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PEAK Performances to Present Company SBB // Stefanie Batten Bland's LOOK WHO'S COMING TO DINNER

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Inspired by and contemporizing the themes of the 1967 Stanley Kramer film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner surrounding an interracial engagement—and reactions to it.

PEAK Performances to Present Company SBB // Stefanie Batten Bland's LOOK WHO'S COMING TO DINNER

PEAK Performances will Present Company SBB // Stefanie Batten Bland's dance-theater work Look Who's Coming to Dinner, November 4-7 at Montclair State University's Alexander Kasser Theater. Inspired by and contemporizing the themes of the 1967 Stanley Kramer film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner surrounding an interracial engagement-and reactions to it-Look Who's Coming to Dinner pays tribute to those who paved the way toward acceptance in love and life. In dialogue with the film's use of intimate domestic settings to evoke the vast tensions of its cultural context, Look Who's Coming to Dinner unfolds around a transformative dinner setting. Here, seven dance-theater artists excavate interlaced universal traumas through imagery and ritual as they seek a seat at the table.

Jerome Robbins Award-winning artist Stephanie Batten Bland creates performance at the intersection of dance-theater and installation, questioning contemporary and historical cultural symbolism and the complexities of human relationships in the context of social, political, and racial issues. For this work, Batten Bland worked with Company SBB members in workshops to build a vernacular of movement surrounding the statuses, roles, and relationships that can be situated around a table. She obtained rights to use sound clips from the film, with the iconic actors' voices distorted across her kinetic experimentation with the film's themes. "The Glory of Love," the 1936 song heard across the film, is here reconceived and unsettled by composer Paul Damian Hogan.

The film's titular dinner happens as the credits roll-with the symbol-rife act of sitting around a table concluding a fraught, day-long emotional journey. In Batten Band's piece, the table-and the emotional and social acrobatics sited there-are physicalized. The table becomes vehicular and transportive. It takes on new meanings and forms as dancers' relationship to it-and its impact on their relationships to one another-transform, moving and shifting in tandem with the collisions of our socially constructed perceptions and positions.

Dance Enthusiast called Look Who's Coming to Dinner "eloquent, elegant dance performance," adding that Batten Bland "artfully paints emotional tableaus with her impressive dancers" that "emphasize their struggles with contemporary relationships." Noting Batten Bland's altering of the film's title in this work-from the coy "Guess" to the imperative "Look"-The Brooklyn Rail writes that "without watering down history to universals, Look Who's Coming to Dinner is a powerful work that does not ask, but forces us to take a seat at the table, and see."

In BOMB, Batten Bland explained that Look Who's Coming to Dinner "came about because I was feeling this need for people to come together, and yet I kept seeing reasons why people weren't being invited. When I think of invitation, I think of the table and the statuses that the table can offer...At the dinner table in Look, we're all seated at the same level, but the idea of who is invited to that dinner table has great meaning. I was set on exploring that and really wanted to dive into Kramer's film...[which] spoke to so many different ways that we judge ourselves and consider how we should act within our own cultures...I think about the table in terms of whom we are going to let come to dinner [after the pandemic]. God, it better change. If we want to survive as a species, we'd better build a bigger table."

With Look Who's Coming to Dinner, which has been performed at Lincoln Center and La MaMa (as part of the Crossing the Line Festival), Batten Bland has extended the work the piece does beyond the stage, inviting people in the areas it's performed to participate in dinner-themed conversations in workshops. This fall, Batten Bland, currently an Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance at Montclair State University, is, with MSU's College of the Arts, hosting a series of events seeking to bring to the table students in dialogue. For example, in a series of pop-up performances, student musicians will play interpretations of "The Glory of Love," newly commissioned from jazz composers.

Performers in Look Who's Coming to Dinner include Claire Gieringer, Mio Ishikawa, Nando Moreland, David Lee Parker, Ryan Rouland Smith, Rachel Watson-Jih, and Latra A. Wilson

The production includes choreography, installation and direction by Stefanie Batten Bland; music by Paul Damian Hogan; costumes by Shane Ballard; and lighting by Yuki Nakase Link, adapted from Clifton Taylor.

Performances Times, Running Time, Tickets, and Location

Performances of Look Who's Coming to Dinner take place Thursday, November 4 and

Friday, November 5 at 7:30pm; Saturday, November 6 at 8pm; and Sunday, November 7 at 3pm.

Running time is approximately 60 minutes.

Tickets are $40 and can be purchased by visiting peakperfs.org or calling 973.655.5112.

The Alexander Kasser Theater is located at 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair, NJ, on the Montclair State University campus.

To help protect the health and safety of audiences, artists, staff, and PEAK's greater community, patrons are required to wear masks-at all times-for all performances. Additionally, all performances will require proof of full vaccination to attend. Audience members will be asked to show proof of vaccination before entering the theater. These guidelines may evolve depending on health and safety recommendations.


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