Dance Film Day

Dance Weekly: Past and future lenses

Keith Hennessy dances himself to death, a new dance film festival is born, Kyle Abraham is in town and audiences now need their passports.

Over the weekend I saw choreographer/performance artists Keith Hennessy perform “Bear/Skin” presented by PICA, and Oregon Ballet Theatre perform James Canfield’s “Romeo and Juliet.” It may seem like an odd pairing, but they were perfect together, each filling in where the other was incomplete, at least for me.

Before he performed, Hennessy “explained” his dance by reading a short essay he had written. Some of the points he touched on: Democracy is founded on slavery, misogyny and genocide; modernism is deeply rooted in racist cultural appropriation; and action films are a bridge between our cop-killing desires and the narrative of “The Rite of Spring,” which exposes gendered roles of the female as sacrificial and the male as protector. I suppose all of those are debatable propositions.

Hennessy danced the “chosen one’s” dance to the death from “The Rite of Spring” while wearing a man-sized teddy bear costume strapped to his back after telling us that once upon a time you could get money for killing American Indians, different amounts for men, women and children. And when they ran out of Native Americans, the bounty changed to grizzly bears until the bears ran out. For me, all of this was an extraordinary lens to view “Romeo and Juliet” through, and at some point during “Romeo and Juliet” I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if ballet audiences went to see Hennessy and Hennessy audience went to see the ballet?”

Arts Watcher Martha Ullman West had a wildly different experience seeing “Romeo and Juliet” and talks about it in her review.

Continues…

 
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