Journal

Olivier Wever's 3Seasons Jan 16, 2010

by Catherine Cabeen

Olivier Wevers work is not the kind of thing people subscribe to OtB to see. This is exactly why it was a brilliant choice for Lane to present him. As a subscriber, it was great to see so many new faces in the audience and speak to people who had never seen a contemporary dance performance before. Wevers work creates a gentle bridge towards contemporary performance art for audiences who hold ballet aesthetics as the standard for good dance. He is certainly developing a unique voice (the show features work from 06, 07, and 09, the most recent being the most exciting), However, he has held onto many audience expectations such as pointe work for most of the women in his company, which left me thinking about Marshall McLuhan's 1967, "The Medium is the Message." Pointe shoes are a very specific medium that say one thing well; women are to be light, frail and weightless. Even direct, sharp movement is made piercing and fairy-like by these apparatus that for more than 300 years have allowed/forced female ballet dancers to embody an "idealized" version of the female form. Ballerinas are to be slight and ephemeral next to the grounded power of the male dancer, who never wears pointe shoes, except in rare incidences of drag performance.   Certainly classical ballet technique requires incredible strength and the women in Wevers company performed with commitment and aplomb.   I am however a feminist scholar and can not help but to point out the unspoken assumptions that accompany ballet aesthetics which in part led to the creation of modern dance by women over 100 years ago. I find it fascinating that the gendered hierarchy that is inherent in ballet not only sells out houses and gets standing ovations, but is also so ingrained in our expectations of viewing ballet, that it is for many patrons, invisible. What connects Wevers to contemporary dance however is his capacity for self-representation (the goal of the modern, negro, and leftist dance movements of the early 20th century). The male dancers in his company were given stunning movement sequences that not only showed their technical virtuousity via grace and line, but also subverted expectations by juxtaposing strong movements with delicut ones.   Wevers understands personally the complextity of being a man in the ballet world, and that embodied understanding fueled the best choreography in the show. He choreographs masculinity in a way that expresses its multi-faceted nature and portrays various relationships between men which presented them as refreshingly multi-dimensional characters. Wevers also cuts a contemporary edge via his collaborators. In 3Seasons, the newest work, Mike Cepress' costumes and Byron Au Yong's music beautifully merge with Wevers choreography as all three artists have a great eye for detail within a consistent aesthetic world. In a particularly effective sequence three women wear wire skirts that make the shape of romantic tutus, these frames are stuffed with plastic bags around the top, mimiking the silloutet of classical tutus. Three men enter wearing Cepress collars (brilliant pieces which effectivly accentuate the beauty of the male body), and pull the plastic bags from the women's skirts. After littering the stage with this plastic, which become familiar in the deconstruction of the costume, the bags are then stuffed into the women's chests referenceing breast implants and plastic as a now common extention of the human body. The men then bury their face in the women's enhanced breasts illustrating our culture's desire for, and obsession with, disposable material and consumption. The section effectively communicated the place of the body in this consumer ethos, as another material good to be upgraded by that which is man made. Congratulations and thanks to all the dancers and collaborators for their hard, effective work, and to Olivier for having the courage to stand on his own and offer his voice.

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