Monday, September 13, 2010

Artsy Weekend

Lucinda Childs' Dance (1979), with film by Sol LeWitt and music by Philip Glass

My wife and I had an artsy weekend. We started on Saturday morning with a 6-mile circumambulation of Lake Galena, a water supply reservoir and recreational area in Peace Valley County Park near Doylestown, Buck County, Pennsylvania. The walk is fairly boring; most of it is along the lakeshore though developed picnicking, boating, and fishing areas or along the crest of the earthen fill dam that holds back the waters of Neshaminy Creek to create the lake. We walk the lake almost solely for exercise.
Canoes brought ashore at Lake Galena

Some parts of the trail near the upper end of the lake pass through young woodlands and old fields, and are therefore more enjoyable. At the very upper end, where Neshaminy Creek enters the lake, an old highway bridge (closed to traffic) spans the creek. There, we joined a small crowd watching a big fat Northern Water Snake lolling in the warm shallows. A smaller specimen investigated riparian vegetation a short distance away. That's where I found out that I had failed to recharge my camera battery...

After our walk, we headed into Doylestown proper for the community's annual arts festival. We're art festival junkies, and this was B-quality work at best--lots of vendors with lots of acceptable work but nothing exciting, innovative, or of the best quality--with the exception of a woman who made beautiful and inventive women's coats. We did buy a quirky birdhouse that we'll mount on an old snag outside our house next spring.
Sunday we got a gentle rain in the morning--not enough to really relieve the terrible dryness we're experiencing, but better than nothing. It was our first rain in three weeks, and it let up by noon, though the day stayed cloudy and cool.

In the afternoon, we went into central Philadelphia to see a performance of Dance, a revival of a dance by choreographer Lucinda Childs that debuted in 1979. The work was part of the Live Arts/Philly Fringe Festival that's in full swing. The festival endeavors to present avant-garde and unusual performance pieces. Dance certainly was avant-garde when it was first performed; American and European audiences booed it off the stage. But, contemporary dance has evolved considerably since 1979, and the 1-hour piece now just feels a bit outdated.

The most interesting aspect of the piece was the juxtaposing of live dancers with film of dancers projected onto an upstage scrim. The filmed dancers and the live dancers, all attired in stark white outfits, performed exactly the same steps at the same time. It was fascinating to watch.

The piece was set to a score that choreographer Childs commissioned from Philip Glass, the minimalist contemporary composer. We never want to hear another piece of music by Philip Glass ever again. Glass's music is highly--highly--repetitive, almost to the point of monotony. My wife asked if I remembered that the U.S. Army had tried to get rid of Manuel Noriega in Panama by blasting him with incessant loud rock music; she said they made a mistake--they should have used Phillip Glass's music! Of course, it might have driven him insane, first. There were so few changes in the music that I don't know what cues the magnificent dancers were using to synchronize their movements.

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