Armitage Gone! Dance to Present HALLOWEEN UNLEASHED at La MaMa
In a career spanning more than four decades, the contemporary American choreographer Karole Armitage has been celebrated for blurring the boundaries between dance, music and art. Inspired by disparate, non-narrative sources-from 20th century physics, to 16th century Florentine fashion, to pop culture and new media-the classical dance vocabulary, in her hands, is given a needed shock to its system with speed and fractured lines, abstractions and symmetry countermanded by asymmetry.
The core of Armitage's work centers on a series of dance 'dreamscapes' that take the viewer on a poetic journey to evoke mysterious landscapes of reverie, dream and altered consciousness. Her latest work, Halloween Unleashed: Dancing Bones, Tasting Darkness and the Skeleton Within, is a subversive comedy designed to spook adults and families in a live action rendition of Disney's 1929 animated masterpiece, The Skeleton Dance. Combined with images from the wild, capricious street theater of Haitian carnival, Halloween Unleashed offers punk attitude and visual high-jinx, in a dance where bones dance alone, shoes fly off feet, and skeletons turn into musical instruments.
Halloween Unleashed was born as an act of protest. It acknowledges the surreal times we are living in today and recognizes that humor is a necessary tool for survival.
Halloween Unleashed features performances by the Armitage Gone! Dance company-Edgar Clauss, Ahmaud Culver, Megumi Eda, Sierra French, Yasaku Komori and Cristian Laverde Koenig. The work is performed to selections of music by Marilyn Manson, David Lang, Wylclef Jean, Gioachino Rossini, Fats Waller, No Wave NYC punk bands, D.N.A and Theoretical Girls, along with original, commissioned music by Terry Dame. Costumes and scenic installation are by Armitage's Resident Designer, Peter Speliopoulos. Lighting is by long-time Armitage collaborator and Resident Designer Clifton Taylor.
Performances of Halloween Unleashed will take place October 27-29 (see schedule above) at La MaMa's First Floor Theatre, located at 74A E 4th Street. The running time is 55 minutes with no intermission. Tickets, which are $20 for general admission and $15 for students, seniors, and children, are available at lamama.org and by calling 212.352.3101.
Karole Armitage is the Artistic Director of the New York based contemporary ballet company Armitage Gone! Dance. She was rigorously trained in classical ballet and began her professional career in 1973 as a member of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Switzerland, a company devoted exclusively to the repertory of George Balanchine. In 1976, she was invited to join Merce Cunningham's company, where she remained for five years, performing leading roles in Cunningham's landmark works. Through her unique and acute knowledge of the aesthetic values of Balanchine and Cunningham, Armitage has created her own "voice" in the dichotomy of classical and modern, and is seen is by some critics as a true choreographic heir to the two masters of twentieth-century American dance.
Known as the "punk ballerina," Armitage created her first piece in 1978, followed by the iconic Drastic-Classicism in 1981. Throughout the '80s she led her own New York-based dance company, Armitage Ballet. After the premiere of The Watteau Duets at Dance Theater Workshop, Mikhail Baryshnikov invited her to create a work for American Ballet Theatre, and Rudolph Nureyev commissioned several works for the Paris Opera Ballet. Subsequently, she continued to work both in Europe and the U.S. until 1996, when she was appointed Director of MaggioDanza in Florence, Italy. From 1999 to 2004, she was the resident choreographer of the Ballet de Lorraine in France, and in 2005 she served as the Director of the Venice Biennale Festival of Contemporary Dance. Her work continues to tour throughout the continent, performed by several European companies.
In 2004, her new company, Armitage Gone! Dance, made its debut at The Joyce Theater. Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times wrote, "Karole Armitage's Time is the echo of an axe within a wood... is one of the most beautiful dances to be seen in New York in a very long time." After this successful season at the Joyce, Armitage's focus shifted more to her New York-based company.
Armitage is renowned for pushing the boundaries to create contemporary works that blend dance, music, visual art and science to engage in philosophical questions about the search for meaning. She joins a legacy of process-focused experimental dance that embraces the ballet and modern dance heritages as well. She is inspired by disparate, non-narrative sources, from 20th century physics, to 16th century Florentine fashion, to pop culture and new media. In her hands, the classic vocabulary is given a needed shock to its system, with speed, fractured lines, abstractions and symmetry countermanded by asymmetry. Music is her script and she has collaborated with contemporary and experimentalist composers such as John Luther Adams, Thomas Adès, Rhys Chatham, Vijay Iyer, and Lukas Ligeti. The scores can be marked by extreme lyricism as well as dissonance, noise and polyrhythms. The sets and costumes for her works are often designed by leading artists in the contemporary art world, including Karen Kilimnik, Jeff Koons, Vera Lutter, Brice Marden, David Salle and Phillip Taaffe. Her scientific collaborators include Dr. Brian Greene (Columbia University) and Dr. Paul Ehrlich (Stanford University). The full-length works on theoretical physics and climate change respectively were presented at the World Science Festival and in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History.
