Though Kathleen A. Agresta ’02, Main Stage Coordinator and Vice President of HRDC, concedes the present situation isn’t ideal, she is confident that, like Perpetual Motion, Against the Grain will succeed in not only making dance more visible on campus, but also bringing the dance and theatre communities closer together.
Weiss believes Against the Grain is particularly well suited for its task because it challenges what some students find unappealing about dance. “People in general often think that dance shows are boring,” said Weiss, who is Director of the Harvard Radcliffe Ballet Company. She maintains, however, that each piece in the show will defy typical complaints about old-fashioned presentation and traditional gender hierarchy.
In “Still Rising,” a text-in-movement piece, choreographer Braxton-Brooks allows her dancers to break the speech barrier by delivering poetry with words as well as dance. The piece is constructed from four poems by Maya Angelou on the theme of perseverance.
Weiss’s piece, “The Four Temperaments,” was originally choreographed by Balanchine, the Russian-born ballet dancer and choreographer who moved ballet away from fairy tales and fluffy tutus and instead emphasized balance and angular, technical movement.
“Into Emptiness” promises to challenge the same dance stereotypes that its choreographer, Yamaguchi, once shared. As a high school jock, Yamaguchi says, he had a prejudice about men dancing—that is, until his wrestling coach suggested he learn as a way to enhance his athletic performance.
“My concept of dance,” Yamaguchi said, “is very much like wrestling, or martial arts; what can you do with the space and with other people, and time, and what possibly that you can make out of that.” Yamaguchi also hopes that the male-male lifting and female-female lifting in his piece will work to debunk sexual and gender-based stereotypes.
Finally, Derrick Sellers’s “Warning: This May Cause” rebels against static views of dance with daring style and eclectic sound. A rock ballet, the piece features music by Björk and techno artist Aphex Twin.
Read more in ArtsReconstructing the Past