Thursday, May 10, 2007

Review: Liz Lerman Dance Project - Ferocious Beauty: Genome

As I mentioned in my last post, I had the chance on a free evening during my GBCS meeting to attend a dance performance. I love dance. And every time I'm in DC, I try to see the Washington Ballet, but they are always between shows. This time around, the situation was the same, but I did discover that it was "Dance is the Answer" week in DC, which meant that there were several options related to dance.

I went to see a production from the Liz Lerman Dance Project called Ferocious Beauty: Genome. I thought it was pretty cool, and certainly one of the most unique dance productions I've been to. I have been having a hard time summarizing the performance, so here's an excerpt from the company website:

"Genetic research raises prospects that previous generations may scarcely have imagined: of prolonging life and maintaining youth indefinitely, of replicating an individual, of choosing the bodies and brains of our children, and of creating new species to feed and serve us. How we heal, age, procreate, and eat may all be altered in the next years by scientific research happening right now.

In Ferocious Beauty: Genome Liz Lerman Dance Exchange explores the current historic moment of revelation and questioning in genetic research. Under the artistic direction of choreographer Liz Lerman the subject is represented through a plurality of viewpoints, mirroring a dialogue among multiple voices -- artistic, scientific, and scholarly -- in all their varied perspectives."

The production was quite unique - the dancers were of different ages - some older than the typical company with all 20/30-something dancers - there were two dancers (out of 8?) who were gray-haired, and they impressively kept up with their younger company members. There was also one dancer, a local woman named Suzanne Richard (according to this Washington Post review), who has a genetic bone condition, and she used a combination of wheelchair and crutches to dance.

The production was also unique because it included a lot of spoken word - the dancers would occasionally narrate segments/vignettes. For example, when Richard first took the stage, the dance was narrated by a dancer talking about how there used to be so many types of apples, but that they have disappeared, in exchange for the perfect but less tasty Red Delicious.

Especially cool, I thought, was the incorporation of interviews with scientists into the pieces, with a large screen at the back of the stage showing different geneticists, biologists, etc., responding to questions - what is DNA? What does DNA look like? What are genes? And in one especially great segment, the scientists tried to describe what all this would look like in a dance, as the dancers on stage literally played out the words from the interviews. This was not too much of a stretch, when you consider that genetic language actually includes phrases like "hormone drift" and "genetic shuffle."

The whole production was funny and serious, educational and whimsical, and a thought-provoking mix. And I do love dance - the way dancers can use the human body in artistic expression is always amazing to me. Would that I could dance in my 20s as some of these dancers are in their 50s and 60s. Anyway, the company seems like they consistently do unique things - they have dance classes geared for those over 50, for at-risk teens, and for "artists-as-activists", so next time you are in the DC area, you might want to check them out.

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