One performer embraces ‘Two Views’
“All warfare is based on deception,” said Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher who was also a military man; and romantic relationships are no different, according to the writings of Sei Shonagon, an 11th century Japanese court diarist. These two writers inspired Rosanna Gamson/World Wide’s new 45-minute piece, “Two Views (an urban ocean has 29 eyes),” which premiered at the Japan America Theatre on Saturday night.
Despite this source material, some of which was read and serenely sung (by Melody Versoza, gliding around the action), deception and relationship dynamics did not emerge as a theme in ensemble terms. Instead, the “two views” of the title seemed to exist clearly in one impressive performer.
In a series of sculptural solos, Johnny Tu, who co-choreographed with Gamson, appeared to have alternate rushes of molten lava and pacific breezes flowing through his body. Tu appeared to be a lone warrior figure at center stage, in constant preparation for any battle that could be waged with pure dance. With a bare chest and wide stance, wearing loose pants of overlapping panels, he turned martial arts moves into poetic stanzas, his arms stiffening and shooting out like weapons when they weren’t tracing delicate patterns and swooping liked birds on complicated missions.
The many other elements of “Two Views” looked subservient to these breathy and steely soliloquies, movement from which was often echoed in the comings and goings of the other nine dancers. Gamson’s way of working guarantees plenty of action, with clusters of activity in various areas of the stage and “storytelling” moments that tempt you to try to figure it all out (were those couples making love, saying goodbye or fighting?).
Text, dance and music often competed for attention, and Shane W. Cadman’s expressive score often won. For one segment, David Iwataki’s piano raced along with burbling crosses made by the dancers; in another, Ray Frisby’s pointed percussion made the cutting and squeezing of an orange into a ceremony of sorts. Greg Adamson’s eloquent cello carried a scene dominated by the scooping and carving arms of guest performers Jaime Nichols and Craig Ng.
Subtle and atmospheric lighting (by Ted Mather) contributed to the severe stylishness of the piece, as did the presence of a giant silk scarf, streaming across the stage several times, and the Japanese-inspired costumes and fragments of them in shades of charcoal, white and orange. Real oranges appeared enigmatically, in rows that were gathered or flying behind an intense duet.
This hail of thumping oranges on their own drew titters from the audience, a moment reminiscent of the strange mood in the excerpts from “Again Not Again” (1997) that opened the program. Inspired by the siege of Sarajevo, the work used game structure (there’s a timekeeper with a whistle) and had the eight dancers bursting into non sequitur activities with forceful conviction (bashing long sticks of French bread as if possessed). It was more reminiscent of Monty Python than an evocation, tribute or commentary.
In “Two Views,” stated sources also set up expectations unfulfilled. But it was well crafted and impressively designed, sometimes finding meaning in musically evocative moments and the impressive physical musings of Tu.
Jennifer Fisher, The Los Angeles Times (March 11, 2003)
"Soprano Melody Versoza is also on hand, usually up a ladder, to intone Shane Cadman's original lyrics of lament and despair."
Paula Citron, The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (March 31, 2003)
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Desire Fuels an Endearing 'Lovesickness'
With her new work called "Lovesickness," which opened Thursday night, Rosanna Gamson creates a neat little valentine to desire--to constantly thwarted desire, actually, but the piece is so inventive and rhapsodic, it makes inevitable the idea that love and lack of it are constant, intimate companions.
Gamson fills the small space at Highways in Santa Monica with constantly flowing events--dancing, songs, speech and projections. And like rapt passersby looking at a holiday-themed department store window, our eyes light upon scene after scene that enforce the mood--a phalanx of flamencos tapping out sad messages in rhythmic code; a man who breaks away into a restless flinging that lyrically resolves into thoughtful stillness (the amazingly sculptural Johnny Tu); sepia films of a woman putting on perfume; flickering street scenes projected on flimsy cloth held by a figure in white lace (liquid-voiced Melody Versoza, singing something between a lament and a love song).
Throughout, there is a woman telling stories (an appealing Dana Wieluns), mostly about her own desire and disappointments. Having trouble communicating with a German-speaking armchair analyzer, she's clearly one of Freud's "hysteria" cases, with a categorical diagnosis of sexual repression nipping at her heels. She also tells us about society's narratives--how in another age, she might have been thought of as possessed, or how she might have expected the gods to take care of her. But instead, there are theories of the psyche, chemical imbalances and endless longing.
Shane W. Cadman's score (performed by the Illustrious Theatre Orchestra) pulsates like troubling thoughts or a racing heart that won't fade after excitement. Descending melodies and klezmer-esque interludes weave in and out of scenes as definitively as the audience-encompassing diaphanous tent that Gamson uses to interestingly veil the second of two shortish acts. In the small corps of movers, there are skilled specialists (tango couple Cesar Cazares and Lilia Lopez; flamenco dancer Vera Flores Celaya and Tu), but there are also more "ordinary movers" who worked into this peculiar community well, whether it's breaking into a folk/disco version of a mating dance, various solo musings or sudden simultaneous explanations.
