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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
The White Oak Dance Project at Jacobs Pillow
Those who haven't seen any of the ad hoc groups of dancers who have made some 40 national and international tours (over 600 performances) since 1990 when Baryshnikov and Mark Morris set out on a mission of establishing a small touring company which would afford established and emerging choreographers to create new dances and mount existing works for dancers from diverse backgrounds. The project takes its name from the White Oak Plantation -- a 7,500 acre wildlife preserve on the Florida-Georgia border owned by Baryshnikov's close friend and art patron, the late Howard Gilman. It is here, in specially built facilities, the dancers of White Oak Dance Project first came together and rehearsed and where they continue to enjoy the perfect setting to retreat and work on new projects.
The Jacobs Pillow evening is typically White Oak in that it includes a variety of dances that validate the above quoted connection between Einstein's imagining of time and White Oak's embodiment of dance as a blend of past, present and future. The four selections go back to 1961 (Eric Hawkins' Early Floating) and move to the present with a commissioned work by cutting edge British choreographer Sarah Michelson. A White Oak regular, Lucinda Child provides the bookends, a solo originally danced by her and here by Baryshnikov (Largo) and her newest work, Chacony for the entire company.
The most unusual and likely to divide the younger and older members of the audience is Ms. Michelson's The Experts which features a video of a racing car which comes whizzing across an overhead screen (the kind used for translated text in operas) as often as the dancers group and regroup with groans of quot;Ahhhh" by some countered by a firm "yes" by others. I found The Experts somewhat too gimmicky and found the older Hawkins segment more impressive. At the Wednesday night performance I attended, when car #20 zoomed across the screen one last time, the audience errupted into loud cheers. I should add that this reaction was not universal, and some of the more conventionally inclined dance lovers were visibly less enthusiastic. My favorite overheard comments were "Ahhh -- No!" and, from one of the many Florida snowbirds who summer in the Berkshires, "I don't think this would go over big in Boynton Beach."
Anyone who wants to get better acquainted with Ms. Michelson's work, will be able to do so at Friday's Inside/Out -- the free programs at 6:30 on the beautiful outdoor stage with the beautiful Berkshire mountains and skyline as its background.
While White Oak programs often feature live music, the music here is disappointingly all "canned." The ensemble, however, is exemplary, with red-headed Emily Coates a standout.
For details about the many other exciting events to be performed the rest of the seasons, check out the website listed in the production notes below.
6,500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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