Complexions: More Than Face Value

What is it about human sexuality that society has deemed so taboo?

This is the question I was left with after my experience at the Joyce Theatre. The performance- as with many of our outings in this class- was my first experience with contemporary ballet. Even with prior research done, I expected something a little more similar to my prior conception of ballet; that is, a performance involving tutus, classical music, and stern faced Russian dancers. What I got instead was a series of stunning dances that proved a stark commentary on human nature.

The first thing (and perhaps the most important thing) that separates contemporary ballet from traditional is the fact that the dancers relied on a rhythm that was set apart from the beat of the music being played. This syncopated effect separated the audience and the dancers; what I expected to happen upon hearing the music wasn’t necessarily reflective of their movements. That, of course, says something about life: people behave in strange and mysterious ways, and more often than not we ascribe to a ‘c’est la vie’ mentality instead of putting forth the effort necessary to unravel our fellow man’s complexities.

Another interesting thing that I noticed was a contrast between the male and female dancers. Often in dance, one can note a specific adherence to traditional gender roles. The women are all delicate, fragile, beautiful. Men are all strong, powerful, gritty. In this ballet, there was an interesting absence of this. All dancers wore the same outfit. effectively de-sexualizing the women and making the men seem a little more vulnerable. Even though some parts of the dances seemed a little male-centric, there was never a time when a female dancer was put in a subservient position. The push-pull of power in between both genders is something to be noted and applauded.

Most of all, this ballet was sensual. This is the part where most people confess their discomfort. This is the part where most people shy away from the troupe of half naked, athletic men and women leaping around on stage to a rhythm only they can hear. My question to you is: why? Complexions offers their audience a glimpse into a world that we all know exists yet few choose to recognize. It is a world of incredible power and terrible weakness, a world of sweat and tears and sexy androgyny.

Historically, people have a tendency to hate what they don’t understand.

Destroy the idea that you need to be at ease with something to love it.

Read Article →
The Art of Hearing

Read Article →
The Makings of a Poet

In a lot of ways, I think it’s very easy to disconnect a writer from their work. When you read a book, for instance, you’re generally not dedicating a whole lot of thought to the person behind those words. No one reads Dracula and wonders what Bram Stoker was feeling when he wrote Lucy’s death. No one stops to consider how Mark Twain’s childhood affected the way he described Huckleberry Finn’s adventures.

This is one of the primary differences between novels and poems. When reading a poem, you are forced to take a walk in the writer’s shoes- or ‘slip into their skin’, as Laurie Ann Guerrero might say- which results in a more intimate, occasionally uncomfortable experience. A poet’s writing is raw, demanding nothing but a reader’s undivided emotional attention.

Saeed-Jones     lori ann guerro

So, after meeting both Saeed Jones and Laurie Ann Guerrero, I can’t help but wonder: what is it that makes a poet?

The first thing that comes to mind is perhaps the most obvious: pain. Mrs. Guerrero was particularly forthcoming about the hardships she had experienced as a child and young adult. She was repressed, silenced, marginalized. Mr. Jones faced something similar to this as well; as a gay man of color, he talked about his struggles with identity and his place in the world.

The second factor ties into the first in a willingness to explore and discuss that pain. Being an artist, in many ways, is about vulnerability. Much in the same way that painters put a piece of their soul on display when they frame a piece of art, poets give their readers a personal invitation into the workings of their minds. Fears, doubts, indulgences- all of these things are on display in a poet’s writing in a way that bares their soul to anyone who cares to look.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, is a flexible, introspective view of the world. Anyone can describe the world around them. To do so with insight and structured, creative language is another thing altogether. Both Mr. Jones and Mrs. Guerrero do this, providing personal and social commentary that really makes one consider the impact they have on others.

To write is to be an artist. To write poetry, however, is to be human.

Read Article →
Carmen: An Opéra Comique

Opera is testimony to history itself. It has survived war and disease and the volatile push and pull of political disaster. In a world where the role of fine arts is a shrinking one, opera has retained its dignity to an impressive degree- statues crumble, paintings are stolen, but music is something that will prevail through the ages.

With that in mind, I can say this: seeing Carmen by Georges Bizet on Thursday night was an honor.

To me, one of things that made the show so captivating was the fact that it was in French. What I expected to be a drawback actually enhanced my night. Professor Eversley was right when she said that an English translation of the songs isn’t necessary for a full experience at the opera. The performers sang each song with a remarkably broad range of genuine emotion, and there were several times throughout the entire show where I felt the songs more than I actually understood them.

Carmen’s arias, for instance, are a perfect example. Even though I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend the literal meaning of her words without the small caption box on the seat in front of mine, I could still comprehend the shift of moods inherent to the scene- like below in the final act, when she’s singing about her need for freedom


When looking at different types of performances, I think that this is important. The acting that you see on television isn’t the same as the acting you see in movies, and that kind of acting certainly isn’t the same as what you would see in a play or musical. In television and film, actors can take several shots of the same scene, altering camera angles and lighting to emphasize details. On stage, however, there’s no such thing as a retake. In that way, it is important to recognize- and applaud- the talent of the performers we saw on Thursday. Ignoring the fact that there were no microphones and every musical number relied on a very delicate combination of vocal projection and the architecture of the theatre, I was stunned at how forcefully performers conveyed both their emotions and their intent.

Whatever I was expecting from the opera, it certainly wasn’t a breathtaking performance like this. It was my first time at the Met, and, hopefully, not the last.

Read Article →