John Rufo: An Interview with Jennifer Bartlett - cover photo by Emma Bee Bernstein[*Jennifer Bartlett*is the author of several books of poetry, including, most recently *Autobiography / Anti-Autobiograph...
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Word into media w/ high art & amateur enthusiasm
It's always interesting to see people you know do work you do, so I was fascinated last night to watch the "May These Changes Make Us Light" production on Cherokee Street. This was an ambitious multimedia show that mixed live music (rock band, string section, handdrums) with dance (aerial, pole, Mexican folk), video, spoken word, shadow puppetry and costumed theatrics. Most of it was ultimately text-based, so they were translating poetry and folklore into other media. That's exactly what Poetry Scores does, so I was fascinated to watch how other very talented people do what we do.
In the cast was one of my very favorite local artists in any media, Michelle Mynx, choreographer and pole dancer and half of Gravity Plays Favorites. Michelle performed in a narrative piece with many other elements. Like most of the production, it had an earthy yet spiritual basis, and I enjoyed to see one-half of the burlesque duo Gravity Plays Favorites choregraph for solo pole dance in a setting where sexuality was not themed.
I have a reverent attitude toward Michelle's work and Gravity. I get so blissed out that I experience it differently and it's hard to compare to the rest of my experience of a show. For the part of the show where I wasn't awestruck, my favorite bit was the opening: Fire Dog playing "Prelude," their collaboration with The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra. I listen to that song so often from my sampler of the new Fire Dog record that my daughter, who joined me for the show, blurted out at the second chord, "I know this song."
I was struck elsewhere in another Fire Dog number that Celia is an amazing bass player. I always assumed she was a chord-chopping band leader playing bass in a buddy's band to help out, but she has made the instrument her own.
The aerial dancer Indie Nombrilou had another featured spot. Her work also puts me over toward that awe-o-sphere where there's not much I am able to say about it other than I am glad she is working here while I am here.
The venue was a nightclub, more given to loud bands than multi-media shows, so the lighting was poor. I especially couldn't see Indie's act as well as I would have liked. There is a trade-off in the lighting, because Light was the main theme of the show and various projections of light (which required darkness to work) were integral to the show. That includes skilled video work by Mike Pagano which threaded in and out of the other performances.
The show closer was led by the voice of Lyndsey Scott. Lyndsey is one of my other favorite artists in town whom I've always asked to do everything. I've not seen her in her own element that much, so it was interesting to see her persona in its more native setting. I felt her as a strong spiritual center for the show.
I was dragged out to a show on a school night by Rebecca S. Rivas, who choreographed and danced and had a role in the overall shape of the production. Rebecca and I share a highly demanding and rewarding day job at The St. Louis American. So though I see her more days than I don't, and though we have dozens of friends and creative partners in common, I actually never share art with her.
We talked about the show and about producing shows today. We agreed on a shared aesthetic, which is also an ethic in a way. We agreed it's good to mix high professional talent and vocation with amateur enthusiasm. It's good to have both Michelle Mynx, who could work anywhere in the world, and your friends who want to put on an animal costume and act out a folk tale. We agreed there's something really good, and something really St. Louis, about that mix.
Translating poetry and folklore into other media with a playful mix of high art and amateur enthusiasm -- that's the thing I am talking about; that's the thing we do around here.
Photo of the great Michelle Mynx borrowed from her Facebook page.