Klein ’12 creates dance inspired by Kiki Smith print
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 22:04
Outside the Rose Art Museum, shaded by the trees, a dance interpretation of visual artist Kiki Smith’s very original artwork fit perfectly into the surrounding nature and marked an interesting start to my first Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts weekend.
The dance piece, entitled “Rivers are Lost in the Sea” and choreographed by Rachel Klein ’12, started promptly on Friday afternoon, and the entire dance was over in mere minutes. Along with fellow dancers Diana Flatto ’12 and Alexandra Patch ’14, Klein transformed Smith’s screen-printed “Lucy’s Daughters” into an interpretative surrealist dance piece.
Because there was no formal stage or seating, the audience mainly clustered around a large wooden structure that resembled stacked shipping pallets and served as the dance’s focal point. A large sheet with two shadowed figures painted on it covered one side of the platform. The dance began in silence, and Klein danced to unheard music alone on the stage. Moments later, Flatto and Patch emerged—each wore a simple white dress with a thick rope tied from her wrist to her ankle. Klein’s black dress contrasted with the white clothing of the other two dancers.
At first, the dance seemed choppy. It was merely a series of movements and the dancers appeared disassociated from one another. However, the dancers became more unified, and their interactions began to depict a closer connection as they moved at the same time like one fluid body. Towards the end of the piece, Klein took the sheet off the wooden figure, spread it on the ground and lay down on top of the shadowed figures. The other two dancers gingerly wrapped the sheet around her body and exited, leaving her as a shrouded figure at center stage.
At first, I had no clue what the dance meant, but luckily, Klein led an interactive discussion inside the Rose Art Museum in front of the original Smith screen print following her performance. I stood towards the back of the exhibit, listening and drawing my own conclusions about the piece. Smith’s original silkscreen resembles the sheet Klein was wrapped in and has dozens of naked female figures printed on it in an arrangement similar to an upside down triangle. If you look closely, you can see thin strings connecting many of the women at the belly button.
I recalled how at one point during the end of the dance piece, Flatto and Patch tied their ropes together, alluding to the strings that connect the daughters on the silk screen. The piece in its entirety somehow reminded me of Plato’s “The Cave,” which reveals truths about the universal human condition. The dancers looked like they too were emerging from a cave and realizing their own strength as individuals and dancers, breaking free from the constraints society places upon them as women or humans in general. Like “The Cave,” the people are anonymous and have a sense of longing in their actions, meaning that they are trying to transcend the shackles and explore outside the cave.
Having also studied Smith in an art history class on Frida Kahlo, it was interesting to see how Klein portrayed the dancers with rope, like shackles, tied around their arms and legs. To me, the restraints represented powerlessness to the desires of others, and this contrasts with the feminist nature of Smith’s work. Other than the relationships between the dancers, I didn’t see many obvious similarities between the two art forms.
I think this was done purposely to show how art is open to interpretation and takes many forms. I thoroughly enjoyed the piece and I think having the dance outside made a huge difference in its success. If it had been on an indoor stage, the dance would have looked too simple and abstract; outside, there was an amazing contrast between the freedom and pure beauty of nature and the constrained rigidity and colorlessness of the dance.
Maybe I’m biased because I love Smith’s art or because I know Klein is a great choreographer after having seen her Liquid Latex piece this year, but “Rivers are Lost in the Sea” was a thought-provoking addition to the Arts Festival. I appreciated the way that, instead of Klein and her dancers bluntly throwing their interpretation at the audience, we were left to contemplate its meaning on our own.