Sunday, August 23, 2009

Phoebe Greenough and Breaking Ground at Out North

We went to Out North last night to see dancers. The blurb said
Breaking Ground sprung up during a dinner conversation between Becky, Therese and I. [It hurts to write that on my blog - it should be "between Becky, Therese and me." Maybe I'll explain why in another post one day. In the meantime you can go to the link to find out why.] Our goal was to find a way to bring together artists and dancers in the community and give them the opportunity to produce and try out new ideas...

We knew that things might be a little crowded because of all the cars parked on the street and we were early even. I'd read that there would be about 10 five minute pieces by different people. So, the cars might just be those of all the performers.

There was also an art exhibit in the gallery, so we looked around.

While I wasn't excited about everything, there were some pieces - and parts of pieces - that felt good on my eyes.

When we went into the theater it was packed and we got seats way in back. Good strategy - lots of local performers means lots of friends and family who come to see them. Enough to fill up a small theater.

"Breaking Ground" means doing new stuff, so I was expecting to see something new. Maybe it meant new for the dancers rather than for Anchorage or for dancing. At least that went through my mind for the first couple of dancers. This caused me to think about how one should evaluate dancing, especially ground breaking dancing. (One could debate whether we should evaluate at all, but that too is a different post. I would note that someone this week mentioned a workshop she attended on non-violent communication which has as a main starting point, getting rid of judgmental language. When I read the book, I'll do more on that.)

Picture taking was specifically banned during the performances so you get after-dance pictures here. In any case, as I watched the dancing, I thought about what would be 'good' in this case. Some of the dancers were pretty young and this is Anchorage, not New York City. I came up with two factors - was the dancing 'good' and was it 'new'? What's good dancing? For me, the dancer is dancing, not performing. The dancer is moving naturally, is not thinking ('ok, now step to the left and ready for the next leap"), but just flows naturally. The body has to be able to move right to the music. I forget where I am and just enjoy.

What's 'new'? Not being a dance expert who keeps up with the latest trends, I guess I can only judge what's new for me. And it seems to me that while there are an infinite number of moves human bodies can probably combine into a piece, coming up with something that no dancer has ever done before (and should do) is probably not easy.

So I was ready to settle for 'good' and not worry about 'new'. I liked 'ChitChat' by Michelle "Shimmy Shoes" Steffens because it broke from what I'd call the ice skating routine type dancing to music of the first pieces. She started out seated, tying her shoes, then tapped while sitting, got up and tapped around. The only music was her shoes until she got the audience involved in a routine of foot tapping, finger snapping, more tapping, and two claps. It was different and it involved the audience actively in the dance. I liked it. J wasn't moved by it though. And she knows a lot more about dancing than I do.

But things changed radically when Krista Katalenich and Felix Bambury Webbe took the stage. Forget all the criteria - you know good dancing when you see it. They were there and I just enjoyed how they moved alone and then came together and then alone. It worked. They were somewhere else with the music, not on stage in front of an audience. We got to talk to them a bit afterward. They live in Fairbanks. Felix, who's from Cuba, has been there for two years and teaches Afro-Cuban (I think that's what he said) dancing. Krista is a student at UAF and at Felix's dance school.

The last piece was eleven dancers swinging to Swingset by Jourrasic 5. It was an ambitious piece with couples dancing, splitting, regrouping, moving here and there across the stage, and with choreographer and dancer Rick Ruiz lip-synching.
You really should go to the video. The cool thing is that what they did on stage was way better than what happens in the video. Rick is in the picture with the other 'director' of the piece - Dorthy Fredenberg. The group will be performing at the State Fair and there's something else coming up in Anchorage, but I forgot what. Maybe Rick will tell us in a comment. Below he's telling us how the idea for the choreography came to him.

The group is called Swingset Hooligans.


  1. Hehe, I thought the lady from the last photo is a girl from my school.

  2. Hey, the aforementioned Rick Ruiz here... hello to all. As Steve mentioned above the SwingSet Hooligans have an upcoming performance at the Alaska State Fair. We'll be there this Sunday 8/30 on stage at 5:00pm and again at 6:30pm.
    Our next scheduled performance following the Fair is the Great Alaska Shootout happening Thanksgiving Weekend. We’re not sure which games we’ll be performing for so check us out online for updates
    Have the greatest day of your life. 


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