In early 2011, as part of its “Art of Our Time” initiative, Sarasota’s own Ringling Museum of Art presented a four-part dance series in its Historic Asolo Theatre (HAT) that highlighted some of the most contemporary artists of the time. This year, in an effort to extend and expand the scope of that first series, Dwight Currie, the museum’s associate director of programming, is bringing four new “movement” exhibitions to the HAT stage for audiences to delight in.
“One of the first few things I want to make clear, is that this isn’t all dance, it’s movement,” Currie clarified in a phone interview with This Week in Sarasota. “These are all artists who, in one form or another, deal with movement and storytelling, or how we communicate with movement.”
The series, entitled “New Stages: Narrative in Motion,” will feature showcases created by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Bill Bowers, Circle of Eleven and the Kate Weare Company. Each individual performance that the artists present, Currie explained, will be unique in its own way because each performance evolves differently. A show on Friday will not be the same as the following show on Saturday.“They are not improvisational, but they come directly out of the embodiment and expression of the living artists who present them,” Currie added.
The presentation of this series coincides with a widespread desire amongst museums around the country to incorporate performance art into the quintessential museum experience. Currie noted that this movement still lacks a definition.
“It’s not performing arts, it’s the art of performance, and the distinction being that this is theatre people who are really out on the edge, exploring new forms,” Currie said. “It’s wonderful to be able to give these [performers] a platform in Sarasota, for their work to be seen here, because I think it really does give us the opportunity to deepen the discourse.”
He also pointed out that this series would be more accessible to audiences than it predecessor from 2011.
“Any [performance] you come to, you will be emotionally moved and most certainly intellectually intrigued,” Currie said. “There are so many points of entry, whether you enter it as an exploration of movement, an exploration of character […] if you just come away with a bigger understanding of your world and those who share it with you, that’s probably the biggest wish of any artist.”
In the “Conversation with the Curator of Performance” that took place at the HAT this past Tuesday night, Currie addressed an audience about the upcoming performances, expressing that this exhibition will begin “at least conceptually” where the 2011 one left off.
“‘Narrative in Motion’ is, very first and foremost, an expression of, just an explosion of a new renaissance in the creative use of language, and gesture, and character and emotion, situation, new music, new media and musicality, in this new work that is being created,” Currie expressed. “These are new expressions, new forms and new ideas.”The first of the series, Joseph’s Word Becomes Flesh, will run from Jan. 24-26. It is a spoken word and movement-infused performance of letters written by a young soon-to-be father to his unborn son. Currie described it as “the embodiment of poetry” and a powerful social commentary on the role of fatherhood in this day and age. The excitement, bordering on awe, in Currie’s voice as he spoke about it quickly became contagious among the audience.
From Feb. 7-9, the talking-mime Bill Bowers returns to the HAT with Beyond Words. His performance, similarly to Joseph’s, explores the birth of a boy, but focuses more on what makes a boy, and how those boys become men using movement inspired by silence.
“If you held a mirror up to the Word Becomes Flesh you would have the perfect understanding of Beyond Words, Currie told his audience. “Whereas in Word Becomes Flesh you have one man, breaking his voice into many to eventually coalesce and speak to one, Bill is one man, giving voice to so many so that he may eventually enter that community as one.”The third movement performance is LEO, presented by Circle of Eleven, a troupe from Berlin known for their combinations of acrobatics, dance and theatre, which will be on stage from Feb. 21-23. LEO couples a live performance with a film of the same routine projected at a 90-degree angle to give the illusion of a man trapped in a box, defying the laws of gravity and common sense. Is he trapped or about to escape? Lonely or simply alone? “A fascinating study of movement” is how Currie described it.
The final production of the series by the Kate Weare Company runs March 7-9. According to Currie, Weare originally developed the concept behind this performance during her last visit to the Asolo in 2011, and as such, it holds a special place in his heart. Her work probes questions such as safety in an uncontrollable world and collective identity, placed in a dark, surreal reality.
Currie also announced that, thanks to the generous gifts of donors and in conjunction with the North Sarasota Library, a school bus will shepherd in a group of young people to see the opening night of “Word Becomes Flesh” for free.
Tickets for “Narrative in Motion” are between $15 and $25 and are available online at www.ringling.org or by calling the box office at (941) 360-7399.