By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Ultimately, factionalism is useless when presented with true innovation. Witness the case of Ballets Russes star Vaslav Nijinsky, who broke with classical conventions and shocked audiences of the early 1900s with L’apres Midi d’un Faun, (a stunning meditation on desire) and ã Le Sacre du Printemps, “ballets” that reflected the vanguard modernist and primitivist tropes of the times. Nijinsky’s groundbreaking choreography, combined with his meteoric rise to fame and equally public descent into madness within the space of a decade, provides ample and juicy material for Leonard Crofoot to explore in what has been heralded as a theatrical tour de force.
Based on the diaries Nijinsky wrote upon first being institutionalized for schizophrenia, as well as on a plethora of scholarly research, the piece depicts an artist whose ability to metamorphose into almost anything onstage — a rose, a fawn, a puppet — carried over into his private life and led to brilliance as well as dysfunction. Stepping into Nijinsky’s shoes to enact his life story is apparently easy for Crofoot, who discovered he was the same build and shoe size as Nijinsky when he donned costume reconstructions for a performance at the Severin Wunderman Museum in Irvine a few years back. In another serendipitous twist of similitude, it turns out that Crofoot learned Nijinsky’s roles from George Zoritch, a student of Massine, who in turn was a student of Nijinsky. All of which contributes to the conviction that one is in the presence of the artist himself. Nijinsky Speaks has gained an unstoppable momentum since it opened at Glaxa Studios in the fall of 1997, where the initial run was extended from two weeks to six months. In promo material for the show, Crofoot has said the appeal of the show has less to do with the enigma of the genius-madman than with the fact that Nijinsky “is art, pure art.”
Among the profusion of upcoming performances this month, the debut of Cid Pearlman and her company, Nesting Dolls, stands out, not the least because Pearlman moved here recently from San Francisco, a city known for a very tight-knit, supportive dance scene. After a decade of making and showing dances there, Pearlman decided to find “a new sandbox to play in,” as she put it in a recent interview. “I was interested in seeing how my work would play in other places. And L.A. is like the Wild West.”
Pearlman’s work reflects an eclectic mix of influences. The daughter of bohemians, she learned Hawkins modern-dance technique from her Aunt Bunny in Provincetown, then spent her formative years in dance clubs in Berlin and as part of the hardcore punk-rock scene in San Francisco. Her brash wit and postpunk aesthetics show up in 1998’s Shiny Gun, which, featuring a quartet of women, weaves the acerbity and jaundiced self-loathing of Dorothy Parker’s poetry with the music of an all-girl punk rock band, but belies her allegiance to the formalist precepts of modern dance. “I like bodies in space, their relationship to the three-dimensional plane,” she says.
Pearlman also likes to collaborate with artists from a variety of disciplines. For Drive, which premieres at Highways, she worked with composer Jonathan Segel (of Camper Van Beethoven, Sparklehorse and Cracker) and filmmaker Ann Kaneko. She also consulted a dramaturge for the first time, an experiment she says designed to keep her on track and true to the piece, which she describes as “very technical, but also free-flowing and colloquial.” Calling her dances “abstract narratives,” she talks about being compelled by a desire to get at “the thing itself, rather than describing or commenting on it.” The “thing” in Drive is the exhilaration of speed, motion and the open road. It’s an apt topic for us freeway-bound Angelenos — and it looks like Pearlman’s adapting to her new home just fine.PARSONS DANCE COMPANY UCLA’s Royce Hall, 405 Hilgard Ave., Westwood | Friday-Saturday, October 6-7, 8 p.m. | (310) 825-2101
NIJINSKY SPEAKS | Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theater, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu | Saturday, October 7, 8 p.m. | (310) 456-4522
DRIVE AND OTHER DANCES At Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica | Thursday-Saturday, October 19-21, 8:30 p.m. | (310) 315-1459