Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dancing Partners

We went to NY to the ballet, the NYC Ballet. It was a glorious Fall afternoon and I didn't feel like spending it inside the vast theater (formerly known as the New York State Theater and now named the Koch Theater after the billionaire slightly to the right of Rush Limbaugh) but the opportunity to see three Balanchine/ Stravinsky collaborations could not be passed up. The string of collaborative woks that Igor S and George B put together over several decades is unique in dance history. The reason so many of these pieces work is that both artists were at home in the other's discipline-IS knew dance and GB was an accomplished musician. Strav's Apollo is one of my favorites but only for the music-the whole story of the Muses and Apollo is a bit ho hum. Agon, which has no story at all--it's pure, abstract, strictly about itself--seems to me the best of the three "Greek" works. Orpheus starts off well enough, but gets bogged down and since I stole a few things from it for my own "Orphic Memories" I cant deny my debt to it. But Agon is the most memorable. It is icy, pristine, exact-- a dance about dance, and Strav's incursions into serialism actually work here--you  don't notice it.

   During the wild applause at the end of the show I was suddenly struck by the realization that there was another pair, a duo of composer and choreographer, who are due equal billing
     Everyone has been making a fuss about John Cage because he would have been 100 this year-performances and festivals are happening.Cage's great "idea"in music was that of indeterminacy or chance operations, and the notion that anything could be music depending on our openness to it. The other great idea of the 20th century was, of course, Arnie S's "composition with twelve tones (aka serialism) But  these are ideas about music and notl likely to generate much music. I m reminded of Larkin's caveat that a poem must start with poetry, not an idea about poetry.But so much of Cage's music is music and that's the rub because he's not likely to like hearing that.'He and his long time partner. Merce Cunningham are the other great dance partners of the 20th c. but radically opposed to Strav and George. Cunningham's brilliant technique and choreography served as a back drop to Cage's noises or is it the other way around? Either way, the Non intentional nature of the result is uncannily effective--if you go into it. Resist it and you are liable to be bored to the tenth degree.
      IS and GB vs. JC and MC--what anchors or beacons if you will, of the last century's Music and Dance world . Terpsichore herself would be delighted to swing back and forth between them.