Spoleto 2011 Dance Preview

Monday, May 2, 2011
by Eliza Ingle

Shen Wei Dance Arts

NOW THAT THE COLOR-FILLED CARPET of Spring has been rolled out and the Royals have been married off, Spoleto Festival USA is ready to spread its wings in Charleston for 17 fun-filled days (beginning May 27). The lineup for this 35th year looks particularly exciting with 152 performances and performers from all corners of the globe.

Even the festival’s founder, Gian Carlo Menotti, will be honored in the centenary of his birth with a revival of one of his most popular operas, The Medium. But it’s the dance that I’m most excited about and for which I have prepared a little preview of all that you will want to see (in order of appearance).

Khmeropedies I & II
May 26 (evening) • May 28-29-30 (noon)
In a compelling blend of revival and preservation, this work is inspired by the traditional court dancing of Cambodia but utilizes postmodern elements, opening the art form to present day sensibilities. Choreographer Emmanuele Phon, who is half French and half Cambodian, grew up studying the Khmer royal court dance that was performed slowly, with elegant movements, intricate hand gestures, and a legend story line—all without ever rising above the head of the King. The tradition had nearly vanished during Cambodia’s war-ravaged past, but a few dance masters kept it alive, and now Phon has brought it again to a place of cultural value.

Khmeropedies I & II

Spoleto is about expanding your horizons in many ways even to another land. Khmeropedies both reveals Cambodia’s history and presents it in a contemporary way. Phon has appeared with Baryshnilov’s White Oak Dance project, and her dancers have worked with her to create a work that incorporates film, text, and music that ranges from Erik Satie to traditional Cambodian music to Cambodian Rap. It should be an enlightening event threading together old and new worlds.

Corella Ballet
May 27-28 (evening) • May 29 (afternoon)
The big ballet star in town is Angel Corella who at 19 moved from the corps de ballet in his native Spain to become a principal dancer with American Ballet Theater, only to return 15 years later to create a company he would have aspired to be in as a young dancer. In only its second visit to the U.S., Corella is a fresh and exciting company with a lot of talent and shouldn’t be missed.

Corella Ballet

They will perform a work by Maria Pages whose company thrilled audiences several Spoletos ago, as well as a work by the wildly popular Christopher Wheelden which should be a highpoint of the festival. This will be for the ballet fan who is happy to see contemporary work by classically trained dancers. The superstar quality of Corella and his company is sure to deliver, but as he said in a New York Times interview, “This Company wasn’t created for me or about me. It’s for Spain.”

Shen Wei Dance Arts
June 3-4 (evening)
At his last visit to Spoleto, Shen Wei created one of the most striking and talked about dances called Connect Transfer where the bodies on stage actually painted the canvas floor as their bodies moved through space in the most dynamic and beautiful ways. This year he comes with a new work in three parts with one part inspired by his choreography at the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremonies as well as his Chinese ancestry.

Prepare to dig deep with contemporary dance and images that will take your breath away. The combination of imagery and expression will delight viewers who remain open to the new with this world-acclaimed company.

Cedric Andrieux

Cedric Andrieux
June 8-9-10-11 (evening)
This will be the sleeper of the season, so remember you heard it here and take a chance on the ticket. Director Jerome Bel creates a portrait of dancer Cedric Andrieux, a former Merce Cunningham dancer who currently performs with the Lyon Opera Ballet. Spoleto’s executive producer, Nunally Kersh, says, “there is much excitement about this show which is a documentary/dance/drama about being a dancer. Jerome’s groundbreaking work creates a whole new form of theatre. The piece works on many levels and the audience can connect to any one of them. In a very real way we see the sacrifices and the endurance of a dancer’s life in which I found myself fully absorbed and exhilarated.” This dance about a dancer’s life reveals the true nature of being a performer.

Stay tuned for Eliza’s full coverage of these dance events, as well as some Piccolo Spoleto events.

Acknowledgments: photos courtesy of Spoleto Festival USA.

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