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The Edge of Dance

March 20, 1994

Regarding "Dance to the Edge," by Lewis Segal (March 6):

What a nice surprise to see an article on dance, and local dance at that, on the cover of Sunday's Calendar. I applaud The Times and Lewis Segal for this reporting and hope this will signal increased coverage of dance in the future.

Trends come and go. Ten years ago Mary Jane Eisenberg's form of dance, termed "hyper realism," was in vogue. Now it's "Hyperdance." The tenets of Hyperdance, however, are not new. Both George Ballanchine in ballet and Merce Cunningham in modern dance (to name just two) wanted an audience to "perceive the movement first and foremost before laying any trip on it," to use Segal's phrase.

However, it is indicative of the times that many of these Hyperdance choreographers are not interested in communicating with an audience. This attitude reflects society's increasing lack of interest in communicating with one another, something I find rather distressing, particularly in art.

In an art form in which your body is literally your instrument, I wonder how long the proponents of Hyperdance will be able to push their bodies to the limit. Hyperdance may burn itself out because there won't be anyone left to do it.

And this too, I suppose, is a fitting tribute of the times.

DONNA STERNBERG

Artistic Director

Donna Sternberg & Dancers

Santa Monica

*

Those of us in the arts are especially grateful to The Times when the arts get coverage.

Segal's article informs the public that dance here in Los Angeles has finally been acknowledged. History tells us that dance came into its own in Los Angeles in the 1920s, when Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn established the Denishawn school right here in Eagle Rock. One can only wonder where all of contemporary dance would be without their vision.

Need I say there is a wide void from the 1920s through the 1990s. Let us hope that The Times continues to inform us.

RUDY PEREZ

Artistic Director/Choreographer

Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble, Los Angeles

*

I would like to thank Segal for his well-written article and The Times for giving it print space.

As I read the article, it occurred to me that dance has not come very far as a developed art form if Hyperdance really is the latest step in dance's evolution. Early this century in America, modern dance artists fought hard to establish dance as a developed art form.

Ballet, which was the predominant genre of theatrical dance at the time, had degenerated somewhat into a performance of physically difficult tricks designed to amaze the audience and elicit the "ooh-ahh" response. Modern dance artists, serious about raising the level of expression and art in dance, rebelled and began to develop what we now call modern dance. Many long years were spent by these pioneers and others in an effort to develop dance into a mature art form.

Now there's Hyperdance. Having sampled some of the local examples, I find it difficult to see this type of work as an advancement of the art form. The work, in fact, appears to be that same old turn-of-the-century ballerina doing her gimmicky tricks, only this time she's dressed in the current cultural style. Isn't Hyperdance a new arrival at an old place?

BENITA BIKE

Director

Benita Bike's DanceArt Inc.

Sunland

*

As a recent transplant from San Francisco, I was amused that Segal has discovered extremely physical dance and pronounced it to be the next big L.A. scene.

Although I applaud the efforts of Southland choreographers to go back to the roots of modern dance and rediscover the "effort-ness" of movement, I question the "next big thing" status Segal has bestowed upon an approach whose popularity crested in San Francisco more than five years ago.

In an attempt to establish parochial ownership of this "new" terpsichorean attitude, the writer first claims it is the region's turbulent metaphor, then claims it isn't about anything, cites choreographers who create characters and work with themes, and concludes that dance isn't important for what it says but for what it does. Huh?

Unfortunately, Segal suffers from the critics' need to label every perceived movement, school or trend with some kind of cute catch phrase; by trying to encase the urge toward higher and higher levels of physicality with the trite term Hyperdance , Segal is making it more important than it really is--and at the same time trivializing it.

Despite my criticisms, I must encourage Segal's efforts to write about young choreographers trying to create their own unique voices. It is refreshing to see a writer trying to get in touch with the local cutting edge.

PAUL ZMOLEK

San Pedro

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