Press Materials

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Praise

“They play as if they’re a single, eight-armed organism”
-NPR Music

“Virtuosity and deft, precisely timed wit”
-Washington Post

“Commandingly elegant”
-New York Times

“Vibrant…superb”
-Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“An inspirational sense of fun and curiosity”
-Minnesota Star-Tribune

“The group performed with absolute aplomb”
-Boston Globe

“Marvelous”
-Chicago Tribune

“Mysterious, funny, endlessly inventive”
-Boston Classical Review

“Brilliant”
-Independent (UK)

“Technical precision, palpable groove and outstanding sound”
-Time Out New York 

“Hard-grooving”
-New York Times

“Savvy and hyper-talented young percussionists”
-Musical Toronto

“Fluency and zest”
-Andrew Clements, the Guardian (UK)

“Undeniably groovy…masterfully performed”
-Time Out Chicago

“One of the country’s finest new music ensembles”
-Chicago Reader

“The musicality and fierce focus of Third Coast Percussion electrified the room.”
-Sarasota Herald-Tribune 

Reviews and Features

Philip Glass review: World premiere of joyous ‘Perpetulum’

November 10, 2018
by Howard Reich

The listeners who packed Francis W. Parker School’s auditorium on Friday evening encountered Philip Glass in three guises: pianist, composer and raconteur.

Two of them were quite appealing.

Glass, 81, came at the invitation of the Chicago Humanities Festival and Third Coast Percussion, a Chicago ensemble that commissioned the composer to do something he’d never done before: write a stand-alone work for percussion quartet.

The prospect of hearing a world premiere of a potentially significant opus by Glass, who next month will pick up a Kennedy Center Honor, explains why the event long had been sold out. This intense degree of interest proved justified, for the 21-minute work was the evening’s high point, by far.

Structured in three continuous movements, with a cadenza between the second and third, Glass’ “Perpetulum” crystallized the best features of his compositional language: rhythmic propulsion, ever-shifting tone colors and easy accessibility. You don’t need to be conversant in serial technique or, for that matter, most of the Western classical canon to respond to Glass’ pulsing rhythms and vivid timbres.

But “Perpetulum” was much more than just the repetitive drones that render some of Glass’ work underwhelming at best, numbing at worst. This was a score rich in musical incident, its meters and textures constantly changing, its embrace of pitched and non-pitched instrumentation immensely appealing to hear.

The work opened with telegraphic, Morse Code-like figurations from TCP ensemble member and executive director David Skidmore, whose colleagues entered the proceedings one by one on a battery of instruments. Drums, chimes, cymbals and more were the vehicles for all this sound, yet Glass wrote the piece so meticulously – and TCP articulated it so crisply – that every note, phrase and line rang out lucidly.

A dreamier, more lyrical slow movement offered shards of melody wrapped in layers of rhythm, a stark contrast to what had come before, and a most appealing one, at that. If I correctly identified the start of the cadenza, which was penned not by Glass but by members of TCP, it was recognizable not only for its virtuosity and extroverted spirit but also by what came next: the classic driving rhythms that are Glass’ stock in trade.

A sense of joy pervaded all this music, thanks to the intricately interlocking figures Glass wrote and TCP’s fastidious execution of them. You just had to smile throughout this performance. It’s easy to see “Perpetulum” becoming a signature piece for TCP and, sooner or later, being performed by percussion ensembles everywhere.

Skidmore interviewed the composer onstage immediately before the “Perpetulum” premiere, saying he couldn’t find the title word anywhere via his Google searches. Glass explained that he was from Baltimore, where a lot of things “are made up,” and, true to form, so was the word, which Glass said he coined as a fusion of “perpetual” and “momentum.”

He added that he felt “Perpetulum” had a “symphonic feeling” to it, and that once he decided to include a cadenza, the piece became “almost like a concerto for quartet.”

The composer also reminisced on his years, long ago, as a student at the University of Chicago. This was when “Adlai Stevenson was running for president,” said Glass, looking out at the audience.

“Does anybody remember that, besides me?”

Judging by the murmurs in the house, a few did.

Glass also marveled at his career as a musician.

“I had no expectation that by the age of 41 or 42 I would be able to make a living” in music, said Glass, who for years drove a cab and took on other day jobs to pay the bills.

And he urged other composers to do as he had done, publishing and releasing his music himself, thereby retaining ownership.

“As long as you’re the author, you’re the owner, unless you give it away,” said Glass. “And there’s no reason to give it away.”

The evening opened with its weakest component, Glass as solo pianist, playing his “Mad Rush” (which, alas, was neither mad nor rushed). How much one appreciated this performance depended entirely on one’s patience for rhythmic repetition, harmonic stasis and simplistic pianism.

