Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is a Dance Lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington where she serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. She is also a member of Muscle Memory Dance Theatre – a modern dance collective.
Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s The Guitarist, Elledanceworks Co-Director Michele Hanlon’s The Guitarist/Outside-In depicts the journey of an eccentric individual attempting to find her way in the world, and control the chair that she is attached to.
Performed by Jennifer Mabus, much of the cubist movement’s philosophy is evident in the dance, like the attention to angularity and some of the gestural language. Mabus’ 180-degree extensions and flexibility – she contracted her body into completely flat pikes where her head rested on her feet – illustrated the sharp lines and angles central to Picasso’s work. She masterfully controlled the chair, which according to Hanlon, represents all things “normal” and the expectations of others – the dancer attempts to come to terms with these and finds ways to co-exist with the world without losing the individuality that defines her. Mabus does just that as she becomes tangled in the chair’s legs and wears the chair on her head.
These elements also illustrate Hanlon’s aesthetic of exploring human relationships and peculiarities, which was a perfect fit to interpreting Picasso’s work, as she recognized the theatrical, abstract and slightly humorous qualities of the painting. The intimate space also aided in the humor translating, as did the innocent quality of Mabus’ face and performance. The simplicity of certain gestural moments – the rolling of her wrists and the stretching of her fingers from around the chair, the popping up from behind the chair with wide questioning eyes – evoked unexpected chuckles from the audience.
The Guitarist/Outside-In will be performed again at the Dallas Museum of Art as a part of the exhibit “All the World’s a Stage: Celebrating Performance in the Visual Arts” on December 5 and 6 and 2 p.m. It has also been chosen as a finalist in the 2009 SideBySide international online dance festival. The festival received 156 entries this year, and Hanlon’s acceptance makes her the first American nominee. You can vote for and view the video here.