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V.20 No.4 | 1/27/2011
Sean Christopher Lewis

Culture Shock

Murder in the City of Brotherly Love

Sean Christopher Lewis says he came to Philadelphia after graduate school to work at a local theater company. While he was in town, he was asked to participate in the mural program at Graterford Prison. The inmates, mostly people serving life sentences, constructed murals on cloth that were hung around the city.

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V.19 No.22 |

dance

Dance, Dance, Dance

A lot of you out there are already sold on flamenco. That's great. Get thee to the National Institute of Flamenco's "Festival Flamenco Internacional." You've probably already got tickets.

Now, the rest of you. What's your problem? I hope it's not some kind of misguided idea that traditional equals boring. Here's the thing. You probably think you know something about flamenco, but there's a lot more to learn. That's right, grab your glasses and a notebook, it's time for a lesson.

First, flamenco isn't Spanish dance. It's an Andalusian musical style that's accompanied by movements with gypsy, Moor, Byzantine, Andalusian (and a few others) roots.

Wait, what? The Moors. Those are Muslims, right? Yuppers, you got it. Back in the day, when this little thing called the Crusades was going on, Muslim armies came to Spain where they got along pretty well with the Christian natives. (One big difference was that no one levied taxes on those of other faiths.) So the two groups shared music and art, making some really unique stuff. Like flamenco.

That's fascinating! What else?

So glad you asked. Flamenco flourished during the late 1800s, with guitarists and dancers performing in public, rather than the previous when-the-mood-strikes kind of get together.

In the 1920s Federico García Lorca, a huge flamenco fan, organized a festival called "Concurso de Cante Jondo," which featured flamenco from many different traditions, rather than just the popular ones that were seen by the public. After Lorca's fest, flamenco got all sort of theatrical and there is a plethora of academic drama about whether it lost its spark, which I shall spare you. Your welcome.

Today, flamenco is often known for its bright red costuming and dramatic style. It has these things, yes, but flamenco isn't just some stuffy performative art. It is style itself. So now that you've got your little history lesson, go check out some flamenco!

"Festival Flamenco Internacional" runs from Wednesday, June 9 to Sunday, June 13. Tickets range from $20 to $90, depending on the performance. A complete schedule is available right here.

arts

Kazuo Ohno (1906-2010)

After he lost his ability to walk, in 2001, Japanese dancer Kazou Ohno simply danced in his wheelchair.

Sadly, the dance is now over, as Ohno, at 103, passed away yesterday. Not exactly a household name, Ohno's image crept into pop culture early last year as he graced the cover of Antony and the Johnson's The Crying Light.

But avant garde art fans are likely to know Ohno as the emotional force behind butoh, a dance form that originated in Japan in the late 1950s and gained popularity in the west in the 1980s.

Ohno is one of those artists who lived life like it was art itself, which probably explains why his work is so captivating. Though he didn't begin to dance until he was nearly 30, once he did, he never stopped. In 1933 he began to study modern dance, an activity that was derailed by his being drafted into the Imperial Army during World War II. After his release from a New Guinea prisoner of war camp after the end of the war, in which he'd spent 9 years, he immediately returned to the artform.

In 1960 Ohno teamed up with dancer Tatsumi Hijikata, who had created controversy the year before with his new style of dance. Together the two created one of the most otherworldly styles to hit the stage.

To watch butoh is to see a dancer move with a ghostly presence. The action is sometimes so slow it's barely intelligible, though at other times dancers hop along a stage in a series of painful-looking movements.

Sometimes considered performance art rather than dance form, butoh's legacy is not without controversy. But lets not get into that. Lets, instead, just remember a master, one of the most graceful performers to ever take the stage. The man who, two years ago, said "On the verge of death one revisits the joyful moments of a lifetime. One’s eyes are opened wide-gazing into the palm, seeing death, life, joy and sorrow with a sense of tranquillity."

V.19 No.2 | 1/14/2010

Feature

Long Live the Revolution

The 10th annual Revolutions International Theatre Festival

The mark of brilliance may just be that it stays with you. It affects the way you think about something or, perhaps, the way you look at everything. You contemplate it after you’ve engaged with it. Your future actions and interactions are, in some regard, altered by having experienced it. As it so happens, this is also the mark of revolution. Coincidence? Certainly not in the case of the Revolutions International Theatre Festival.

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Feature

Week Three

It’s Hell In Here

A prodigy named Max, the Secret Service, parallel universes, car chases, apologia, J.D. Salinger and Sen. Larry Craig. This is the fantastic stuff of It’s Hell In Here, a play written and directed by Tricklock (when Tricklock was still Riverside Ensemble) alum Abigail Browde, who developed the work during her present residency at Brooklyn Art Exchange in New York. Fusing elements of dance and theater to invent a curiously potent, seemingly allegorical reality, It’s Hell In Here provides an examination of modern uncertainty and, says Browde, a “meditation” on the blur between public and private. Talk about timely.

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