Mine ran out after about the first 32 bars (there were hundreds more to come).

Fortunately, “Perpetulum” was in the offing.


Third Coast Percussion tackle a Philip Glass commission—and the ‘great composer’ problem

November 7, 2018
by Kerry O’Brien

Many, many thanks to Kerry O’Brien for this wonderful feature article about our newest commission: Perpetulum, Philip Glass’s first-ever work for percussion ensemble. We had a fantastic world premiere on November 9 at the Chicago Humanities Festival and can’t wait to take Perpetulum on the road. Read excerpts from Kerry’s insightful feature here, or read the whole article to learn more about Philip, the history of minimalist music, our own commissioning process, and how Perpetulum came to be. Thanks again to Kerry and the Chicago Reader!


Philip Glass arrives in town this Friday to appear as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, but he’s no stranger to the city. He first came here in 1952 to begin his undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago at the prodigious age of 15He remembers sitting outside jazz clubs like the Beehive in Hyde Park, too young to be admitted, listening to bebop waft out the door.

Almost seven decades later, Glass is arguably America’s most famous living composer and considered something of a national treasure—in 2015, Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts. He’s using his current visit to Chicago to correct an oversight of long standing. Though he’s well-known for composing, performing, and thereby defining “minimalist” music, Glass has somehow never before written for the minimalist ensemble par excellence: the percussion ensemble.

Prompted by a commission from Third Coast Percussion—the Chicago quartet of David Skidmore, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and Sean Connors—Glass will present the world premiere of his first-ever work for percussion ensemble during a CHF event at the Francis W. Parker School. The evening will begin with a solo piano performance by Glass, followed by a discussion between Glass and Skidmore and Third Coast’s debut of the three-part, 20-minute Perpetulum.

Glass’s style of minimalism, which he once called music of “repetitive structures,” is unmistakable once you’ve heard it. Typified early in its history by his group the Philip Glass Ensemble—which used mostly amplified winds, keyboards, and voices—it’s characterized by rising-and-falling pulsed patterns, steady rhythms, meditative passages of harmonic stasis, and nonstop melodic momentum.

Over the years Glass’s trademark arpeggios have permeated pop culture as well as the classical sphere. He’s written a long list of film scores—KoyaanisqatsiCandymanThe Truman ShowThe Hours—and made an infamous fictionalized cameo on South Park. “The thing about Philip Glass is that he’s been part of the fabric of music and culture for so long,” says Martin. “I knew who Philip Glass was from just watching movies—I remember seeing Candyman in the mid-1990s. He’s been part of everything, so in that sense, his aesthetic and musical voice probably has been a part of Third Coast Percussion for a much longer time.”

For Martin and the other members of Third Coast, their first deep dive into Glass came when they were students in the 1990s and encountered his landmark 1976 opera, Einstein on the Beach. “I had a very hip high school music theory teacher who just kinda blew our minds one day,” says Skidmore. “She was like, ‘There’s this opera by this guy named Philip Glass,’ and she just hit play.” Connors admits that he downloaded this minimalist classic in the dial-up days of Napster—and given that it’s more than three hours long, even in its abbreviated recordings, that must have taken forever.

The 81-year-old Glass comes to Chicago in the midst of a busy performance schedule (which may help explain why he didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment). In late October, he and his ensemble played his three-and-a-half-hour mid-70s masterpiece Music in 12 Parts at New York’s Town Hall, followed last week by a sold-out run of his 1980 opera Satyagraha at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which he attended on opening night. Sometimes Glass seems to have done it all already—he’s written for myriad musical legends, among them the Kronos Quartet and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which will premiere his Symphony no. 12 in January 2019. But Third Coast Percussion found something he hadn’t done—and more important, they persuaded him to do it.

Commissioning Philip Glass is part of a larger initiative for Third Coast Percussion. As they look back at the history of Western classical music, it’s tempting to wonder, says Skidmore, what kind of percussion quartet the likes of Stravinsky or Bartók might have written. It’s a torturous counterfactual thought experiment, and everyone has their own dream list (just imagine if Julius Eastman or Maryanne Amacher had written one). Dillon adds: “We look at all the great composers who, if they had written a percussion ensemble piece—if someone had asked them or hounded them to write a percussion quartet—how much different would our whole genre be?”

The commission did require persistence—Third Coast reached out to Glass for “years and years and years.” A composer of Glass’s stature must be commissioned long in advance, so Perpetulum has been brewing for some time. Skidmore believes the key was being “patient and friendly but insistent,” and that patience was possible, he notes, because Third Coast are an established group with a functional development infrastructure—the processes to sustain the ensemble long-term are up and running, which means they can plan far into the future while projects seeded years ago come to fruition in the present.

