Stunners on Phase
["I Know It's Only Reich 'n' All, But I Like It"]
August 12, 2009
I may be a lover, but I ain't no dancer. Leastwise, I am no dancer when it comes to formalized/organized movement any more complex than a box step, and even that has been known to test my limits from time to time. Other members of my household are happily not so terpsichoreally challenged as I. The best I can claim for myself is that in the non-formalized, wriggle and jiggle school of dancing, I can hold my own with St. Vitus -- "rapid, irregular, and aimless involuntary movements of the arms and legs, trunk, and facial muscles". And even I can manage quite well as a spectator of other people dancing.
Which brings us to Fox's So You Think You Can Dance , Season 5 of which ended just last week. My lady wife began watching the show enthusiastically a couple of years ago and ultimately turned me into a fan as well. Ordinarily, it is not the sort of thing I would mention here, but this season's final round of competition included an unexpected dollop of one of my favorite things: Minimalism!
Below, the final two women in the competition, Kayla Radomski (blond) and eventual champion Jeanine Mason (not blond), perform a piece choreographed by Emmy winner Mia Michaels set to an excerpt from the fourth and final section of The Four Sections, a 1987 composition by minimalist eminence and 2009 Pulitzer winner Steve Reich:
A higher quality, non-embeddable version of this performance is (currently) viewable here.
I have to say that neither of these very fine dancers shows at her respective best in this number -- the synchronization seems a bit off and there is some obvious non-cooperation by Jeanine's costume at the conclusion -- but it was nonetheless nifty to hear a Seriously Serious Composer such as Reich being used in a context in which pop 'n' hip-hop (or Carmina Burana) are far more common.
For additional listening:
Reich's best known work is probably Music For 18 Musicians. His website features a free MP3 recording of a longish excerpt from the world premiere performance in 1976. (Click on the "multimedia" link to reach it.)
Continuing the "minimalism in unexpected places" theme, Reich's influence is inescapable in the arrangement of "Island, IS," a track prereleased this week from the forthcoming album by Bon Iver side project Volcano Choir. Plink plink plink, pulse pulse pulse, repeat.
Illustration: from the score of Steve Reich's seminal Piano Phase (1967), via ESTWeb. Last year at this time, I highlighted a tour de force performance of that same work.