Monday, November 28, 2011: Words on Dance

For the dramatic No More Auction Block, dancer Zuzana Susová must always keep one foot on the auction block.

A Few Words on Dance, from an Expert

If you’re curious or confused about contemporary dance — or even if you’re a bit afraid of it — you can easily learn more about it from a master. The three Christopher Bruce dance pieces currently being presented under the title Moonshine await you at the New Stage of the National Theatre, Dec 1, 6, and 7.

Mr Bruce is one of the leading names in contemporary dance. Moonshine shows a range of his styles, in these pieces selected from his more than 50 year career as a dancer and dance-maker.

Just prior to Moonshine’s Prague premiere Nov 16-17 he came to the city to work closely with the National Theatre Ballet dancers; he also fielded “workshop” questions from the Ballet’s artistic director Petr Zuska. Mr Bruce then kindly stayed a few minutes more for a one-on-one interview with Opus Osm.

Expert Advice: In a Word, Don’t Worry

You don’t have to worry that contemporary dance is a snore. Mr Bruce says he was particularly impressed during his training of the Prague dancers by their passion. “They’re very quick to interpret the role, and to engage in the role of the people they’re playing,” he notes.

And don’t be nervous because you might be afraid you won’t understand dance. Mr Bruce says he enjoys “creating vignettes in my work because I enjoy telling stories.”

Christopher Bruce isn't afraid of lots of humor in his choreographies.

And don’t be afraid that you won’t like the music. The English choreographer also admits a fondness for using folk music because it contains “some basic truths about life, in an unsophisticated way. It’s a route to the soul.” (Some of the final pieces are set to music by The Rolling Stones.)

These influences are clear especially in the middle piece of Moonshine, of the same title. It’s set to music by the popular folk-rock artist Bob Dylan. Mr Bruce tells Opus Osm that many of his moves to this popular music draw upon the “lateral, more animal quality” in the style of American dancer Martha Graham.

(For Americans, for example, Moonshine and its set design might be reminiscent of the strength, spareness, and resilience of an Edward Hopper painting, exuding the essence of their country’s character, so thoroughly shaped by the landscape.)

But nationality is irrelevant. “Your imagination is the most important ingredient in understanding dance,” the soft-spoken English choreographer continues. “You can look on it as a piece of music that suggests a collage of images and ideas which you can interpret as an individual. No two people will see the same dance in completely the same way.” In other words, you have permission from an expert to formulate your own opinion about a particular performance.

But one of the best reasons for not fearing contemporary dance, the choreographer who “is closer to 70 than 60″ concludes, is that dance helps keep you young.

“We can all dance,” he declares simply.

“We all should dance.” — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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