Perpetulum (a hybrid word suggesting both “perpetual” and “pendulum”) wasn’t delivered already done but instead arose from collaboration between Glass and Third Coast. This began in April 2017, when the composer met with Skidmore while in town for a Chicago Opera Theater production of his The Perfect American. After that initial meeting, Glass and Third Coast maintained frequent dialogue. “He calls pretty regularly, actually, to talk through revisions,” says Skidmore. “We’ll go back and forth. He’ll send a new idea, his copyist will try it out, we’ll record it, he’ll call and ask what we think.”

Skidmore sees Perpetulum as an interesting way to graft keyboard percussion sounds (marimba, vibraphone) onto Glass’s approach to percussion in his symphonies. “His percussion writing up until recently has been very focused on traditional orchestral percussion instruments—snare drum, bass drum, triangle, tambourine—and these kind of motor rhythms, in symphonies especially,” he says. Glass has long written for keyboards (piano, organ), but not for keyboard percussion. As Martin says, “This is not early Glass music at all,” but it’s continuous with that style in that “there’s a lot of energy throughout the piece.”

Friday’s concert has long been sold out, but Perpetulum will be released in March 2019 via Glass’s label, Orange Mountain Music, on an album that also includes Gavin Bryars’s The Other Side of the River and multiple new works by Third Coast. Dillon says these pieces “reflect the influence of Glass but also connect a bit to our roles as composer-performers.”

Third Coast see objections to working with Glass as representing a false choice—such a project doesn’t prevent them from also nurturing up-and-comers. The Emerging Composers Partnership, launched in 2013, uses an open call to solicit works by lesser-known composers—Third Coast’s website says its aim is to “provide the Chicago contemporary music scene with premieres of works from the brightest rising stars in the composing community” and to promote “inclusive commissioning of new music.”

The composers who apply for this program aren’t well-known today, but they might be the greats of tomorrow. “It’s a very intimate thing that we’re doing—it’s not a cattle call,” says Connors. “It’s two people per season, so it’s really building a relationship, and then we become partners with them forever. They’ll be in our network, we’ll be their big supporters, and hopefully we’ll work with them in the future.”

By commissioning Glass while piloting their Emerging Composers Partnership, Third Coast both participate in and help write the history of percussion music. “One of the big points of that partnership is to find new voices and to encourage them . . . to not only write music, but percussion music,” Skidmore says. “Some of the people who we are able to work with in the ECP will one day be the next Meredith Monk, Philip Glass, Devonté Hynes, whoever. And how cool is it that at the onset of their career they’re asked for percussion, that that becomes a part of their voice early on? So there’s also an aspect of cultivating a future of composition in percussion.”

Third Coast’s Glass premiere is historic, and with any luck it will amplify their urgently needed efforts to encourage inclusivity. As with any such project, though, the important work is collaborative and ongoing.


Philip Glass and Third Coast Percussion launch a world premiere for Humanities Fest

November 6, 2018
by Howard Reich

Come Friday night, Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion will make a bit of music history.

For as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival,the unconventional quartet will play the world premiere of Philip Glass’ “Perpetulum,” which the ensemble commissioned.

Not that it’s easy to get a composer of Glass’ stature to write music for you.

“We kind of never dreamed he would actually say yes,” explains TCP ensemble member and executive director David Skidmore.

“We hoped he would, of course.”

Why Glass?

“One of the really important artistic missions for our organization is commissioning iconic composers – composers who are in the history books already and still writing music,” explains Skidmore.

“Because no one asked Bartok to write a percussion quartet, no one asked Stravinsky to write a percussion quartet, no one asked Shostakovich to write a percussion quartet.

If we don’t ask them,” adds Skidmore, referring to today’s giants, “maybe no one will ask them.”

“Asking Philip was crucial. It doesn’t even do justice to say we’ve been fans. He has been a part of the musical landscape, his influence in music of so many other composers we play and so many bands we listen to seemed like such a natural fit.”

Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to name many non-commercial composers who have reached a wider audience than Glass. But considering that, at 81, the man still tours the world constantly and cannot possibly fulfill more than a fraction of all the commissions he’s offered, one wonders why he agreed to write for a percussion quartet, of all things.

“It’s a high-end percussion outfit – they’re very good players,” says Glass, singing TCP’s praises.

“These are not people who get together on the weekend to play. These are people who are devoted.”

That they are, as evidenced by TCP’s brisk touring schedule and long list of commissions, including works by stylistically far-flung composers such as Augusta Read Thomas and Glenn Kotche.

In the case of “Perpetulum,” the musicians came up with an intriguing way of bringing the new work to life.

