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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

From Muscular to Meditative

Armitage is back

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Karole Armitage will bring her Armitage Gone! Dance Company to Alverno College for an evening of performance that will include Ligeti Essays and Time Is the Echo of an Axe Within a Wood, two works created by the estimable choreographer for inclusion in a current spring tour.

Formerly referred to as the “Punk Ballerina,” Armitage has been a notable personality in the dance world since her first choreographed piece in 1978. She has found success not only in ballet and interpretive dance realms, but also as a music video choreographer after she directed works from Michael Jackson and Madonna’s “Vogue.”

A rising star in the avant-garde dance scene in New York in the mid-’80s, Armitage spent 15 years in Europe choreographing various pieces after her brand of muscular, straightforward choreography was not as well-received as she would have liked stateside. She returned to New York in 2005 and promptly reunited Armitage Gone! These days Armitage is focusing on more philosophical and meditative pieces that contain a different feeling than much of the work she has done in the past. “I’m trying to balance the vivid, rock ’n’ roll styles I’ve used with the more contemplative elements of presentational dance,” she explains.

The Ligeti Essays premiered last year in New York and features 15 of the seminal musical works from the career of late Romanian composer Gyrgy Ligeti, creator of the familiar score from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ligeti is a major influence on Armitage, as she has fashioned many of her choreographed pieces in recent years around the clusters of immense and robust sound present in his compositions.

According to Armitage, the work of Ligeti is the perfect companion to her creative purposes. “Ligeti’s music is the oxygen that these pieces breathe,” she says. “It gives life to each of the vignettes. They are all connected, but each piece is short. They range from romantic to sarcastic to aggressive. It’s a kind of portrait of the whole range of the human psyche that is showing our internal life.”

Bela Bartok’s music presides over Time Is the Echo of an Axe Within a Wood, the second section of the performance. Armitage employs an ambiguity about existence and the effects that time has on human beings, represented by a main male-female couple whose relationship runs its course in what may or may not be a dreamlike sequence of events meant to show the evolution of a courtship.

“That piece is more concerned with time, but a different kind of time. There are nightmares, daydreams, memories. It’s experiencing the world with these different notions of how time works; psychological time, not clock time. It’s how we experience life rather than how time affects us,” Armitage explains.

Confident that she’s created a uniquely memorable and relatable work of art, Armitage says she has little concern that her vision will not be well-received, thanks to the nature of its content and the physical presentation. “The body communicates in a very honest way. Everyone can see it and understand it. That’s one of the beauties of dance. You can’t lie. The body speaks.”

The Armitage Gone! Dance Company performs at Alverno College’s Pitman Theatre, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 12.

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