It's as if Gamson is showing us that everyone has a story. And as she says through Wieluns' eventually resigned character: "I can only show you some shadows and hope you can guess what I mean by them."
Jennifer Fisher, Special to The Times (The Los Angeles Times, 12/4/99)
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Mind and body: two to tango
Desire, heartbreak and Freud's theory of hysteria share the stage with divine dancing in Rosanna Gamson/World Wide's "Lovesickness" at Sushi this weekend. This two-act, evening-length work is dance-theater at its best - a deft combination of text, original score and film, propelled by nearly nonstop dancing.
Gamson's choreography in Act I (which deals with hysteria) plays with the tension between control and abandon. The seven dancers enter in a phalanx and circle the stage with the driving heel beats and proud carriages of flamenco, that perfect embodiment of passion and containment.
Flamenco weaves throughout Act I, for instance when Johnny Tu (a dancer of extraordinary power and charisma) does a wild, limb-flinging solo and the other dancers, like a chorus, maintain the controlled flamenco beat. There are also aching tango duets by Lilia Lopez and Cesar Cázares and a delicious, recurring vocabulary of scooping and reaching arm movements.
And that's just the dance. In the midst of all this inventive movement, a delightfully pompous Paul Outlaw delivers excerpts from Freud - in German - his dignity punctured by a goofy mis-translator in a black slip-dress and red high heels. Dana Wieluns plays the translator with fey seriousness and charm, as well as the fresh-faced blond prettiness of Renee Zellweger.
At the same time, black-and-white movies with the grainy look of silent films are projected onto sheets hanging from clotheslines above the stage.
It's all held together by Shane Cadman's original score, a montage of flamenco, tango and, in the second act, driving, non-melodic music a la Philip Glass. Cadman's score has the great virtue of egolessness, seamlessly fitting the production rather than calling attention to itself; the occasional brilliant exceptions are several songs performed by Melody Versoza in a liquid, heart-wrenching soprano.
With such a dizzying array of elements, it's impossible to take everything in. It doesn't matter. The integrity of Gamson's vision and the impeccable focus of a dream cast give "Lovesickness" a visceral intelligence that soaks into one's skin. (The outstanding dancers also include Vera Flores Celaya, Erin Maxick, Edgar Ovando and Deborah Rosen.)
The magic falters a few times in Act II, when the text sometimes veers toward preachiness. But even when the text gets didactic, the dance delivers a more nuanced message. So does the evocative set - a filmy, transparent white "tent" that sometimes covers the stage, with the dancers performing beneath it and images (including exquisite swirls of Arabic text) projected on the side.
Less frenetic than Act I, this act has an Eastern flavor, with the dancers in white tunics and pants sometimes doing yoga lunges and balancing poses. The text ranges from alphabets to goddesses to the virus theory of disease. Gamson's choreography is often playful (in the serious way that children play), and there's an exuberant gestural vocabulary for each letter of the alphabet.
The end of "Lovesickness" feels inconclusive. But a powerful moment of completion occurs before that. In the first act, Outlaw has spouted Freud's theories about women, quarreling with Wieluns' translations. In Act II, Wieluns relates her personal experience of love, and Outlaw (Freud) gives what sounds like a faithful German translation - the man who asked what women want at last conceding a woman's ability to give meaning to her own life.
Janice Steinberg, San Diego Union-Tribune (February 16, 2002)
Time Space Energy - Rosanna Gamson's Grand Hope Flower
By the end of Rosanna Gamson's major work Grand Hope Flower, the mental lightbulbs are popping on and off with an intense alacrity and this crazy , rare feeling - "I understand the meaning of life!" - percolates to the surface. That may make one feel silly, but Gamson has accomplished something serious and sustaining with Grand Hope Flower. Not all of it is likable. Gamson is a little pretentious and full of her own ideas, some of which link and some of which lead nowhere, but she has a purpose beyond herself, a choreographic design that supports her humanistic world-view.
Created in response and relation to Ed Ruscha's painting Picture Without Words, Grand Hope Flower originated in the late summer at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Gamson and her Rosanna Gamson/World Wide company moved it to Highways Performance Space in October, without benefit of Ruscha but without apparent loss, either. What Gamson could not do without is the accompanying score for string quartet by Shane W. Cadman, which contributes more to Gamson's vision than even the dancers. It is unspeakably beautiful, and so sad you can almost feel blood drain out of the air, especially during sections when couples sit separated by tapes laid in a grid on the floor, demarking their private "apartment" spaces, each appointed with a lamp that the couples turn on and off. Light and darkness is a theme. The dancers cling to each other, fight, comfort, sob - conjuring scenes from messy breakups. Juxtaposed is a lecturer, quoting from Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman on the subject of light - waves and particles and small packets of energy. Gamson recognizes the shared language of physics and dance - time, space, energy, corporeal - and constructs puns with it brilliantly. What was true for Newton was not necessarily the whole truth for Feynman. So, what is truth if it is relative?