“I didn’t consult them on the music,” says Glass. “I simply wrote the piece. The way it worked was I would send the music, and they would record it and send it back to me. If they had ideas about some of the playing, they could show me what they wanted to do. That went on for maybe five or six weeks.”

Or, as Skidmore puts it, “He’s a consummate professional. As busy as he is, he turned in the score when he said he would, which is not something I would say for some of his peers. The score showed up, we read through it and recorded it and sent it to him.”

They repeated the process several times, as Glass refined the piece.

As for the structure of the work, “I went at it in a different way than most people might,” says Glass. “I assigned each of the players a certain number of instruments that they could play, so there shouldn’t be a lot of running around on the stage.

“The other thing I was interested in was approaching it as an orchestration issue as well as a compositional one. In other words, you have all these different instruments that are available to them, and, as with an orchestra, that doesn’t meant you’re using them all the time. … There are some that become more dominant.”

Glass adds that he left space for a TCP cadenza, “because I wanted them to have a crack at the music by themselves. I suggested they take some the thematic material and develop it themselves.”

Which is exactly what they’ve done, says Skidmore, who with his colleagues decided to write out the cadenza rather than improvise it.

Though Skidmore and friends were surprised that Glass took on the project, the composer says he was eager to do so.

“I had to wait a long time before anyone asked me to do this,” says Glass. “I would have done it any time.”

Friday’s program will begin with Glass playing solo piano, followed by an onstage interview with Skidmore and, finally, the “Perpetulum” world premiere, with Glass as listener, not performer.

Then the composer will be off to his next engagement, the musician still maintaining a remarkably busy itinerary.

“I’m slowing down – I’ve been on the road for 50 years – I’m going to spend more time writing,” promises Glass, whose nonmusical writing won him the Tribune Literary Award in 2016 for his engaging autobiography, Words Without Music: A Memoir.

“For me, airplane travel has become extremely difficult,” adds Glass. “It’s not comfortable, the whole security routine is annoying at the very least. … I’m tired of the onerous nature of the activity. So I’m going to cut it down somewhat. I’m still interested in playing; I’m just not going to do as much.”

Still, Glass has an especially important engagement coming up next month: He’ll receive a Kennedy Center Honor in Washington, D.C.

“I was totally surprised, but I was very pleased,” says Glass.

“I figure it’s important for concert music to be represented in these big things where we’re usually not represented,” he says of a prize that this year also will go to pop stars Cher and Reba McEntire, among others.

“There I am with them.”

Philip Glass and Third Coast Percussion perform at 7 p.m. Friday at Francis W. Parker School, 330 W. Webster Ave.; the event is sold-out, but callers can be added to a waiting list at 312-605-8444; www.chicagohumanities.org.


OU Wind Symphony to collaborate with Grammy Award-winning percussion ensemble

October 28, 2018
by Sydney Walters 

Ohio University is known for connecting its students to world-renowned groups and individuals, and the School of Music is next in line to provide such an opportunity. On Tuesday, the Ohio University Wind Symphony with be performing a concert with the Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Third Coast Percussion.

Third Coast Percussion is a quartet of percussionists from Chicago that also serves as the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. “We bring excellent performances of percussion music to audiences of all ages and backgrounds across the country and around the world,” David Skidmore, the executive director of Third Coast Percussion and an ensemble member, said in an email.

Skidmore said he hopes the ensemble shows students’ similar exciting performances to those he experienced when he was a student listening to professionals. “It was always thrilling when professional musicians were brought to campus so that we could see and hear examples of the types of performances that we might want to give,” Skidmore said in an email.

Andrew Trachsel, director of bands at Ohio University, said the students in the Wind Symphony will be benefiting significantly just from being around the performers in Third Coast Percussion. “Anytime that we can interact with the leaders in our profession, it can make us better,” he said. The students in the Wind Symphony also understand what they’re gaining from the collaboration. “We gain so much in terms of understanding what it takes to be a professional musician,” said Drew Koziel, a freshman studying music education and a trumpet player in the Wind Symphony.

Aside from the opportunities given to the musicians in the Wind Symphony, this performance promises to be a memorable one for the audience as well. The quartet will be opening the performance solo, with a performance of a piece by composer Steve Reich. They’ll then be joined by the Wind Symphony to perform a piece that Skidmore says is, “incredibly virtuosic and very beautiful.” During the second half, they’ll bring the audience a new listening experience with a piece by composer Donnacha Dennehy. “The audience-goers will get to see first-hand how Third Coast is making their sound,” Trachsel said.

Putting this collaboration together wasn’t easy, though. In 2015, Ohio University Bands and four other university bands got together to commission a band version of one of David Little’s previous pieces, “Radiant Child.” The original piece, ironically, was written for Third Coast Percussion four years prior. Trachsel viewed this as an opportunity to bring Third Coast Percussion to Ohio University to perform the piece with them.

