Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let's Dance

I am kind of surprised no modern dance choreographer has taken on the challenge of designing a pop ballet based on the grace, elegance, and derring-do of catch-as-catch-can wrestling.  For instance, these caps of young, agile wrestlers in a recent IWA Unlimited show remind me of stills I have seen of the work of Agnes DeMille, Michael Kidd, Twyla Tharp, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.  Perhaps somebody has done this already, and I just haven't heard of it.  My finger has not been on the pulse of modern dance.

I like young, lithe wrestlers for their energy and beauty.  The young also often have a great sense of the drama essential to ring action.  As an instructor of college freshmen, I am well acquainted with teens' natural gifts for acting out.  Older, seasoned wrestlers are more prone to do their storytelling with a microphone in their hand and their free arm wildly gesticulating in the direction their spit just flew.  Given the bumps that come over time with ring wrestling, experienced performers would be understandably less limber than their younger colleagues and less prone to fly incautiously into the histrionics of this type of theater.  Also, I suppose, greater professionalism (and less hunger gnawing at the bones) requires dependability and marketability over vigor and enthusiasm.  But the economy with which these young wrestlers act out their struggle, with minimum dialogue and exposition, is the ideal, I feel, of all pro wrestling ... and all ballet.

The bad guy here, black-haired and black-hearted Jay Spade, doesn't have to say a word to incur the wrath of the fans.  Sandy-haired A.T. Brooks and ginger-haired Joey O'Riley, the two faces, can convey their basic decency and the pathos of their predicaments without speeches and without video replay of the betrayals, sneak attacks, and malicious injuries of matches past.  There is a rawness to this wordless drama--and, as we know, conflict is the soul of drama--which invigorates the viewers and seizes them with the emotion of each move, hold, and punch.

(Videos at Unauthorized IWA Unlimited)


  1. I forget now, Joe, but some 30 years ago, either Mark Morris or Pilobolus did, indeed, choreograph a wrestling dance piece. I have not read of its repeat since, however. And this summer the Edinburg Festival featured a ballet piece, La Lutte (obviously titled), that was choreographed by the Belgian Filip Van Huffel. There has always been high art interest in wrestling. I can't remember, but there is even an 18th Century classical music piece, mostly strings, that pointedly imitates in sounds of struggle the musical effect of a wrestling match. I remember being fascinated by it as a kid of only 9 or 10. And while we're on the subject of the fine arts, that reminds me. Coach 193's blog, The Wrestlers, to which you provide a link, features on its home page a photo of Benjamin Luk's 1905 fantastic painting, "The Wrestlers," which is in the Boston MFA. I just wanted to say that it alone is worth the trip to the MFA, for many of you might not know, the piece is massive, huge, absolutely wall-sized. And while you're up here visiting Boston, contact me for a match.


  2. Actually, the 1984 Mark Morris piece you refer to is "Championship Wrestling After Roland Barthes" with computer synthesized music with live wrestling show sounds by Herschel Garfein.It was based on an earlier work he titled Slugfest which premiered in London about 2 months before the longer piece. The title was later shortened to Championship Wrestling when it became the 3rd part of the tryptych "Mythologies". I photographed Mark when he was a solo dancer and before he developed his company. He was more inspired by Barthes essay than by wrestling and while the dance is beautifully constructed and has visual and intellectual appeal, with irs somewhat silly costumes it has little to recommend it to those of us looking for something more visceral and homo-suggestive in our wrestling-related art.

  3. My memory lapse, Kid. I forgot that you of all people could be counted on to know a detail like that from the dance scene.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...