The Loss of an Iconposted on May 5th, 2012 by Kaitlin Overton
What is dance? This question is consistently on my mind during each dance performance presented by Montclair State’s Department of Theatre and Dance, and Danceworks 2012 was no exception. Seven pieces in a variety of styles were performed, each created by equally unique types of choreographers and artists.
One piece that was especially striking was entitled we love you get up, directed and choreographed by Chase Brock. This piece was not so much a dance in the conventional definition of the word as a theater piece with dance and other elements integrated into it. There were dancers, yes, but there were also actors involved who helped to tell a more definite story than that in some of the other dance pieces, whose plots and stories were often open to interpretation. we love you get up began with a beautifully staged image of what appeared to be different families in pairs or small groups. Everyone on stage was dressed in the same color scheme—white or gray with some kind of red accent. We then heard actor Michael Joel reciting a Frank O’Hara poem entitled “Poem [Lana Turned has collapsed!].” Joel focused on the language of the poem, and the mood was suddenly set because we were hearing about how icon Lana Turner really did collapse; it was a bit spooky but still sentimental. When different lines of the poem were being read, dancers would emerge from the big picture on stage, literally, and embody the words. Each pair had its own story, and it was very fluid and calming to watch.
The poem was repeated several times and often ended with the phrase, “Oh Lana Turner, we love you, get up.” Each time this phrase was repeated by an actor, it had a different tone. Actor Ryan Eakins, for example, was looking straight out into the audience when he said this, and it felt as if he was disappointed in Lana Turner for falling down and that she would be embarrassing herself and everyone around her if she didn’t get up. Eakins had a fierceness in his eyes that told Lana Turner she was pathetic for falling down. It was a very strong and specific moment that was different from the moments some of the other actors had. Ian Callahan had moments of desperation while begging for the help of others in trying to find someone of whom he had only a photograph. He was still reciting O’Hara’s poem, but in a way that was more urgent than the way Michael Joel, who was much more grounded, spoke. Both the actors and dancers, though, told the story of a huge icon crumbling to the ground as her loved ones, who had their own stories, surrounded her in mourning and loss.
What do you think of when you picture a legendary icon or event that has had a monumental effect on millions of people? What comes to your mind when you imagine someone or something crumbling to the ground as millions of people watch?
Kaitlin Overton is an undergraduate student at Montclair State University.