Finding time for a Grammy-winning ensemble to come to the small town of Athens took a little time. Three years, to be exact. But the excitement from both groups is evident. “We love working with the percussion students at the school of music, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity,” Skidmore said in an email.

If You Go:

What: Third Coast Percussion with Ohio University Wind Symphony
When: 7:30 p.m., Tues., October 30, 2018
Where: Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium
Admission: $8 for students; $13 for seniors; $15 for general admission

 


New York Times: 10 Dance Performances to See This Weekend

October 18, 2018
by Gia Kourlas

Thanks to the New York Times for including our performances with Seán Curran Company in “10 Dance Performances to See This Weekend”! We are looking forward to performing at BAM’s Next Wave Festival, October 24-27 at 7:30pm. If you’re in NYC, stop by and say hello!


SEAN CURRAN COMPANY AND THIRD COAST PERCUSSION at BAM Harvey Theater (Oct 24-27, 7:30 p.m.). Curran celebrates his company’s 20th anniversary with live music by Third Coast Percussion and, naturally, some dances. Along with two early works, “Abstract Concrete” (2000) and “Quadrabox Redux” (2001), the choreographer unveils the New York premiere of “Everywhere All the Time.” Featuring a set by the landscape architect Diana Balmori, who died in 2016, and percussion music by the Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, “Everywhere” promises to be lively: Curran, a former member of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, started out as a traditional Irish step dancer.
718-636-4100, bam.org

 


Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton on Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

We are thrilled to get on the road with our long-time friends at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, presenting THERE WAS NOTHING / FOR ALL ITS FURY, a collaborative project more than five years in the making. Our first stop is Ann Arbor, MI, where we will perform with HSDC on one night of their two-night presentation: “Two Different Programs.” We will tour with HSDC to six more cities this year, including New York and L.A., but Ann Arbor is the only place where this dual performance will take place. Read this interview below with HSDC Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton to learn more about the company, about “Two Different Programs,” and about the inspiration for THERE WAS NOTHING choreographers Movement Art Is (Jon Boogz and Lil Buck) and FOR ALL ITS FURY choreographer Emma Portner.

Catch the next performance of THERE WAS NOTHING / FOR ALL ITS FURY, part of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s
“Two Different Programs”.
October 20, 8:00pm
Power Center, Ann Arbor, MI.
“Two Different Programs” is presented by the University Musical Society.
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.


Art is a valuable source of individual expression, but it’s an equally important force for social change. Towering murals on the streets of Detroit, songs sung by political dissonants and defiant protest art painted onto cracked cardboard for the March for Our Lives are testaments to this. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, in collaboration with the University Musical Society (UMS), returns to the Power Center this fall with “Two Different Programs,” to use contemporary dance as their personal appeal for action.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was founded in 1977 and is in its 9th season under the artistic direction of Glenn Edgerton. The modern dance company molds their dance around changing social issues and is known for providing collaborative opportunities with up-and-coming artists. “Two Different Programs” is no exception.

Oct. 19 presents “Decadance/Chicago,” a collaboration with iconic Israel-based choreographer Ohad Naharin, known for his distinct gaga style of dance and his famous piece “Minus 16.” Oct. 20 brings 23-year-old viral choreographer Emma Portner and Movement Art Is, an organization that aims to use movement as a form of social education. Live music from Grammy-winning group Third Coast Percussion and a composition by Devonté Hynes adds an innovative touch to Saturday’s performance.

In a phone interview with The Daily, Glenn Edgerton further illuminated on Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s fall program and his time as an artistic director.

***

The Michigan Daily: What makes Hubbard Street Dance Chicago unlike other dance companies?

GE: The dancers are incredible. They bring a beautiful sense of movement quality and technical ability, mixed with great imagination and thought-provoking intention. We also give opportunities to emerging choreographers, and this, mixed with our dancers, gives a great opportunity for choreographers to improve their imagination. But we’re not just a dance company: We have a huge education program. We also teach to autistic children and people with Parkinson’s. They’re dancers in their own right. These classes make our mission very satisfying; we feel like we’re making a difference in the dance world.

TMD: Given your prior background as a professional dancer with the Nederlands Dans Theater, what drew you to directing?

GE: As a dancer, I was always aware of my directors and curious of why choices were made. I specifically remember, as a dancer, you’re very consumed with your individual performance or role. I wanted to expand my mindset but stay in the same art form. Directing is something I’ve always wanted to do; as a child, I was putting on shows in my garage and selling tickets for a quarter. Putting on a performance is something I’ve always done.

TMD: One of the choreographers you highlight in this fall program is Ohad Naharin, an artist you’ve worked with frequently. What has it been like working with him all these years?

