CHOREOGRAPHER REBECCA LAZIER TEAMS WITH NEWSPEAK IN SITE-SPECIFIC SETTING OF RZEWSKI’S COMING TOGETHER/ATTICA US PREMIERE AT INVISIBLE DOG, JUNE 13, 14, 15
DANCERS: RASHAUN MITCHELL + SILAS RIENER (EX-CUNNINGHAM), ASLI BULBUL (EX-BILL T JONES), JENNIFER LAFFERTY (BETH GILL, YASUKO YOKOSHI), PIERRE GUILBAULT + CHRISTOPHER RALPH
On Thursday, June 13 (7 + 9 pm) at The Invisible Dog in Brooklyn, choreographer Rebecca Lazier and indie-classical ensemble Newspeak present the first US performances of Coming Together/Attica, a site-specific setting of Frederic Rzewski’s iconic minimalist scores written following the 1971 prison riots in upstate New York. Lazier’s dancers are Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener (formerly of Merce Cunningham Dance Company); Asli Bulbul, most recently from Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company; Jennifer Lafferty, who is featured in the work of Beth Gill and Yasuko Yokoshi; Pierre Guilbault; and Christopher Ralph.
David T. Little of Newspeak will conduct, with Mellissa Hughes as the vocal soloist. With lighting design by Bessie Award-winner Davison Scandrett, The Invisible Dog’s third-floor loft will be transformed into a stark, immersive environment for Lazier’s powerful choreography, with the dance unfolding at opposite ends of the 4,000-square-foot space. Beams of light will sweep through frosted windows from outside, evoking a prison guard tower or a lighthouse. The 50-minute performance will be repeated on Friday, June 14 (7:30 and 9:30 pm) and Saturday, June 15 (7:30 and 9:30 pm). Tickets are $20, suggested donation, available through Brown Paper Tickets.
Rebecca Lazier is a project-based choreographer based in Brooklyn and on the faculty at Princeton University, where she met David T. Little, who earned his doctorate in composition there. Coming Together/Attica premiered in May, 2012 at the Scotia Festival of Music in Halifax. The music and movement of Coming Together/Attica juxtapose finely wrought structural directives with impulsive individual improvisations. The energy unleashed by these counterpoised forces drives both Rzewski’s score and Lazier’s choreography.
T H E S C O R E
Coming Together is an influential classic of early-‘70s minimalism. It is based on a letter by Sam Melville, a leader of the Attica prisoners’ uprising who lost his life as a result of it. The text is a cryptic exhortation – a coded message, since the prisoners’ mail was subject to censorship. Attica, subtitled “Coming Together, Part Two,” is more sustained and reflective. It sets the remark of an inmate who survived the uprising, which claimed the lives of 39 prisoners and prison staff in a chaotic siege by the New York State Police. When asked, “How does it feel to have Attica behind you,” the prisoner responded, “Attica is in front of me.”
Both parts consist of a single line of music; it is up to the performing ensemble to create a suitable arrangement. Newspeak’s original version is arranged for eight instrumentalists (two clarinets, cello, electric guitar, three percussionists, keyboards, and a female vocalist), a compelling blend of classical, rock, and jazz timbres.
Although Rzewski composed Coming Together and Attica in response to the riots, Lazier has not set out to create a political piece: “It’s more an exploration of isolation, which is something we all go through,” says Lazier. “I’m drawn to the music’s structural constraints, and on a deeper level, to the values embedded in the score.”
T H E D A N C E
Says Rebecca Lazier, “The text for Coming Together was written within the walls of Attica, while the text for Attica was spoken outdoors. This influenced the trajectory of the dance, the lighting and costume design, and dictated the movement of the audience.”
- Part I: Coming Together. Bodies collide, push, react to isolation and oppression. The music drives, perpetually pulsing, while the spoken text carefully and deliberately builds in intensity.
- Part II: The Quiet. Performed in silence, The Quiet finds the performers lapsing between memories, reality, and animal states.
- Part III: Attica. Uses structure to manage adversity. Decisive and demanding dancing, with overlapping, repeated phrases of movement, evokes a musical fugue. The music shifts to softly arching music overlaid with sung text.
Coming Together and Attica take place on opposite ends of The Invisible Dog’s expansive third floor. The lighting design forComing Together delineates aninterior space that contains both the audience and performers. The floor is black, the windows – on three sides – are frosted, long florescent tubes line the perimeter and radiate light from under the viewer’s chairs, and spotlights hang from the ceiling. The confinement is interrupted by intermittent beams of light originating outdoors that pass through the room, similar to the movement of a prison tower’s beams or a lighthouse’s beacon. The costumes for Coming Together are uniform, jumpsuits of single saturated color. In the beginning they are buttoned, restrictive, but by the end, they are roughed up and unbuttoned.
