Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Journey in Dance and Film

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Journey in Dance and Film

Article excerpt

NEW STAGES

Alex Ketley is both choreographer and explorer, artist and humanist. His work dips a toe into the realm of anthropology, using dance as the connective tissue to examine, without affectation or expectation, the diversity that is America and the human race.

"Deep South," the final segment of Ketley's trilogy exploring what dance and performance means to people in rural areas of the country far from the contemporary concert stage, had its premiere Friday night as the first performance in The Ringling Museum's New Stages series for the season. It is a fragmented and uneven work, at times disjointed, at times deeply moving. But like "No Hero," the trilogy's first section, which was presented at the Ringling in 2014, its commitment to authenticity is evident, its generosity of spirit unquestionable.

As was "No Hero," which was based on Ketley's travels in the rural West, "Deep South" -- drawn from a month-long summer "wander" from Texas to Virginia with fellow choreographer Miguel Gutierrez -- is a blend of documentary footage and live performance. Unlike "No Hero" however, "Deep South" unfolds more from the perspective of the travelers than the residents. And because both Ketley, a former dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, and Gutierrez, a gay Latino from Brooklyn, were foreigners in a very unfamiliar land, "Deep South" produces less of the sense of character, cohesion and connection found in the earlier work.

This is acknowledged from the opening spoken dialogue, which warns: "This is a partial story .... a collision at its roots .... a conflicted landscape, around us, and in ourselves." What follows are video segments of from the trip, interspersed or in conjunction with live dance segments performed by four female dancers (Sarah Dionne Woods, Courtney Mazeika, Marlie Couto and Ketley's partner, Aline Wachsmuth) in non-costumes that are little more than street wear. The soundtrack includes recorded conversations with residents, a variety of music (including Gutierrez chanting/singing) and words spoken or read by the dancers themselves. Occasionally a single word flashes in white letters on a black screen: "Poem." "Night. …

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