Kanopy Dance Company
Friday (7:30 p.m.), Saturday (7:30 p.m.) & Sunday (2:30 p.m.), March 2-4, Overture Center's Promenade Hall
On the blizzard's tail comes Dark Nights, Kanopy Dance Company's yearly ode to March. I wouldn't miss this one for the world. In its annual three-show cycle, Dark Nights is the truest expression of Kanopy's considerable artistic vision. Works like 'End Times,' an antiwar ballet, and the punk opera 'Metallica' (version two) were Dark Nights premieres. Yes, I've been critical of the company's technique, but Kanopy's choreographers are Madison's best. My all-time favorite Kanopy dance, artistic director Lisa Thurrell's 'The Maw,' is on this weekend's bill. Thurrell also stretches her flair for Greek tragedy into new, fertile ground ' I've seen tantalizing bits of her latest work, 'Antigone,' in rehearsal. Thurrell's little sis, New York dancer Ede Thurrell, brings in a solo, 'News,' made for her by Judson Dance Theater pioneer Deborah Hay. And Kiro Kopulos, master of quirky, slow, mystical works, has a brand-new piece called 'Bloodlines' on the program.
If that's not enough, the dancing should be sleek, too. Guest artist Kerry Parker, who's performed with Minnesota Dance Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Vienna State Opera Ballet, gives 'Antigone' the high-end gloss Kanopy's works need. The eternally regal Vivian Tomlinson, beloved Madison ballet teacher and member of the original 1970s Wisconsin Ballet Company, is perfectly cast as Creon, King of Thebes. And the current company's got some of the best dancers it's had in years.
Plus, this is art for our times, and that's the best kind. Kopulos says there's political intent in his spooky new piece built on circular themes, negative images and a drumbeat soundtrack with an anxious stream of words. Usually, he says, he's looking for balance, but distorted energies and discontent tilt this work off-axis.
From Thurrell's dark, Martha Graham-informed lens comes 'The Maw,' which she says she concocted on a cross-town Manhattan bus in '98. Kanopy associate director Robert Cleary revives his best role as the luxuriously evil lead. In this utterly expressionist medieval morality play, Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl' spits from the Devil's mouth; the hellfires of war lick its wicked cheeks.
Thurrell and local composer/diva Vicky Tzoumerka-Knoedler, who wrote the score, spent three years working on 'Antigone,' also a Graham-based dance. 'The story's about a king with too much hubris, making decisions that cause tragedy for everybody,' Thurrell says. 'Hmmm. But what's different from today is that King Creon actually has remorse, and I'm showing that. It's important to me to try to cling to some hope.'
The content of Hay's solo for Ede Thurrell ' part of Hay's long-running solo commissioning project ' is secret, so far, but in an e-mail to her sister, the younger Thurrell wrote, 'The brilliant and innovative Ms. Hay has been dragging dance into the modern era (for about the last 40 years) and makes dances that are surprising, funny, difficult, and in the case of this solo, possibly beautiful.'
Send me malevolent messages if I end up being wrong, but I bet Dark Nights will be one of the best dance productions we've seen from a local company in a long time.