January 23, 2013

A Behind the Scenes Look at Winterbranch




L.A. Dance Project Performing Winterbranch

Winterbranch: an evocative name to a provocative piece of choreography by Merce Cunningham. And, a piece that has gotten a fair amount of attention since being featured as part of the world premiere of Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project in September of 2012.

Since the L.A. Dance Project is bringing Winterbranch, (along with William Forsythe’s Quintett and Millepied’s Moving Parts) for their Northern California premiere at the Mondavi Center, we asked Charlie Hodges, ballet master and dancer for the L.A. Dance Project (and former dancer at the Sacramento Ballet) to give us his perspective on Winterbranch:



Three members of the Mondavi Center programming team, Executive Director Don Roth, Associate Executive Director and Programming Manager Jeremy Ganter and Artist Engagement Coordinator Ruth Rosenberg attended the world premiere of L.A. Dance Project at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in September of 2012. Rosenberg was intrigued by the L.A. Dance Project’s choice of Winterbranch for a premiere performance.

“The work starts with darkness and silence, but the sound of movement in the audience soon filled the space, which is something that intrigued me,” Rosenberg said. “It almost seemed the dancers were moving to the music of the audience, as they shifted in their seats, coughed and otherwise made the noises an audience makes without thinking.”

A former dancer and a longtime watcher of Cunningham’s work, Rosenberg was moved by the piece. “I have learned that while watching Cunningham you don’t want to ask, ‘What is this dance about?’ It is better to ask, ‘What are they doing now?’”


If you would like to take a deeper look at Winterbranch, here are some links to get you started:

The coverage kicked off with a piece in the Los Angeles Times that described Winterbranch as:
“Abstract Expressionism at its most extreme, this 1964 sextet remains oppressive in its pervasive darkness punctuated by occasional, random flashes of blinding light; in its silence shattered by a deafening, abrasive score (La Monte Young’s "2 sounds"); in its movement concept: all human activity—individual or collective—collapsing helplessly to the ground.”

This soon followed, after the program premiered at Montclair State University, with a piece in The New York Times:

“Cunningham is one of the greatest choreographers of the last 50 years, and this particular reconstruction of his Winterbranch proves a sensational revelation of both his theatrical imagination and the designer Robert Rauschenberg’s — it takes us places where even they never went.”

Two great blog entries from Debra Jowitt:

And some lovely photos of a 1970 production of Winterbranch:

1 comment:

  1. Lovely. My daughter wanted to dance ballet so this summer I'm going to enroll her in ballet class while my son in a guitar class. It's gonna be one busy summer for them.

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