Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Historical Influences

Oskar Schlemmer's "Triadisches Ballett" (Triadic Ballet)

Loie Fuller's "Danse Serpentine"

          Alwin Nikolais' works find similar root the work of his predecessors. Two such artists were Loie Fuller and Oskar Schlemmer. Just as with Nikolais' choreography, these two artists sought to transform the dancer from a mere person dancing on a stage, into a character or supernatural being. Thus the audience is no longer attending the theater simply to see dance, but rather to observe these characters in their natural setting. All three artists utilized lights, props, and costumes to not only transform the performers but also to  transform the stage into a mysterious far-away or super-terrestrial environment. 

"Watching a Nikolais dance, you can imagine that you're peering through a microscope into a world of tiny organisms, gaily anthropomorphized; or perhaps it's a kaleidoscope you've glued your eye to; at other times the images might be inside a dreaming mind." (Time and the Dancing Image, Deborah Jowitt, pg. 356)

        One major difference between Alwin Nikolais and his predecessors was that "unlike [Oskar] Schlemmer... Nikolais uses a complex vocabulary of movement." (Time and the Dancing Image, Deborah Jowitt, pg. 354) Nikolais gave concrete meaning through movement vocabulary. This has also allowed for many of his pieces to survive the test of time and be reset with accuracy at a later date. Similar to Schlemmer yet different from Fuller, Nikolais never actually danced in his own works. Rather he sat on high running stage and lighting cues as if he were actually physically dictating the movements of each dancer like a puppeteer.  

        A variation between Loie Fuller and Alwin Nikolais was that "disguise [is] a fact, rather than metamorphosis as a process, is usually the focus of Nikolais' works." (Time and the Dancing Image, Deborah Jowitt, pg. 356) This quote posses the comparison that whereas with Fuller's works, where a woman was transformed into a flower or a butterfly before the audience's eyes, Nikolais' dancers are introduced to the audience already transformed. Also in Fuller's work, there was a celebration of femininity through not only her movement, but also her costumes. Contrary to that idea, Nikolais' "costumes rarely emphasize gender differences." (Time and the Dancing Image, Deborah Jowitt, pg. 357) Yet another technical difference between Fuller and Nikolais is how the audience is to perceive the transformation on stage.  With Fuller, the mechanism for the illusion is hidden, whereas Nikolais' work allows the audience to be aware of how the illusions are being created. 

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