Armitage's work is at once both esoteric and popular, having choreographed two Broadway productions (Passing Strange and Hair, which garnered her a Tony nomination), videos for Madonna and Michael Jackson, several Merchant-Ivory films and Cirque du Soleil's 2012 tent show, Amaluna. In 2016, she created a work for the Boston Ballet to MiLes Davis' Bitches Brew and Stravinsky's Agon for the London Philharmonia conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. As the 2016 Artistic Director of Italy's Ravello Fesival Armitage curated an evening of American Dance. She invited New York City Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, William Forsythe company members, Richard Move and her own Armitage Gone! Dance Companies to participate in a survey of the techniques and philosophies of 20th Century American Dance set into motion by Native Americans performing the Prairie Chicken Dance.
Armitage has directed opera from the baroque and contemporary repertoire for prestigious houses of Europe, including Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Lyric Opera in Athens, Het Muzik Theater in Amsterdam and two productions for Opera Saratoga and The Gotham Chamber Opoera. She choreographed The Cunning Little Vixen in 2011 and A Dancer's Dream in 2013 for the New York Philharmonic presented at Avery Fischer Hall at Lincoln Center and provided choreography for Marie Antoinette, by playwright David Adjmi, at The American Repertory Theatre Harvard and Yale Repertory Theater.
Her work has been the subject of three documentaries made for television: The South Bank Show (1985), directed by David Hinton and Wild Ballerina (1988), directed by Mark Kidel. Armitage is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2009, she was awarded France's most prestigious award, Commandeur dans l'orde des Arts et des Lettres. She is the 2012 recipient of the artist-in-residence grant at the Chinati Foundation, founded by Donald Judd in Marfa, Texas, and received an honorary Doctorate of the Arts from the University of Kansas in 2013. Armitage was honored with a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University and a Simons Fellowship at The University of Kansas in 2016 to study Native American Plains Culture with a focus on Pawnee, Kanza and Osage tribes. She is beginning a two-year MIT Media Lab Directors Fellowship with diverse projects combining technology with dance. The MIT Media Lab and Wondros produced a short film, Dreaming of Bones, shot on an LA soundstage featuring Armitage muse Megumi Eda with additional movement by deaf sound artist, Christine Sun Kim. It will premiere at film festivals in 2018. Armitage is also creating the MIT Dancing Engineers Company for a production scheduled to launch in 2019.
Armitage launched Armitage Gone! Dance in New York in 2004 upon her return to the city after 15 years in Europe. Dedicated to redefining the boundaries and perceptions of contemporary dance, the company extends the mandate of innovation that characterized both her earlier Armitage Ballet, founded in 1985, and her first full-time company, Armitage Gone!, founded in 1979.
Armitage distinguishes her company from its contemporaries through her extreme versatility and originality. She builds upon classical and modern idioms from the Balanchine and Cunningham traditions, and infuses experimental thinking into the geometric balance, speed, rhythm and beauty of dance steps. She derives inspiration from such wide-ranging sources as physics, Japanese aesthetics, fashion, pop culture and new media, and from her six dancers, who come from diverse cultural and dance backgrounds.
Armitage Gone! Dance is well known for its collaborations with innovators in music, science and the visual arts, including artists David Salle and Jeff Koons, string-theory physicist Dr. Brian Greene and biologist Dr. Paul Ehrlich. The company regularly performs to live music and has commissioned many scores since its 2005 debut. Its wide-ranging projects include poetic ballets set to 20th and 21st-century scores, work with the African pop band Burkina Electric (Itutu, 2009), opera (notably, the 2009 collaboration with Gotham Opera on Ariadne Unhinged), Made in Naples (a comedy centered on Pulcinella) and Armitage "punk ballet" classics danced to loud, live music.
Since its launch at the Duke on 42nd Street Theatre, Armitage Gone! Dance has presented New York seasons each year at venues that include Brooklyn Academy Of Music, Joyce Theater, The Kitchen, Miller Theatre, New York City Center, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Lincoln Center. The company also regularly performs at prestigious festivals and venues throughout the United States, Europe and Central America, from Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival to the Venice Biennale Festival of Contemporary Dance, which Armitage directed in 2005.
The company is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, as well as corporate, foundation and individual patrons. David Salle chairs the company's Board of Directors.
La MaMa is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theatre. The organization has a worldwide reputation for producing daring performance works that defy form and transcend barriers of ethnic and cultural identity. Founded in 1961 by award-winning theatre pioneer Ellen Stewart, La MaMa has presented more than 5,000 productions by 150,000 artists from more than 70 nations. A recipient of more than 30 Obie Awards and dozens of Drama Desk, Bessie, and Villager Awards, La MaMa has helped launch the careers of countless artists, many of whom have made important contributions to American and international arts milieus.La MaMa's 56th season highlights artists of different generations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds, who question social mores and confront stereotypes, corruption, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia in their work. Our stages embrace diversity in every form and present artists that persevere with bold self-expression despite social, economic, and political struggle and the 56th season reflects the urgency of reaffirming human interconnectedness.