Imago has just announced an audition for a new movement dance company. What does that mean? Since I am co-author of the announcement I should know, but really I am bit in the dark. I am however holding one of the flashlights looking.
Carol Triffle, Artistic co-director and I will ultimately be answering that question over time (over three year’s time.)
But for now here’s some thoughts…
Remember the 70’s? Okay, you weren’t born then. If you were lucid at that time there was a weak damaging force and a strong renaissance in the movement arts in the US and other parts of the world over a simple four letter word - mime. By weak force I mean thousands of white faced amateurs (maybe even hundreds of thousands) that sprouted up in imitation of Marcel Marceau (do you think Marceau ever felt any responsibility for stirring up such a damaging force? I met Marceau. I don’t think he thought himself as the ambassador of such bad work or at least responsible for it.) By the time the eighties hit, mimes were the ridicule of all stand-up comedians and the scorn of the general public. I can’t think of another art form so hated.
At the time your 19 year old neighbor was pulling lycra pants over his skinny legs and smearing white make-up in a tight face circle capped by a black beret, while other movement artists and companies were forging a new movement. One excellent enterprise was a group out of Montreal called Mime Omnibus. I won’t try to describe their work except to say like all great theatre it did not adhere to one classification. It was difficult to categorize, difficult to describe and certainly did not reduce mime to a wordless mundane narrative.
What would have been the state of mime in this country if the white-faced umbrella carriers had not ruled the street corners and craft markets for over a decade? What if the American public had recognized the shallowness of imaginary walls and refused to ordain this seemingly new order of mime?
The answer can not be found unless we turn the clock back and pull Marcel off that stage so he can not influence back yard rehearsals of imaginary walks and blowing up invisible balloons. For the record I was a big fan of Marceau and do not view his work as a reduction of life in Pantomime Blanche (as Jacques Lecoq would call it) to an idiot presentation.
I am interested in attempting to bring to the stage a form that never matured in the 20th century in America. A theatre marked by sweeping movements, comedic falls and high dives. Of works that reflect, mimics, and becomes what it sees – which mirrors life like no other art form. Is it too late to resurrect mime back to the status of art? No, not with the help of its related cousin – dance.
PS. I must confess, I too was holding invisible umbrellas in the streets, but my interest of it faded fast. I am also to blame.
PSS My intent in this blog entry was in no way to insult those artist that performed Pantomime Blanche with integrity (there were a few.)