Place Poems

The Annex
January 22 - February 8, 2004
Thursday - Sunday at 7:30pm
Sunday at 2:30pm

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Director/Choreographer Billy Clark
Composer Neel Murgai
Video/Film Rob Hall
Scenic Design Andrew Christman
Sound Design Grant Gregory
Lighting Design Federico Restrepo
Performed by Billy Clark, Rob Laqui, Matthew Lillis, Abby Rasminsky & Lizzy Tyler
live music performed by Neel Murgai & Deepak Shenoy

Billy Clark, a member of La MaMa's Great Jones Rep and leading dancer with Tamar Rogoff and Min Tanaka, has formed his own company, Dusara Dance. The troupe will debut with PLACE POEMS, a postmodern work inspired by Sufi love and devotional poetry by Hafiz and Rumi. In it, a variety of dances are interwoven beneath a towering tree framed by a giant projection screen. The dancers, accompanied by live musicians and a haunting sound score, search for their place in a disappearing natural world.

PLACE POEMS was developed as a work in progress this past summer during a residence at La MaMa Umbria, in Spoleto, Italy. It will be performed by Clark and four other dancers: Abby Rasminsky, Rob Laqui, Matt Lillis and Lizzy Tyler.

Music will be primarily a collaboration of two live musicians. Composer Neel Murgai, who is Indian by heritage, contributes throat singing and plays sitar, daf (an Iranian rim drum) and ocarina. A percussionist will play tabla (a classical Indian instrument comprised of two drums, one of wood and one metal) and other hand percussion instruments. The live music will be integrated with sound design by Grant Gregory which employs natural sounds and samples and which will be triggered live so as to interact spontaneously with the action.

The set by Andrew Christman is an abstract representation of a very tall tree, with a circle of stones and earthen area at its base. These are framed by a large projection screen behind and one or two TV monitors on wheeling boxes. Projections include images from nature and excerpts from solos the dancers performed in Italy in specific natural settings, which are interwoven with the live performances. Video design is by Rob Hall. The dancers will be painted and costumed as ghostly white spirits. Excerpts from poets by Hafiz and Rumi are occasionally used in English as voice-overs.

Clark, who lived in India for two and a half years, conceived this piece there and formed his company for it. He named the troupe Dusara Dance after "Dusara Duniya," meaning "another world" in Hindi.

The piece began as a duet between Clark and Abby Rasminsky called "Poem," which was performed at RED Lab in Dumbo. It used dance, text, video and an original score to paint a picture of an individual's struggle to find and hold on to strength of love in a world where the existence of nature is rapidly disappearing. Inspired by that experience, Clark decided to develop the piece further and invited the other current dancers to join him. Last summer, during the residence at La MaMa Umbria, the work-in-progress was presented in the courtyard of an old church (the location being provided by the city government of Spoleto).

Billy Clark graduated with honors from the Experimental Theater Wing at New York University. He has been a member of the Great Jones Repertory Company since 1996. His work with that company includes Ellen Stewart's "Oedipus" and "Seven Against Thebes"; "The Trojan Women," directed by Andrei Serban with music by Elizabeth Swados; and "Geranos" by Andrea Paciotto and Mia Yoo. He has toured with the Company to Italy, Turkey, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Austria, Japan and Korea.

Clark has been a dancer in Tamar Rogoff's Dance Company since 1997. His appearances with Rogoff include "Demeter's Daughter," a site specific work which was performed in community gardens, rooftops and the streets of Manhattan's lower east side, "The Dying Swan Convention," which was performed at Dance space, and "Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier," which debuted at La MaMa and toured to The Painted Bride and Middlebury College. Clark has also assisted Tamar Rogoff by teaching dance classes and leading training sessions for her Company.

He has danced in two of Min Tanaka's world premieres, "Romance" and "Fire Story," and has trained and worked with Tanaka at his farm in Japan.

Clark is a founding member of the Brooklyn-based performance ensemble Morgon Kara, which since 1994 has performed in theaters, gardens, museums, and public spaces throughout New York. He has directed the two latest works of this troupe: "The Journey of the Mummy," commissioned by the Brooklyn Museum Of Art and performed to record breaking numbers in the museum's Egyptian gallery, and "Bird Man," a site specific piece funded by Dancing in the Streets and performed on a Brooklyn pier over looking the Manhattan skyline.

Village Voice Review
by Eva Yaa Asantewaa
February 4 - 10, 2004

The Mysterious East Frames the Debut of Clark's New Troupe

Billy Clark's Place Poems, the debut of his troupe Dusara Dance, looks and sounds like a magnet for possibly too many Eastern artistic elements—Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Iranian. Inspired by Sufi poets Rumi and Hafiz, the hour-long work begins as masked, white-clad Clark stands outside a curtain that conceals the dance space. It ends similarly, the curtain once again veiling the path to the Beloved. Between these margins—through limpid or violent music, video images of rustling branches, drifting clouds and rushing streams, flawless solo and ensemble dancing—we witness the passion of wind and water, suggesting the otherwise unfathomable nature of the divine. The dancers, when not moving butoh-slow or synchronizing yoga stretches, become overwhelmed by unseen forces or seized by a compulsion to arch and strain skyward. Some moments have curious radiance—like Rob Laqui balancing a bucket atop an outstretched palm while maintaining his own serene equilibrium.
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