Saturday, September 19, 2009

2009 Local Dance Commissioning Project Part II-Kennedy Center

The final installment of the Kennedy Center’s 2009 Local Dance Commissioning Project was presented this past Thursday and Friday. Tehreema Mitha was the second awardee of this important program for DC-area choreographic artists. Her troupe, Tehreema Mitha Dance Company, staged Blue Jeans, the commissioned work for the Millennium Stage, and an older piece, Cherry Blossoms in D.C. (2005).

Blue Jeans examined issues of immigration, ethnic diversity, individuality and mourning. Mitha attempted to illustrate the loss of identity that many immigrants experience when journeying to the U.S. Yet, coupled with that void, they are somehow able to find common ground in their new home through such banal items as blue jeans. Unknowingly, these jeans become a common denominator for many cultures living in the same place. Cherry Blossoms in D.C. celebrated the tourist extravaganza that happens every spring in the District during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This joy and exuberance was juxtaposed against the day-to-day political activities that still continue during that time for the non-tourists who call D.C. their home.

Mitha’s company is very entertaining and interesting to watch, but I wish that there had been a little more mystery surrounding the pieces. Blue Jeans had a very in-depth description in the playbill, detailing exactly what the work was trying to convey. I suppose that you were not required to read these notes, but even if you purposely avoided them, the video element of the piece made the message equally as obvious. The addition of mixed media was overkill; the choreography alone would have been successful in sharing the significance of the work. The same is true with Cherry Blossoms in D.C. For this piece, there was also an explanation in the playbill, but in addition, before the work began, there was an audio commentary spelling out what we were about to see. There was too much translucency; the audience needs to have some room for its own interpretation. They may not come to the conclusion that the choreographer wants, but that’s the risk you take as a performance artist. It’s all about putting your work out there, and once you have, the element of control must be surrendered.

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