Look! Up in the sky! It's Orts!
The local dance company will thrill audiences with another all-aerial
show this weekend.
A dancer swings through the air during "Rapture: Rumi,"
which Orts Theatre of Dance performs Oct. 15-17.
Photo by XAVIER
Remember the childhood joy of making yourself
go higher and higher on a schoolyard swing? Or your first circus and that
heart-stopping moment when the guy in tights on the flying trapeze let go
of the bar and sailed through the air? How about those wonderful dreams
where it feels like you are actually flying?
these memories come into play every time Orts Theatre of Dance takes to
the air for another of its all-aerial concerts. There is a special mystery
to this choreography performed on a swinging, swirling, three-point
trapeze - something that connects to the elemental desire of escaping
can feel such freedom just by watching dancers swing in graceful arcs
onstage is a mystery so special it defies definition. No one knows exactly
how aerial dance can instantly tap this deep-seated blend of excitement
Annie Bunker, Orts' founder and artistic director, doesn't care
about that. She just wants to swing.
Robert Davidson's trapeze choreography at an arts convention in 1991. I
was immediately moved. I knew right then it was the direction the company
needed to go," Bunker recalled.
artistic director invited Denver-based Davidson out to the desert to set
some of his unique dances-with-trapeze on her company. That concert was an
immediate sensation with local audiences.
then, Davidson has returned several times. His full-length aerial dance
based on the historical life of a spiritual mystic from the middle ages,
"Meister Eckhart," was so enthusiastically received it was repeated last
Now Davidson is back with a new full-length dance based on
another religious mystic, Jalal al-Din Rumi, who lived in Persia in the
13th century. Rumi founded the Sumi order of the Whirling
is the esoteric side of the Muslim text," Davidson explained. "His poems
are basic to the Sufi religion. In Islam they are regarded as mystical.
During his lifetime, Rumi wrote 40,000 poems, many of them four-line
Combining words and movement has been an essential element of
Davidson's dance art, as well. At present his Denver students are
experimenting with five-minute scenes from Shakespeare, improvising text
"Rapture: Rumi," as Orts' new work is called, integrates 12 of
Rumi's short poems into choreography performed to a music score composed
by Steven Flynn. Each spoken poem, recorded on tape, is played to enhance
a particular dance.
poem is at the beginning.
"Don't come to us without bringing music.
celebrate with drum and flute,
wine not made from grapes,
place you cannot imagine."
this poem is toward the end.
inner and outer,
moon, no ground, no sky.
hand me another glass of wine.
in my mouth.
lost the way to my mouth."
music score is described as being based on traditional Sufi music that
transforms itself "into powerful driving evocations of 20th century modern
"Rapture: Rumi" is based on the recorded incidents of an intense
student-teacher relationship between Rumi in his mid-30s and Shams al-Din,
a strong-willed mystic nearly 30 years older.
program notes, Davidson explains: "The dance and music focus on three
fundamental images drawn from Rumi's poetry: the magnificent perfection of
circles, the drunkenness of divine love, and the complex dynamic tension
between Lover and Beloved."
"Rumi" and "Meister Eckhart" are both inspired by religious mystics from
the middle ages - one Christian, one Muslim - Davidson is reluctant to say
religion is important in his life.
"Spirituality is important to me," he explains. "I don't want to
say religion. The religious figures I've focused on have always been
Davidson has known since childhood is he has always loved to be up in the
air. In snapshots from the family photo album, Davidson the little boy was
always on the roof, in a tree, on the goal posts, on a trapeze.
never on the ground," said Davidson.
father would build a new playground gym in the backyard whenever we moved,
and it always had a trapeze. And I always wanted to be the circus trapeze
From there Davidson grew up to be a dancer, choreographer,
teacher and innovator of this particular discipline on a rope. He
estimates 10 companies in the United States are actively exploring the use
of a trapeze in modern dance. Since that fateful meeting in 1991, Orts has
been an eager recipient of Davidson's new trapeze choreography.
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