GE: I’ve known Ohad for 30 years and it gives me great satisfaction to have my dancers take part in such significant work. ‘Decadence Chicago,’ the piece choreographed especially for our company, is a wonderful journey from beginning to end.

TMD: Do you think it has become easier for your dancers to work with Naharin’s style over the years?

GE: Absolutely. We’ve performed so many of his works, between ‘Minus 16’ in 2000 and ‘Decadence Chicago’ in 2018. In those 18 years, we’ve had a new work from Ohad every two or three years. That development and investment is wonderful to see.

TMD: Your second performance includes Emma Portner; what has it been like working with such an emerging artist?

GE: She’s incredibly imaginative. She’s recently got into a whole concept of environmental issues, so her participation in this evening includes her feelings towards the Earth, how to make it sustainable and how we treat each other through our connection with the Earth. I love finding new choreographers that are just at the brink of starting their career. Emma is now booming and is being sought after all over; she (has) dabbled in so many different areas already at such a young age.

TMD: Movement Art Is is also focused on our relationship with the environment. Would you say the combination of Emma Portner and Movement Art Is has made Saturday’s performance take on an environmental theme?

GE: Yes, it has. Movement Art Is participated in the Standing Rock Pipeline Protest, and they’re depicting the narrative they learned from an Indian tribe in North Dakota through their dance. It’s unusual to see these hip-hop artists (Jon Boogz and Lil Buck), known for their style of juking and popping and locking, to go into a creative narrative piece.

TMD: Do you think Third Coast Percussion has fit well with your company’s style?

GE: I’ve wanted to work with them for many years. We’re of like mind: We’re both open-minded and collaborative. We’re flexible and can go with ideas that have been thrown out and enhance them instead.

TMD: As an artistic director, where does your inspiration come from?

GE: It comes from all over. It can be from a conversation, something I’ve read, a video, a movie. My intent artistically is to keep the company relevant. ‘What’s going on in the moment?’ is always something I ask myself. We’re forever evolving and changing — sometimes you hit the mark and sometimes you don’t. We’re an experimental company and we’re always going to be exploring what’s next.

TMD: What are you expecting from this Ann Arbor crowd?

GE: I’d like the public to walk away and still be thinking about the piece. I want them to feel something beyond just that moment. I don’t want them to leave and hear someone saying to their friend, ‘What do you want to eat for dinner?’ They should still resonate with the work days after the performance.


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents “Two Different Programs”:
“Decadence/Chicago” and “THERE WAS NOTHING / FOR ALL ITS FURY”
October 19-20, 8:00pm
Power Center, Ann Arbor, MI.
“Two Different Programs” is presented by the University Musical Society.
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

 

 


Review | Seán Curran, Third Coast Percussion

October 6, 2018
by Michael Huebner

It’s hard to imagine a more integrated merger of dance and percussion than that presented Friday at the Alys Stephens Center.

Two dynamic ensembles, each a powerful force in their respective art forms, combined for two retrospective works, then let loose in a world premiere with boundless expression.

No stranger to premieres, the New York-based dance troupe Seán Curran Company has presented 27 of them around the world, according to its web site. Third Coast Percussion, by its very nature, has commissioned a long list of composers on its way to a 2017 Grammy award.

“Everywhere All the Time,” an ASC commission, was presented for the first time at this event, and represented an expansive departure from the two works presented earlier in the program, each reworkings from 2000 and 2001.

Three large movable gates, adorned with black patterns suggestive of woody vines, pervaded “Everywhere.” They were a kind of abstract scenery, their placement defining the varying moods of Seán Curran’s choreography. Sheer windblown costumes suggested underwater movement as the cast of nine “swam” about the stage. The percussionists – two on stage, two in the balcony – began by exploring a variety of tom-toms in Donnacha Dennehy‘s score, “Surface Tension.”

As the sonic atmosphere shifted gears, so did the choreography. Startling percussive bursts and eerie harmonics from bowed metal bars led to greater freedom from the individual dancers, showcasing their fluid, yet rigorous athleticism. During a frenetic solo dance, each dancer exited the stage in tense, dramatic moments, leaving only contemplation. Only then could viewers realize how fully engaged they were.

“Abstract Concrete,” a new incarnation of a Curran work first created in 2000, began the show, presenting 10 dancers lined up in rows and dressed in brightly colored leotards. Branching out, weightless lifts and impeccably precise ensemble reflected the youthful rhythmic and emotional character of TCP and David Skidmore’s score. Quick, stage-wide movement, together with outstretched limbs and a web of interwoven patterns, contributed to the joyful atmosphere.

Even more ebullient was “Quadrabox Redux,” also a revision of an earlier dance. Four dancers sitting on wooden boxes in a remarkably complex display of hand percussion, with some foot moves thrown in. Call it patty-cake on steroids.

