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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Antigona Flamenca

Antigona Flamenca is back for another run through January 28, 2017 in New York.  It turns out to be a timely engagement. 

"Antigona Flamenca"
Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca
West Park Presbyterian Church, New York
July 15, 2015

Soledad Barrio as Antigona      Photo by Zarmik Moqtaderi
     Whether to go along with the tyrant in power, or risk your life defying his whims, is the argument between two sisters – and the first high point of this fiery flamenco version of Sophocles’ Antigone. 

Antigone – or Antigona, in Spanish -- cannot bear to see the body of her brother Polyneices left to rot on the battlefield, where he and his brother Eteocles slew each other battling for power in Thebes.  Ismene, her sister, would prefer not to look, to avoid the wrath of King Creon, who ordered a military funeral for Eteocles and a dog’s fate for Polyneices.   

The two sisters confront each other with electric foot-stamping and acrobatic turns -- the power of Ismene’s conventional thinking against the lonely righteousness of Antigone.  And of course it is Ismene who survives, who slides back into the chorus, observing the woes that befall others.          
Few dancers can match the intensity of Soledad Barrio’s flamenco, but Marina Elana as Ismene takes a good shot at it, following up a devastating monologue in English (“I’m bilingual,” she simpers) in which she bitches about her sister’s self-sacrifice. It is the viciousness of her bile, combined with the cowardice of her position, that makes the tragedy credible, and contemporary. Mean girls rule.
That’s true, of course, only in the short term, and in what we call the “real world.”  In the ideal, eternal world where Greek tragedy takes place, Antigone is the heroine, larger than life, greater than death.  And this is where Soledad Barrio comes in.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Harvard of the Midwest

(In 1959, anti-war protesting was introduced to Grinnell College in Iowa, courtesy of a freshman from Long Island, New York who had no idea of the fuss it would create.  Following is an excerpt from my memoir, "A Beginner's Life," new from Full Court Press.)

Grinnell in 1959 was one of the top-ranked small liberal arts colleges in the country, and my high-school guidance counselor told me not to apply, as I’d never get in with my erratic grades.  I applied anyway, and to my surprise, they treated me like a prime prospect.  A wealthy alumnus invited me for an interview in his office at Time Inc.  A few days later I got a note from him, saying I was definitely “admissible.” 
I had my doubts about the place, based on the cover of the catalog, which showed a clean-cut fellow in a letter sweater sitting under a tree.  But my first choice was Oberlin, and they put me on the waiting list, so I decided to take the invitation from Iowa.  A few months later I crossed the Mississippi River on the Rock Island Railroad, with a carload of easterners bound for Grinnell.    
We didn’t know it but we were pioneers, the vanguard of a latter-day migration engineered by the ambitious president of Grinnell, Howard Bowen.  Without announcing it, he had set out to transform Grinnell from a prestigious regional school – the “Harvard of the Midwest,” they liked to call it – to one with a national reputation.   


"The Futurist"
Laura Peterson Choreography
Judson Memorial Church, New York 
July 1, 2015 

By Tom Phillips 

Fortunato Depero, "Skyscrapers and Tunnels" 1930   
The infrastructure and the past are Laura Peterson’s twin obsessions. In one dance after another, she sets out to discover what makes the world tick, whirr, click and go round; and how the present was invented in the past. She’s most fascinated by the recent past -- and how this sleek post-modern world emerged from the now-clunky-looking cocoon of modernity.

“The Futurist” is her latest X-ray of civilization, a look into the works of Futurism, a doomed movement of the 20s and 30s, personified by Benito Mussolini, who made the trains run on time. Speed, war and clockwork technology were supposed to create a super-civilization, a locomotive of brutal, unstoppable progress.

Its essence was the flywheel – a rotating mechanical device used to store and then release rotational energy. A flywheel is designed so that the further from the center the mass is, the more effect is has on the object’s momentum and kinetic energy. They’re used in giant industrial engines, cars and turbines – and they make the sound Walter Mitty daydreamed in 1939 -- “ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa.”