10 February 2012

2012 Update: Forest Through the Trees

Forest Through the Trees (World Premiere-Power Center, Ann Arbor, MI Feb. 2-5, 2012)

Choreography by Peter Sparling (with the assistance of the cast in entrance to “Climate Change”)

Music by Frank Pahl: from Music for Architecture; Thollem McDonas: from I’ll Meet You Halfway Out In The Middle Of It All

Video by Peter Sparling; “Climate Change” sequence and video finishing by Colin Smith Fulton

Text by Gertrude Stein: from “The Making of Americans” (1903-11)

Opening screen image: Harbor by Georges Braque (1909)

Gertrude Stein: Annette Masson

Dancers: University Dance Company

If the writer Gertrude Stein and her artist friends, Picasso and Braque, expressed the fragmentation of early 20th century life and thought in their modernist abstractions of traditional literature and painting, how do later innovations in film/video and modern dance locate the live and digitally represented human body in this radical reconfiguration of individual and collective identity—one that persists into the early 21st century?  In The Making of Americans, Stein employs a language of overlapping, rhythmic repetitions to describe and mirror the forging of identity. The text provides me with frames upon which to arrange a set of variations on 14 movement signatures embodied by each dancer; these signatures  “read” differently depending on how they “act” against Stein’s text, the video projections and the musical score. The utopian experiment of early modernism ended with the outbreak of World War I and took on a greater sense of disillusionment and fragmentation. Forest Through the Trees playfully peers into this extended episode in modernism to glimpse both the big picture and the close-up---with an affectionate nod to Gertrude, a true American original.        –PS

See photos by Kirk Donaldson