Yes, it’s true: as a general rule we video types will happily shoot anything that moves. That said, I believe there are few things as satisfying as shooting and editing dance, and if comes in the form of dance theatre, so much the better.
“Dance theatre,” much in vogue in the dance world these days, may be defined as the theatrical representation of a story that is set to music and performed by trained dancers. In much the same way that opera is drama expressed through music, dance theatre (also known as “concert dance” and “dance drama”) uses movement and gesture to define characters and propel the narrative.
John Malashock, Artistic Director of San Diego’s Malashock Dance, is an accomplished practitioner of dance theatre whose past work in the genre includes two collaborations with UCSD-TV (and Your Humble Correspondent), “Soul of Saturday Night” and “Love & Murder.” In “Snakeskin” Malashock has teamed with Krishan Oberoi, Artistic Director for the acclaimed choral ensemble SACRA/PROFANA, to present a piece inspired by the work of Tennessee Williams, in particular Williams’ 1957 play “Orpheus Descending.” “Snakeskin” tells the story of a small Southern town whose surface placidity is disrupted by the arrival of a drifter in a snakeskin jacket. His presence arouses (ahem) unseemly passions in several of the town’s womenfolk, and as you might expect the tale unfolds in the best Southern Gothic tradition.
All of the members of SACRA/PROFANA are singers as well as instrumentalists, and Oberoi’s original music and lyrics range through a variety of influences, from neo-baroque to folk-rock to Stravinsky. Malashock’s choreography is equally diverse, by turns lyrical, combative, and athletic. The Forum Theatre at UC San Diego proved to be the ideal setting for a work that relies on intimacy for its impact (and it’s an excellent video venue in the bargain).
“Snakeskin” is a cogent illustration of the artistic maxim that “there is universality in specificity.” Though the inspiration, costumes and stage design speak of a distinct period and setting, this oft-told story achieves freshness through the interplay of sound and kinetics, and acquires a near-mythic status as it plumbs themes of bigotry, class, small-town isolation, chauvinism, and sexual jealousy. Tennessee Williams would be so proud.
Contributed by John Menier, Arts & Humanities Producer