perverse pleasure.”*
The narrator’s story had a profound effect on David Lang when he read the novel in the late 1990s: “I couldn’t read it silently. I ended up yelling the entire book to my reflection in the mirror in my bathroom, from start to finish, which was very exciting. And that day I started imagining what it would be like to add music to it.”
The result is Lang’s hour-long opera the loser. For his libretto, Lang was compelled by necessity to eliminate much of Bernhard’s text, including the long-winded political diatribes—there was nothing the Austrian author hated more than Austrian society. Lang’s focus was the persona of the narrator, and “managing our [changing] perceptions of a character” became the way to bring action to the piece.
Not that the protagonist moves around much. In Lang’s dramatic staging, the narrator stands atop a twenty-foot-high platform, suspended in space and performing exclusively for the audience in the balcony. (Orchestra seats are not occupied for the production.) During the second half of the loser a piano (and pianist) appear on stage, and delicate, ghostly sounds echo throughout the auditorium.
This astonishing work premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2016, with baritone Rod Gilfry as the narrator, and Conrad Tao on piano. The LA OperaOff Grand presentation of the loser brings both of these artists to downtown Los Angeles, joined by Bang on a Can Opera—Isabel Hagen (viola), Mariel Roberts (cello), Pat Swoboda (double bass), Owen Weaver (percussion)—and conducted by Lesley Leighton.
The lighting design is by Jennifer Tipton, the sets by Jim Findlay, and costumes were designed by the performance and installation artist Suzanne Bocanegra.
I FALL, I FLOW, I MELT—a new evening-length dance work from Benjamin Millepied investigating “techniques of counterpoint, fugue, and canon within his choreography”—will be performed by L.A. Dance Project at their downtown Los Angeles headquarters, reconfigured for an in-the-round experience.Twelve dancers from the ensemble—Doug Baum, Anthony Lee Bryant, Aaron Carr, David Adrian Freeland Jr., Mario Gonzalez, Madison Hicks, Daisy Jacobson, Nathan B. Makolandra, Rachelle Rafailedes, Gianna Reisen, Janie Taylor, Patricia Zhou—will be joined by violinist Etienne Gara, who will play Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Partita for Violin No. 2 in D Minor” as well as sections from Mystery Sonatas and The National Anthems by David Lang.
Alessandro Sartori has designed the costumes for the piece, and Millepied designed the lighting.