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DANCE REVIEW : 'Parades' is alive on revival

November 13, 2009|Lewis Segal

A lovingly re-created, radical performance piece from the 1960s -- very much of its time -- still has plenty to teach us about the interpretation of experience and the transformation of the mundane. That's the big achievement of "Parades and Changes, Replays," which opened a four-night run Wednesday at REDCAT. Choreographer Anna Halprin and composer Morton Subotnick are pioneers in art-making processes and philosophies that have reshaped contemporary music, dance and media. First presented in San Francisco, their seminal 1965 collaboration has been newly realized by a team of French artists led by Anne Collod, a specialist in dance reconstruction.

A series of structured improvisations, it begins with Subotnick conducting the cast (seated in the audience) in a bilingual verbal overture. We hear simple recollections ("I remember my first French cigarette") presented individually, in concert, at varying tempos and with instant changes from laughter to tears.

Next, the six-member cast completely disrobes, dresses again and strips again, moving from spatial and emotional isolation to interpersonal relationships: a pattern that will recur as the activities change. Here, everyday actions are mined for an array of specific intentions, and we begin to wonder about the details: Does Halprin determine which naked performer will put on just one sock -- just one -- before underwear?

Executed by Sebastien Roux, the Subotnick score consists of an intricate, energetic sampling of sound textures and fragments that travel across the space, growing in density and volume, though eventually we hear Petula Clark's "Downtown" and the Beach Boys' "The Warmth of the Sun" complete and unmanipulated.

As the hourlong piece nears its end, the performers fill the stage with cast-off clothing and accessories, obliterating themselves with all sorts of costume pieces, fright-wigs, plastic tubing and garage-sale junk. What's more, they pile nearly everything onto Alain Buffard and DD Dorvillier, who are then sent off onto the streets as grotesque parodies of fashion.

Of course, it's impossible to perceive all this with the eyes and ears of 1965. So much of "Parades and Changes" has been cannibalized and incorporated into the development of modernist performance that some parts of the REDCAT replay seem like a history lesson. But not the series of duets in which people link up for intense liaisons only to change partners again. That's a brilliant compression of complete life stories that hits hard emotionally and always will.

Equally fresh and startling: the celebrated passage in which the cast tears roll after roll of brown paper into shreds, their nudity merging with the paper under amber light in large-scale sculptural images. Yes, once again we are looking at ordinary motion, but orchestrated into virtuoso movement theater by a master. As in the duets, the difference between the artistic priorities of 1965 and today completely vanishes.

According to Subotnick, the improvisational possibilities of the original have stabilized in this "Replay" version. It's no longer an experiment but an artifact, yet oh so valuable.

Besides those previously mentioned, performers include Collod, Boaz K Barkan, Nuno Bizarro and Vera Mantero. Cecile Proust is credited with artistic collaboration. Halprin, 87, appeared for curtain calls.

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'Parades and Changes, Replays'

Where: REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., downtown L.A.

When: 8:30 p.m. today and Saturday

Price: $25 to $30

Contact: (213) 237-2800, www.redcat.org

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