The program and New York premiere of “Everywhere All the Time” will take place Oct. 24-27 at the Harvey Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, part of BAM’s 2018 Next Wave Festival.

 


Season 41 Fall Series Review- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago with Third Coast Percussion

September 28, 2018
by Debra Davy

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presented a strong and stirring modern collaboration of music, choreography, spoken word, dance, and percussive performance at its Season 41 Fall Series opener on September 27th, 2018. The program is to be repeated September 29th and 30that the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 East Randolph Street, Chicago.

This double World Premiere of dance featured live music on stage a by 2016 Grammy-award winning Chicago-based musical marvels Third Coast Percussion, who are incidentally ensemble-in-residence at Notre Dame University. The 4 virtuoso rhythmists (Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore) interacted with each other, multiple instruments and trays of tuned objects during the entire evening’s engagement including starring in an orchestral interlude called Perfectly Voiceless in-between the 2 dance works.

All the music was composed by British pop icon Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange), arranged/interpreted by Third Coast Percussion, and it was all of a piece- ethereal, sonic- spacey, throbbing and intensely cerebral; in a word, mesmerizing.

The new dances in premiere were choreographed by Emma Portner and Lil Buck/Jon Boogz, the latter known as Movement Art Is. The program this Fall is a joint exhibition of their mission to meld art forms and highlight social issues.

 The Movement Art Is piece, up first, entitled There Was Nothingis a hyper-hip creation myth. Set around a campfire, performed to a voice-over recitation of original poetry written and intoned by spoken word artist Robin Sanders, it found the dancers popping, jooking and robotically elegantly über-break dancing. A wonderfully clever and sophisticated dance, it served as a showpiece for the choreographers’ ultra-modern integrated interplay of body dynamics.

The Portner piece, entitled For All Its Fury, was a long performance, connected by images of mushrooms incorporated on the backdrop, in riveting featured dancer Rena Butler’s dappled costume and in the largely unrecognizable intoned words of the poem “Mushrooms” by Sylvia Plath. The choreographer also employed certain rather prosaic props- a bottle, a cane, that were, like the fungus artwork, largely unnecessary. The point here is that there was no need for extraneous “unifiers”; the movement and in particular, the music were universal enough to tie together the combinations.

There was a lot happening on stage. In both pieces, the dancers were grouped in various ways, in several sets of costumes including- in the Portner piece- what looked like elastic bandage connecting threads. Through it all, the sinuous and technically stunning Hubbard Street dancers proved that, once again, there are no movements too complex, too “out-there” for them to execute with finesse. While Portner’s choreography has an improvisational spirit, it is very technically complicated and it takes a lot of risks. To tether a group of dancers together and have them slither across a stage behind gigantic draped banners is to be very sure of one’s vision, or very young- Portner is both.

In fact, the positioning of Third Coast Percussion on stage was nothing less than a stroke of genius, as they were at once collaborators, scene-stealers, part of the scenery, part of the action. The dances seemed to be visualizations of the music. If the stated emphasis of this program was to incorporate new ideas with socially responsible ideals, the diverse nature of the creators, performers, and palettes certainly went a long way toward achieving that goal.

Kudos is very much due to the fantastic, spot-on spotlights and strobes of lighting designer Jim Frenchand the organically clever costumes of Hogan McLaughlin.

 

 

 


Hubbard Street Dance’s latest has a nod to mushrooms and a message about Mother Earth

September 28, 2018
by Chris Jones

Hubbard Street’s Season 41 Fall Series asks a lot of its audience: The new environmentalist collaboration between the choreographers Emma Portner, Lil Buck and Jon Boogz runs close to 90 minutes without a break, a relative rarity in the world of contemporary dance.

Alas, there is no discreet exit from the Harris Theater, and thus the price paid by that decision Thursday night was a stream of people heading variously and loudly for the exit, all the way up to the top of the theater. They were missing a very interesting collage of diverse talents, given that the original music here was composed by Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange) and performed live by Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion.

I suspect the artists, most of whom are new to Hubbard Street, wanted to encourage their viewers to make sustained narrative connections about their stated theme of sustainability (and our lack of attention thereto). An inspiration, the artists have said, was Paul Stamets’ book “Mycelium Running,” the thesis of which involves us growing more mushrooms so as to harness the rejuvenating benefits of the fungus parts known as mycelium, weapons in the environmental battle against deforestation, toxic waste and other human-caused debasements of our precious Earth.

That’s not easy to translate into physical movement, but these three young artists certainly manage to intensely express the strange intersectional role played by the human body — at once part of the natural landscape but also the source of its corruption. That compelling ambivalence resonates throughout the piece.

