INTERDISCIPLINARIANS: From mime to dancer to pianist, and from storyteller back to dancer, the stage at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts one day last week hosted a changing parade of "interdisciplinary" artists.
They were auditioning for a place on the Arizona Artists Roster, a list put together by the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Those who successfully make it through the jurying are eligible for residencies in schools and rec centers around the state. For artists struggling to make a living, getting onto the roster and winning paid residencies is crucial. Jitters were not uncommon.
I was one of three panelists judging the interdisciplinary arts, a broadly defined category that has far fewer applicants than the more traditional music or theatre or dance or visual arts.
The 12 hopefuls embraced all these arts, sometimes all at the same time. At its worst, interdisciplinary means being a little bit skillful in a lot of things--kind of like the old jack of all trades, master of none. At its best, it means jumping over boundaries and bringing movement, music, visuals and spoken word into one dazzling, moving piece.
We saw both kinds that day. One artist spent the allotted five minutes drifting aimlessly from movement exercises, to painting, to piano playing. Another electrified the judges with a dynamic musical performance on gourd instruments from around the world, all the while giving a syncopated explanation of how and why the various cultures used the gourds differently. Most cases weren't so clearcut.
It was a sobering experience for a critic like me, who can normally cast judgments from the anonymity of the computer screen, to meet artists face to face and to see their anxiety up close and personal. And it was frustrating for a journalist who usually can ask any questions under the sun to be limited by fairness rules that required the same five questions, and no more, be asked of each applicant.
But it was a useful exercise. I'm more than happy to do my bit to get high-quality artists into our virtually art-less public schools, if only for a week or two. And it reminded me once again that some of the most interesting art is no respecter of borders or limits. If not all the artists on the audition list were exactly ready for prime time, I saw a couple of professional dance performances in Tucson a few days later that were stellar examples of interdisciplinary art at its best.
Orts Theatre of Dance, long nudging its way out of a narrow definition of dance, put on a concert that was a lively mix of dance and music styles. Most interesting--and most interdisciplinary--was "Household," a collaboration between choreographer Anne Bunker and musician William Eaton about families and family life. It used such props as strollers and a dinner table, it had an interesting score of music and spoken word, and drama techniques mightily enhanced the interactions between the dancers-who-were-acting and the actors-who-were-dancing.
On Saturday night, Tamar Rogoff, a New York choreographer of justifiable renown, presented a video/slide lecture about The Ivye Project, her dance/theatre piece that was performed in the summer of 1994 in the woods of Belarus (formerly a part of Poland). The work commemorated the 2,500 Jews, including Rogoff's family, who were slaughtered on the spot in 1942 by the Nazis. The performers included five survivors and some 95 professionals, including musicians, dancers and actors. Through a powerful blend of all the arts--classical and folk music, modern and folk dance, virtuoso acting, and an unduplicatable setting on the site of a massacre--Rogoff's work, as seen in the video, was an interdisciplinary knockout.
TRAVELING SHOW: This weekend, Tucson's homegrown Cabaret Magritte, a performance art showcase, moves to its new home at The Temple Of Music And Art Cabaret Theatre, 330 S. Scott Ave. The show starts at 8 p.m., Saturday, November 4. Admission is $3 at the door.
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