Post:Ballet presents “Four Plays” at the Yerba Buena Center (Preview)

Post:Ballet dance artists Christian Squires, Raychel Weiner, Robert Dekkers. Photo by Tricia Cronin
Post:Ballet dance artists Christian Squires, Raychel Weiner, Robert Dekkers. Photo by Tricia Cronin

For their upcoming program this weekend in San Francisco, Artistic Director of Post:Ballet Robert Dekkers enlisted live musicians, visual artists, and award-winning architect Robert Gilson to create Four Plays.  The ambitious (and expensive) evening of all-Dekkers choreography features the premiere of field the present shifts. By its description, shifts sounds more like a Cunningham work than ballet… “by following a shared rule set that structures the artistic elements of the work- live music, architectural elements, costuming, dancing, and lighting- each rendering of the piece will be a unique expression of a particular accumulation of choices.”

Since first proclaiming that Ballet may never change, I’ve been hearing from a few people who might say otherwise.

Robert Dekkers was one such person, and his Post:Ballet is doing some interesting work by collaborating with multi-disciplinary artists in various mediums. From their mission statement:

The company incorporates diverse mediums and modern aesthetics with classically based dance to present work that is deeply personal and relevant to both the creative artists and to our community.

Collaboration is certainly a buzz word among the modern dance community these days, but the approach is not new… Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes were perhaps the first to deliberately incorporate many mediums and collaboration with current artists to inspire new ballets – a tactic borrowed largely from opera. What’s exciting about Post:Ballet is their ability to take an old approach and an old movement vocabulary and create something entirely new out of it.  By allowing contemporary artists of different mediums into the studio, ballet is revitalized and made again relevant as it was in Diaghilev’s time.

And yet, I watch this video recapping last season at Post:Ballet and I struggle to see the line that divides them from “contemporary” dance companies, or modern dance companies with really good technique.

Is ballet only now defined by the presence of pointe shoes and a warm-up class using barres?  I’m still not sure what the future holds for ballet, or if, when it comes down to it, it is just about semantics.

Who knows…

What I am sure of is that Chicago can be a somewhat dry land when it comes to ballet, and Robert Dekkers and his Post:Ballet dancers are welcome in my town any time. Furthermore, if you happen to find yourself in the Bay Area this Thursday or Friday, you may want to check them out.

Post:Ballet presents its fourth annual home season, Four Plays at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Lam Research Theater July 18-19, 2013 at 8pm. Tickets are available online through Yerba Buena’s box office.

Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter for NPR affiliate station WGLT and freelance arts and culture critic, primarily reviewing dance for the Chicago Tribune. Lauren enjoys cooking, cycling and attempting to grow things in her backyard. She lives in central Illinois.