22 December 2013
I am at the end of another year--and midway through my 29th at University of Michigan--imagining retirement in another 4 years or so and unlimited time to paint, make videos and write while at my fantasy cabin in the north woods. (I’ll do a test-run during my sabbatical next fall, while also making 3-part inventions for a 3-scrim projection system in a black-box space I’ve been granted at the old Pfizer complex recently bought by the university. (See Clonal Renderings Tour link showing prototype below.) I am obsessed with acrylics and will paint on any surface. (I’m painting my latest series of figures: acrylic bodies recline on the oblong flanks of old wooden violin cases – caskets of aging warriors floated out onto dark seas?)
I earned the privilege of my lovely office in the UM Life Sciences Institute (as unofficial resident artist among the scientists) by collaborating with Prof. Dan Klionksy, cell biologist and Nobel Prize candidate (See Autophagy link), originally performed in the Museum of Natural History rotunda with dancers in circular video projections cast downwards from above, audience peering down from 2nd floor as if looking into a microscope. I’ll present four of my videos here in January in a screenig entitled S is for Screendance, (see info below), the grand finale a solo work I shot five years ago in the ruins of Traverse City State Hospital to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It will be screened in our school’s recital hall while two pianists perform the original four-hand piano score live! I’ll also premiere my mini-epic Last Man at Willow Run, (see below) shot just months before the demolition of the nearby Willow Run Bomber Plant built by Henry Ford in 1942. Appropriately, my paper at the recent Society of Dance History Scholars conference was titled Bodies Among the Ruins: Screendance’s Emerging Legacy? Why are so many recent dance videos shot in decaying, abandoned spaces?
This past year kept me relatively close to home: new siding, driveway and fencing for the house, a trip to New York to see friends, tour the museums and galleries, and to set a new work on dancers of my alma mater, the Martha Graham Dance Company. I will join the company again next June at Skidmore College to teach and collaborate on a reconstruction or re-imagining of a “lost work”
Good books this year: My Struggle by the Norwegian literary superstar, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Cheever’s sad, acidic Journals, Shakespeare's Sonnets (see link) and Richard Rodriguez,’ Darling: a voice at the oasis in the desert of my life. Who said wit was the antidote to despair? Amen. And music? yes! Lots of Bach while driving and dancing round the kitchen. Yes, and the memoir is on hold… to be continued. It works up to age 40, then it becomes work. Still swimming to stay limber, still dancing (See below.) And, ho, a Gyrotonic workout every Wednesday: Damn! I ‘m still a standing man!
My New Year's resolution: Forgive all and fly on. What else can we do?
Here’s to 2014. Happy New Year!
S is for Screendance (and Shakespeare, Strauss, Stravinsky, Saint Narcissus…)
New and Recent Screendances by Peter Sparling
Special guests: RusCa Piano Duo: Ilya Blinov and Christian Matijas-Mecca- Pianos, Ralph Williams, and Vince Castagnacci
January 23, 2104 at 8 PM
Britton Recital Hall; Moore Building, 1100 Baits Dr., UM North Campus, Ann Arbor, MI
Thurnau Professor of Dance Peter Sparling presents four new and recent screendances-- works featuring his own dance performance for the camera and edited specifically for the screen. Joining him on screen and for live performance are Ralph Williams, UM Prof. of English, Christian Matijas-Mecca, UM Prof. of Dance and pianist Ilya Blinov, Susquehanna University. Inspired by the poetry of T. S. Eliot and Shakespeare and the music of Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten and Igor Stravinsky, the works represent a culmination of Sparling’s 40-year career as dancer/choreographer and more recent transition from stage to screen.
He Was Locked in a Race Against Time takes a radical departure from the over 200 dance productions created to Stravinsky’s monumental 1913 score, Le Sacre de Printemps. Sparling’s screendance features Stravinsky’s original arrangement for piano four-hands, performed by Christian Matijas-Mecca and Ilya Blinov. Their performance provides an intimate scale, a striking counterpoint to the rhythms of the movement and editing, and a nod to the tradition of keyboard music accompaniment for silent film. Sparling’s work tracks a man’s turbulent, soulful journey across four lives, and through four distinct landscapes that are both inner and outer. Day Tripper finds him rising fitfully from his rocking chair to stumble through his suburban neighborhood as if negotiating a confused daydream. In Uncommon Night, he dances spellbound under a full moon. Priest’s Dance reveals a turbulent soul just beneath a monk’s somber composure. Bedlam, shot in the empty, decrepit Traverse City State Mental Hospital, evokes the final undoing of a lost man.
Last Man at Willow Run is an elegiac tone poem for the post-industrial age, shot in the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan just months before its demolition. A lone figure (Sparling) maps the cavernous spaces of the abandoned plant with his dancing body. The camera charts his progress down mile-long corridors, as he wrestles with forgotten spirits and is cloned into assembly lines of workers past. Set to Richard Strauss's dramatic orchestral score, Death and Transfiguration, the work has a tragic, ironic edge while serving as an epic-scale memorial.
In The Death of St. Narcissus, Sparling splits his screen persona between that of narrator and Narcissus in this danced dramatization of T.S. Eliot’s vivid, homoerotic mash-up of a St. Sebastian-like martyr and the doomed figure from Greek mythology. Shot against greenscreen, the work features paintings of Elyse Radenovic as sets and backdrops and the recorded voice of tenor and Ann Arbor native Nicholas Phan performing Benjamin Britten’s haunting setting of the Eliot poem.
Ralph Williams, beloved UM professor and renowned scholar, is the inspiration for Sparling’s Six Sonnets. Sparling dances solos, duets and trios to readings by Williams of Shakespeare sonnets, set against the evocative drawings and paintings of UM Thurnau Prof. Emeritus of Art & Design, Vince Castagnacci.
Free Admission; For more information, contact Prof. Peter Sparling at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-647-2288.
Last Man at Willow Run: http://youtu.be/Q6an6K59WiY
He Was Locked in a Race Against Time: http://youtu.be/6mk_ZHzNHmk
The Death of Saint Narcissus: http://youtu.be/g4OaH5du_2Y
Six Sonnets: http://youtu.be/bHqzYg56KS8
Retrospective Sweep from the archives:
Nacht und Traume
The End of Shame
Clonal Renderings: Tour of Installation
The Snowy Owl
Forest Through the Trees
Man in the Moon
In Memorium/Shirley Verrett
A Dancer’s Primer
I Have Enough, Part 1 (Ich Habe Genug)
Photoformance: Long Lie Down
Out of the Blue (UM feature/interview)
From Rust and Ruin
Self-Portrait with Still Life
Pieces for “DialogTable”
Op. Posth. (excerpt)
Seven Enigmas (excerpts)
Orfeo ed Euridice
I’m Coming Out from Bodytalk