There is text: original poetry performed by Robin Sanders in the Boogz and Lil Buck piece called “There Was Nothing” and, in Portner’s piece, Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms” (in an interesting irony, it is noted that the sponsor of the piece is Conagra Brands Foundation). But at least as it reached my ear, the text is indistinct and it was hard to know whether it was intended to interplay with the movement on an equal level or function more as stylized wallpaper. That’s a choice needing to be made.

Similarly, there’s more work yet to do on how to order the space. The Third Coast maestros take up a lot of room, sometimes crunching the incomparable Hubbard Street dancers around their instruments. How the former is meant to interact with the latter is not yet clear — the presence of live musicians always is a gift, but so forceful a visual presence necessitates decisions on deeper, in-the-moment matters.

To encapsulate all of that: The program is intellectually rigorous and largely meets the challenge of connecting dancer to dust, the stuff to which we all will return. But it still needs to find how to breathe.


Hubbard Street’s Percussion-Driven Experiment Probes Heaven and Hell on Earth

September 28, 2018
by Hedy Weiss

Just hours after a high-stakes drama unfolded Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. (and around the world), Hubbard Street Dance Chicago brought up the lights on its interlocking three-part fall season program that harkened back to the creation of the universe and the ascent of man and then proceeded to conjure an apocalyptic vision of where it all went wrong.

The entire undertaking took 80 intermissionless minutes of stage time, but the final section of the work began to feel like an exercise in eternity.

The Hubbard Street dancers are never less than flawless in their execution of whatever they are given by one choreographer or another. And in this case, the opening work by Jon Boogz and Lil Buck (the co-founders of Movement Art Is, or MAI), which included a partly audible text and a scene of placard-carrying protestors whose posters were blank, held a certain fascination. But the third section of the work, choreographed by Emma Portner – and focused largely on ghoulish scenes of torture and violent power plays with an Orwellian quality – quickly grew tedious in its repetitiveness. And its final section, suggesting a return of human connection, meandered endlessly to no effect.

Without question, the real reason to catch this concert is to hear Chicago’s extraordinary, altogether virtuosic, Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion ensemble playing the hugely complex and evocative original compositions by Devonté Hynes, the British-born composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of African heritage who, not surprisingly (just listen to his repeat-till-it-changes riffs) has performed alongside Philip Glass at the Kennedy Center.

Watching the four musicians of Third Coast (Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore) as they play vibraphones, drums, woodblocks, bells and more in the most dazzling synchrony and counterpoint, as their mallets catch the light, and as they wheel their instruments into various formations, is a fascinating, precision-tooled ballet all its own. (The quartet previously collaborated with Hubbard Street on Jiri Kylian’s thrilling work, “Falling Angels.”)

“There Was Nothing,” the opening work by Boogz and Buck, begins around a little triangle of fire as we hear a narrative about the explosion of forces that gradually led to the universe as we know it, with the arrival of Adam and Eve roughly reiterated in the style of the Genesis telling. Of course it isn’t long before all that is Eden-like erupts into destruction. (The overall program is said to have been inspired by Paul Stamets’ book, “Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World,” about how fungi can save the environment.)

The fluid, organic movement of the dancers (Craig D. Black Jr., Jacqueline Burnett, Gaby Diaz, Michael Gross, Adrienne Lipson, David Schultz, Kevin J. Shannon and the always animated Alicia Delgadillo) possessed the usual Hubbard Street magic.

Third Coast had the stage to itself for the evening’s second section, “Perfectly Voiceless,” during which it conjured a heavenly constellation of sound.

Drumming, strobe lights and the descent of three black and white panels (by David Kim) depicting sculptural forms suggestive of worn canes or other weapons, announced the arrival of Portner’s “For All Its Fury.”

At the center of the work is the technically powerful and superbly expressive dancer, Rena Butler, who becomes witness to a most grotesque escalation of violence, bondage and torture, involving canes, and plastic bags used like hoods, and an endless sequence in which the dancers are entangled in a sort of cat’s cradle of stretchy bands. Man’s inhumanity to man? OK, got it. But it goes on far beyond the point of choreographic interest or emotional caring. And then, in a final section, which feels tacked on and shapeless, there is a kind of return to human connection. (Most of the spoken words in the piece were essentially inaudible.)

In addition to the riveting Butler, the dancers (costumed in mushroom brown tunics) included the petite, intense Kellie Epperheimer, Andrew Murdock, Connie Shiau, Elliot Hammans, Florian Lochner, Alysia Johnson and Black. And Jim French’s dramatic lighting is effective throughout the evening.

Again, the primary reason to catch this program is to watch and listen to Third Coast Percussion in action. Both they and the Hubbard Street dancers deserve far more interesting choreography.