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Douglas Dunn and Dancers in Pulcinella, at 15th Annual 92nd St. Y Harkness Dance Festival, Feb 25-March 1, New York City

by Sarah Hart
February 25, 2009
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
405 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 405-9000
Douglas Dunn & Dancers in

Pulcinella

with a new work, then boss in man?
in the 15th Annual 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival
at the Ailey Citigroup Theater
55th Street & 9th Avenue

February 25, 26, 28, and March 1, 2009
Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 pm
Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets are $20. Order tickets online at www.92Y.org/harknessfestival

This concert features a landmark work in Douglas Dunn's career,
his choreography of Stravinsky's Pulcinella,
along with a new dance, then boss in man?

Douglas Dunn's Pulcinella is a complex work for fifteen dancers,
first commissioned in 1980 by the Paris Opera Ballet and the Autumn Festival.
Pulcinella features costumes and set by Mimi Gross and lighting by Carol Mullins.
Dancing to Stravinsky's score (a reframing of the Commedia dell'arte original)
is a corps of young dancers assembled for Douglas Dunn & Dancers in 2008:
Reid Bartelme, Kira Blazek, Allison Cave, Rebecca Chaleff, Hope Davis,
Liz Filbrun, Jean Freebury, Marielis Garcia, Jordan Kriston, Brian Lawson,
Paul Singh, Jerome "Nuney" Stigler, Alex Stoll, Juliana Tilbury,
Timothy Emmett Lee Ward and Christopher Williams.

then boss in man? designed by Charles Atlas, features
five notable young dancers: Kira Blazek, Liz Filbrun,
Jean Freebury, Paul Singh, and Christopher Williams.
Joining the dancers on stage for then boss in man?
is classical guitarist Tali Roth, an extraordinary musician
who has performed internationally since her debut
at Carnegie Hall with the Julliard Orchestra.

The 92nd Steet Y is presenting this concert
in its 15th annual Harkness Dance Festival
at the Ailey Citigroup Theater,
55th Street & 9th Avenue, New York,
on February 25, 26, 28, and March 1.
Shows on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday
are at 8 pm, on Sunday at 2 pm.

Background: Pulcinella

The Pulcinella figure originated in the Commedia dell'arte of the 17th century and became a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry. Dressed in white and masked in black, Pulcinella is an archetype for humanity in its complexity and contradiction. He became Polichinelle in France, Hanswurst in Germany, Toneelgek in Holland, Kasperle in Austria, Petrushka in Russia, Karagoz in Turkey, and Mr. Punch in England.

Pulcinella embodies the type of the trickster, the deity or animal (he is Coyote in Native American traditions) whose schemes break the rules of the gods or nature. The trickster may act maliciously, but usually — and often unintentionally — brings about a positive outcome. Contact with the sacred required the trickster, the clown, in part because laughter presented a first step, a deliverance from preconception. The Trickster appeared in the most sacred ceremonies, opening the door to truth through upset, reversal, and surprise. In this way, the trickster is essential to creation, to birth and rebirth.

Igor Stravinsky's Pulcinella premiered in Paris on May 15, 1920, under the baton of Ernest Ansermet. The dancer Leonid Myasin created both the libretto and choreography, and Pablo Picasso designed the original costumes and sets. Sergei Diaghilev had commissioned the work, requesting a ballet based on an early Commedia dell'arte libretto and music, presumably by Giovanni Pergolesi. Stravinsky reframed the older score, borrowing specific themes and textures, but casting the work as a whole as a modern composition, reducing repetitions, interjecting modern rhythms, coloring the harmonies.

In 1980, the Autumn Festival and the Paris Opera Ballet co-commissioned Douglas Dunn to choreograph Stravinsky's Pulcinella as part of an homage to the composer. For Dunn, Stravinsky's music was appealing as a score for dance precisely because of Stravinsky's persistent shifts of rhythm, tempo and mood. In creating his Pulcinella, Dunn worked in similar fashion, placing his phrases on, near, or stretching away from these musical elements.

Another inspiration for Dunn's composition was a series of ink drawings by Domenico Tiepolo, based on the character Punchinello. "These wonderful evocations were inspiring as visions of vital physical form," Dunn notes, "and also helpful in working through the discrepancy between the modern dance ideal of equal presence and the hierarchic structure of institutional ballet."

The hierarchic structure of institutional ballet was clear when Dunn set the work at the Paris Opera, for example, where strict rules applied. The corps could not even rehearse with the etoiles until nearly opening night. But looking at Tiepolo's images, Dunn noticed that even drawings with a central figure, such as "Punchinello Swaddled in his Crib," had others present, looking just like him. More often, the character is already plural: "Punchinellos with the Elephant."

Likewise, in Dunn's choreography of the ballet, the central couple is surrounded not by subordinates, but by multipliers of the character. Everyone is a Punchinella, all, as in the drawings, participating with parallel autonomy in scenes that touch on the antic, the grotesque, the lyrical and the romantic. Dunn's innovation was not lost on the original Parisian audience for his Pulcinella. When a corps member abruptly threw herself into the arms of the male lead, they noted the bit of byplay with appreciation.

www.douglasdunndance.com

Douglas Dunn is available for interviews. Call 518 789 4182.

For photographs, information and directions
call 518 789 4182 or check our website:
www.douglasdunndance.com
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