At the end of Coming Together, the performers leave the intensity of this room to an intermediary space; they sit on utilitarian bleachers placed in the middle of the entire floor between the spaces for Coming Together and Attica. The audience follows. Signage designates a pathway and security guards will guide viewers to a zone where they will stand to observe Part II. The roles are reversed; the isolated performers sit and look out a t the audience who stands. This section is performed in silence and serves to transition from the intensity of Coming Together to the release of Attica. Lighting depicts a liminal space, neither outdoors nor indoors, echoing the shifting emotional, mental and physical states inhabited by the dancers.
Slowly, individually, once ready to emerge from isolation, the dancers leave the bleachers and move to the far end of the space for Attica. Adjacent to a white wall, full-length clear windows line one side of the space. The audience will sit on benches that line two sides of the rectangle. Stark, bright light will stream in from outside, the instruments located on the fire escape. Attica is expansive: the dancers are now independent, no longer pushing, shoving, or throwing others as in CT, or wholly isolated as in Part II. During the transition from the bleachers the dancers change costumes in full view o f the audience. The costumes for Attica are individualized metallic and white clothes that highlight the body in movement.
A B O U T R E B E C C A L A Z I E R
Rebecca Lazier, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia and an alumna of The Juilliard School, choreographs for a project-based group of dancers and is a Senior Lecturer in dance at Princeton University.
Lazier’s work has been performed in many New York venues including Danspace Project, The Kitchen, the Guggenheim Museum, 92nd Street Y, Joyce SoHo, and Movement Research at the Judson Church. In addition, she has toured to a variety of locales from Martha’s Vineyard to Los Angeles, Jacob’s Pillow to New Orleans, from Nova Scotia, Canada to Turkey. Recently, Lazier has received grants for her choreographic research from the Canada Council on the Arts and the NY Department of Cultural Affairs administered through the Brooklyn Arts Council. She has been artist-in-residence at Movement Research, The Joyce Theater Foundation, The Yard and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program.
At Princeton, Rebecca teaches technique, choreography, repertory and has created courses and co-taught with music scholar Simon Morrison and legendary NYCB Principal dancer Heather Watts. Rebecca was previously on faculty at UCLA, Wesleyan College, Trinity College, Hartford Ballet/ University of Hartford, and was first artist-in-residence for a year at Mimar Sinan Conservatory in Istanbul, Turkey.
Rebecca has been a guest artist at numerous institutions including James Madison University, Shenandoah Conservatory, Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, ACDFA Festivals, Dance Nova Scotia and Interlochen Arts Academy. From 2003-2006 Rebecca was the festival director at the White Mountain Summer Dance Festival, and her company was in residence. Rebecca has also been a panelist/presenter at many conferences including: Dance USA, Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, Congress on Research in Dance, The Juilliard School, and Roehampton University in London. Visitwww.rebeccalazier.com.
A B O U T N E W S P E A K
Newspeak, named after the thought-limiting language in George Orwell’s 1984, is an amplified powerhouse ensemble that became an early standout within New York’s “indie-classical” scene. The current stellar line-up – Caleb Burhans (composer/violin), David T. Little (composer/drums), Mellissa Hughes (voice), Eileen Mack (clarinet), Taylor Levine (guitar), Brian Snow (cello), James Johnston (piano), and Peter Wise (percussion) – began performing together in 2008, and released their first CD, sweet light crude, on New Amsterdam Records in November 2010, to critical acclaim.
Newspeak has been featured as part of the Tune-In Festival with eighth blackbird at the Park Avenue Armory, the Ecstatic Music Festival in NYC, on New Sounds Live, and at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. They have headlined on the MATA Festival, shared bills with The Fiery Furnaces as part of Wordless Music, and performed as part of John Zorn’s Full Force festival. Actively committed to the music of its time, Newspeak has commissioned and premiered work by David T. Little, Caleb Burhans, Corey Dargel, Oscar Bettison, Ted Hearne, Judd Greenstein, Missy Mazzoli and many others. “You could call this punk classical,” Lucid Culture wrote, “fearlessly aware…(and) resolutely defiant.” Website:www.newspeakmusic.org.
Coming Together/Attica was made possible, in part, through The Movement Research Artist Residency Project funded by the Leonard and Sophie Davis Fund. Development and production funds were awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts, Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council, Inc., Puffin Foundation, New Music USA’s 2013 Live Music for Dance Program, and Princeton University’s Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts, Committee on Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Program in Dance.
The Invisible Dog Art Center is located at 51 Bergen St. (between Smith and Court Sts.) in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Telephone: 347/560-3641; website: www.theinvisibledog.org.