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MUSIC/DANCE : 'GENDER' SPECIFIC : Born of Rap, Choreographer Gerstler's Latest Work Deals With Self-Respect for Women

October 13, 1994|CHRIS PASLES | Chris Pasles covers classical music and dance for The Times Orange County Edition.

Choreographer Tina Gerstler found her most recent inspiration in a rap song. "I was listening to the a cappella African American group Sweet Honey in the Rock," Gerstler says. "They were singing about women being a priority in society, being upheld and acknowledged as what they can be. That got me thinking about how to project that onto the stage."

The result is Gerstler's new "The Translated Gender," which will receive its premiere performances by Ballet Pacifica this weekend at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

The 20-minute work (one of four pieces on the program) has a cast of 13 women, no men. "It's a women's piece," Gerstler says. "There are sections, but it's not delineated sectionally. It begins with a trio of solos that are interwoven, with three women who represent icons of what society presents as being feminine.

"One woman is in jeans, who looks like a Calvin Klein or a Guess jeans girl, smokes a cigarette and looks like 'hard chick.' That sort of hard-edged but feminine image has become very prevalent in ads and fashion magazines and billboards.

"Another soloist is wearing a Chanel-type of evening gown, like a cocktail evening hostess. The other soloist is more romantic, dressed in a sort of a flowy thing. Initially, she was the only person I put on point, but because the movement is modern, putting it on point lost its fluidity. So I put her back in ballet slippers."

After the trio, a wider perspective of women in various roles comes into play. "So the piece is basically dealing with where society is at this point in time," she says. "This is about the width and breadth of what women can be.

"For me, it has to deal with self-respect, and having gained more personal self-respect, I wish society's images would help to build that. Images are limiting, and we don't need any more limitations than have been set on us in the past."

Gerstler has worked with Ballet Pacifica twice before, creating "Personal Statement--Common Knowledge" in 1992 through a commission from the company, and "Better Unsaid," set to a score by Brad Dutz, in 1991.

Like those efforts, the new dance is a collaboration, this time among Gerstler, artist Megan Williams, Dutz and lighting designer Liz Stillwell.

The set, for instance, is "built during the piece," Gerstler says. "There are three 9-by-7-foot hanging set pieces, divided into three panels for each piece. Each panel is three feet tall and can be interwoven. They make up three more ideas of woman. . . . They're mixed up at first, then changed so that you actually see the (original) paintings in their entirety by the end of the piece."

Dutz's score for this dance incorporates women's voices, including a recording of his girlfriend, who is Japanese, reading "Japanese want ads for women, which are very specific about physicality."

A collaboration, Gerstler says, "can get intensely wild. Part of this challenge is to take all these other elements into consideration and still be visually interesting instead of overwhelming. But I don't think this piece is heavy. Parts of it are funny. I hope parts of it are funny and entertaining as well as thought-provoking."

* What: Ballet Pacifica dances Tina Gerstler's new "The Translated Gender."

* When: Friday, Oct. 14, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Oct. 15, at 2:30 and 8 p.m. With David Allan's "Capriol Suite," Fokine's "Les Sylphides" and Molly Lynch's "Different Trains." Free discussion by Molly Lynch one hour previous.

* Where: The Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to the Jamboree Road exit and head south. Turn left onto Campus Drive. The theater is on Campus near Bridge Road, across from the Marketplace mall.

* Wherewithal: $18 for adults; $15 for students and seniors.

* Where to call: (714) 854-4646.



Pianist and composer Nyman ("The Piano") and an ensemble will play his own works today, Oct. 13, at 8 p.m. at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The program is sponsored by the Center, Pacific Symphony and the Orange County Philharmonic Society. (714) 556-2787.


Shlomo Mintz will conduct the Israel Chamber Orchestra in works by Hindemith, Schubert, Stravinsky and Mozart tonight, Oct. 13, at 8 at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. Mintz also will be the viola and violin soloist. (800) 300-4345.


William Hall will lead the chorale, augmented by the Los Angles Gay Men's Chorus in an AIDS memorial program on Saturday, Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Works by Ned Rorem, Brahms and Faure will be sung. (714) 556-2787.

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