ALWIN NIKOLAIS

ALWIN NIKOLAIS

source: joyceorg

Under the artistic direction of Murray Louis and Alberto del Saz, the work of Alwin Nikolais comes back to The Joyce for the first time since the 2010 worldwide centennial celebration of this master choreographer. “A true dance luminary, a choreographer, designer, composer of electronic music and a pioneer of multi-media dance” (The New York Times), Nikolais will be honored with a program performed by The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company that will include Tensile Involvement (1955), Gallery (1978), Mechanical Organ III (1983), and Crucible (1985), some of the most renowned works that he created during his long and successful career.
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source: villagevoice

Picture this: Human arms appear over the top of a slanting mirror wall about four feet high; as they stretch up, they acquire reflections joined to them at the armpit. Soon we’re watching wormy double-handed arms, or legs with feet at both ends, squabbling or swaying harmoniously. Eventually, like the bisected royalty on a deck of cards, 10 dancers’ nude upper torsos appear, reflected in a seductively illuminated pond. This is Crucible (1985) by Alwin Nikolais (1910–1993).

In 1971, Nikolais—fuming over some people’s charge that he “dehumanized” his dancers—wrote that he “wanted man to be able to identify with things other than himself. This is the day of ecological and environmental visions. We must give up our naval contemplations long enough to take our places in space.” His glowing, candy-colored visions of transformed creatures had become a fetching alternative to the wrenching psychodramas that dominated modern dance in the 1950s.

Those who trekked down to the Henry Street Playhouse (now part of the Abrons Art Center) in the ’50s remember Nikolais sitting in a box angled out from the balcony—pressing a tape recorder’s buttons to play the musique concrète he had devised and cueing the lighting effects he had designed to transform the dancers, sketches of whose costumes filled his notebooks.

Nikolais’s interest in abstraction, as well as his skill at controlling all the elements of a production, may have been nourished in the puppet theater he created as a young man. But at Henry Street (his company’s home until 1970), he had bright, imaginative living dancers to fuel his experiments—choreographer Murray Louis, his muse and partner, prominent among them. During this centennial year of his birth, thanks to Louis and Alberto del Saz (artistic directors of the Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance), Salt Lake City’s Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company (a repository for Nik’s works) will show some of these pieces in cities around the world. Those unfamiliar with them may recognize the choreographer’s influence: Pilobolus, Momix, and even Cirque de Soleil’s spectacles have—in various ways—learned from him the pleasure we take in seeing bodies looking unlike themselves.

Recent performances, both at the Abrons and at the Joyce, included Tensile Involvement (1955). In it, 10 rushing dancers build cat’s cradles of wide elastic ribbons that stretch from wing to wing of the stage. A man, leaping like a conjuror at the center, can gather them into a huge symmetrical web. Suddenly each strip becomes a picture frame for a dancer, and these portraits tilt in response to the rhythms of the electronic music. Nikolais’s scores are intimately tied to each dance, although you often sense underneath their burblings and occasional soundbursts a living, festering, waiting-to-explode earth.

Nikolais usually worked in the suite form—breaking an idea into loosely linked variations. Occasionally, you’ve had enough of one and are greedy for the next, but mostly you marvel at the kaleidoscopic permutations of mobile, costumed bodies; shadows; slide projections; and light. In the opening from Liturgies (1985) at the Joyce, against a black-and-white backdrop showing what could be bare trees, the dancers begin in a squat, bouncing slightly up and down, their straight arms winging to the side. As the choreography develops, they spin one at a time, creating bubbles in the unison order. When later they run in a big square, the lighting turns those at the front of the stage red, while those at the back speed through a blue zone.

The Ririe-Woodbury dancers presented only excerpts from Liturgies, but you can posit religious connections in “Effigy”; one man braces and turns a T-topped pole on which another climbs and hangs (Aaron Draper and Caine Keenan are the performers). “Reliquary” hints at saintly ordeals, with a wild-haired creature (Andrea Dispenziere) roped to a pole like a marionette and borne in by two men. And the stupendous partial masks and stiff silver costumes worn by three women in “Carillon” transform each of them into a stylized cluster of bells.

Nikolais’s greatest pieces (Tent, for one) not only beguile our senses, but stir us with images from dreams and nightmares. By way of contrast, Tower (from the 1965 Vaudeville of the Elements) sheds light on the engaging dancers’ personalities. Like the builders of the apocryphal Tower of Babel, they chatter with gusto to one another and us, while swinging or lounging on their individual metal fences. When they build a corral (with gates to signify who’s in and who’s out), they’re a seething bouquet in their bright-colored unitards. This is one of Nikolais’s milder apocalyptic works, yet as soon as a tower is erected, there’s a crash, a blaze of light, a burst of smoke, and a plunge into darkness.

In the 1970s, his dances enthralled a stoned generation. They still offer as fine a psychedelic turn-on as anything you might want to smoke.
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source: perdiemfr

Alwin Nikolais aura connu le sort envié du précurseur devenu fondateur. Dans le vaste bouleversement qui marqua les années d’après-guerre, il affirma sa personnalité, développa ses expériences, sur la base d’un héritage qui venait aussi bien de Mary Wigman que de Hanya Holm. Né en 1910, Nikolais cumulait en outre des pratiques artistiques multiples. Peintre, sculpteur, poète, marionnettiste, compositeur et pianiste accompagnant à seize ans déjà les films muets. Il maîtrisait ainsi des techniques qu’il emploierait simultanément dans l’élaboration de spectacles chorégraphiques parfaitement originaux.
Ainsi, dès 1951, il écrivit lui-même la musique de ses pièces, dont il pouvait assurer également la décoration et les lumières, dans la quête d’un théâtre total. Sa familiarité avec le cinéma porta aussi ses fruits. Et comment ne pas trouver aussi dans l’usage de certains accessoires le souvenir du théâtre de marionnettes qu’il dirigea en 1937 à Hartford ?
Univers nouveau et étrange, en effet, que celui que l’on vit émerger dans les années cinquante, avec ce foisonnement de couleurs, de lumières, de trucages, qui bousculaient totalement les données esthétiques acquises. Cela tenait du mime, de l’acrobatie, de la magie. En 1968, le public parisien découvrait alors une jeune danseuse fulgurante de sa troupe, Carolyn Carlson, qui ne tarderait pas à s’évader et à trouver les chemins de sa propre inspiration.
Si le côté inattendu, flamboyant, protéiforme, coloré, des œuvres de Nikolais contribua à son succès, il souligne lui-même qu’encore plus importante et nouvelle est sa conception du mouvement. « C’est notre succès ou notre échec à agir dans le temps et dans l’espace, qui culmine en émotion. Nous n’avons pas besoin d’apprendre à comprendre le langage abstrait du mouvement, car le mouvement est au cœur de chaque instant de notre vie. Le danseur est donc finalement le spécialiste capable de ressentir, de percevoir et d’exécuter le mouvement ».
Aujourd’hui c’est la Ririe- Woodbury Dance Company sous la direction artistique de Alberto Del Saz qui perpétue l’esprit de Nikolais. Fondée en 1964 par Shirley Ririe et Joan Woodbury, interprètes et chorégraphes très proches de Nikolais, cette compagnie a beaucoup contribué à la propagation d’une œuvre qui apparaît ici dans toute sa diversité.
Avec plus de cent vingt ballets, l’œuvre d’Alwin Nikolais, disparu en 1993, a traversé de ses fulgurances les cinquante dernières années du deuxième millénaire, riche à la fois des plus récentes découvertes de l’homme et témoin de ses plus ancestrales angoisses face aux lois fondamentales qui régissent l’univers.
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source: unoaunoteatroblogspot

Alwin Nikolais trabajó como acompañante al piano de cine mudo durante los años 50´s, en la época del expresionismo alemán. Después de ver el trabajo de Mary Wigman decide practicar danza y comienza a tomar clases con Hanya Holm, donde conoce a Murray Louis, con quien colaboraría posteriormente.

Nikolais no se considera a sí mismo como bailarín, por eso decidió ser coreógrafo. Él mismo se llamaba “arquitecto del movimiento” y concibe al acto escénico como un conjunto de elementos (coreografía, música, iluminación, escenografía; es decir: “teatro integral”).

Una de las contribuciones más importantes de Nikolais a la danza contemporánea es la deshumanización del cuerpo del bailarín para lograr la abstracción del movimiento. A Nikolais le interesa poco cómo se mueve el bailarín o por qué sino desde dónde, pues no es el centro del universo, ni de la obra; es un importante elemento, nada más. Sus composiciones no usan la narrativa lineal o anecdótica sino el movimiento puro, esto tiene que ver con la abstracción del intérprete, esto era buscado también en lo musical pues utilizaba música concreta, en cuya manifestación desaparece el intérprete, siendo lo principal el sonido y el tiempo, no el ritmo, pulso o compás.

Para Nikolais era muy importante la propuesta plástica en el discurso coreográfico, utilizaba planos, maquetas y bocetos para definir los diseños espaciales y escenográficos, se valía de elementos audiovisuales como proyecciones y diapositivas. Nikolais fundó la compañía de Danza Playhouse, que después se llamaría Nikolais Dance Theater.

Conoció a Murray Louis durante un verano en un curso impartido por Hanya Holm en Colorado. Murray entró a la compañía de Nikolais y más tarde serían pareja sentimental durante mucho tiempo. Colaboraron en varios proyectos juntos, Murray ayudaba a Alwin a traducir sus ideas en movimiento y Nikolais compuso para él varios solos que no se integraban precisamente a los elementos antes mencionados que construían este espectáculo multimedia. Las calidades de movimiento logradas por Murray eran el reflejo de la filosofía de la danza de Nikolais, generaban el movimiento verdaderamente abstraído del cuerpo humano. Realizaba un trabajo de investigación corporal y de análisis de movimiento muy fuerte, lo cual fue una de las cosas que impactaron a Nikolais al verle bailar.