Gamson deftly suggests the human story is more constant, predictable and true than science. The Grimm Brothers' "Little Red Riding Hood" weaves through Grand Hope Flower, enacted and told in Spanish and English by a sure-footed and wonderful actor/dancer, Richard Gallegos. Fairy tales hold true across time and through many cultures. If Gamson had stopped here, Grand Hope Flower would be just about perfect. But her text (delivered by narrator Kimberly Flynn) takes a sophomoric turn. She invokes Einstein's famous "God doesn't play dice" line and postulates that if God did play dice, Los Angeles is where he would toss them. Suddenly the work revolves around L.A. and the film industry. Gamson seems to be talking herself into believing that this urban sprawl, with its spectacular natural (and celluloid) light, is the best place on Earth. It's like she's having a personal crisis and is using Grand Hope Flower to work out her angst about having to live here. That's what one suspects, anyway.
Gamson moved here two years ago from New York, where her company had achieved some success. Her new Los Angeles troupe bursts with talented composers, singers, actors and dancers (especially Johnny Tu, who had a minor role, but whose movement instincts claimed undivided attention). And when, by the end of Grand Hope Flower, choreographic integrity reigns again, one knows Gamson has the potential to be the source of epiphanies to come. New York's loss is our gain.
Sasha Anawalt, LA Weekly (November 6-12, 1998)
Gamson Paints a Provocative L.A. Portrait
Today the issue of truth–what is true, what isn’t–is omnipresent. In Rosanna Gamson’s “Grand Hope Flower,” the choreographer has constructed a dance-theater epic that ultimately reveals an authoritative, postmodern portrait of her adopted city, Los Angeles.
While the small stage at Highways Performance Space was sometimes constraining on Thursday (the piece was recently performed at the Getty Center), her 15-member company, Rosanna Gamson/World Wide, successfully journeyed into the worlds of fairy tales, physics and cinema, shedding light on unanswerable questions like “What is time?”
Shedding light indeed. Gamson’s set consisted of dozens of unmatched lamps–many contained within taped-off squares on the floor–whose on-off switching sounds furnished quirky rhythms, as well as beautiful stage effects and the ability to convey quick mood changes. Gamson’s text, adapted from Isaac Newton, Richard Feynman, Nina Apfels and the Brothers Grimm, delivered in lecture-like snippets by dancer Kimberly Flynn, provide this 60-minute work with provocative musings and backbone, but it is Shane W. Cadman’s sumptuous string quartet score–and the powerful dancers themselves–who give the piece thrilling life.
Grand, Hope and Flower are streets in downtown Los Angeles. The words recur mantra-like–interspersed with other sound bites that provide textual fodder for movement vignettes: dancers running, dancers piggy-backing, couples simulating love-making, unison leaps. At one point, Flynn, wielding a small lamp a la Statue of Liberty, wove through the phalanx of bodies–bodies coming together like a pyramid, bodies coming apart to roll on the floor.
Crisp, clean dancing ruled. Notable were Irene Feigenheimer in a graceful solo, while Lauren Haze and Johnny Tu tossed off agile jumps. “Little Red Riding Hood” was rendered partly in Spanish, with an able Richard Gallegos as the wolf and Christina Taylor the hooded heroine.
The flip side of light is dark–death–and Gamson deftly reminds us, “The wolf is always at the door.” Her voice is original, compelling and necessary in today’s strange world, where truth is sometimes hard to find.
Victoria Looseleaf, Los Angeles Times (October 3, 1998)
Gamson Members Offer a Lyrical Worldview
Give Rosanna Gamson credit. As artistic director of Rosanna Gamson/World Wide, the choreographer-dancer presented her company members in an evening of their own works over the weekend at Highways Performance Space. The seven pieces, performed under the banner “Terra Nova: New Dance/New Theater,” ran the, well, gamut.
On the plus side was Gamson’s “Darker,” exquisitely danced by Peter Kwong and the choreographer. With a live, mournful cello score by Shane W. Cadman, this duet about love and its aftermath exuded lyricism, highlighted by sensuous unisons. Another potent duet: Cesar Cazares’ “UnWinding,” with Lilia Lopez rocking in neo-Keystone Kops mode (shimmying and leaping), and Barnaby Levy moving robotically to Eduardo F. Lopez’s sound collage.
“Ausencia” (Absence), choreographed by Edgar Ovando, offered a startling display of Butoh-inspired back bending as Ovando, Cazares and Erica Finley maneuvered ritualistically to a tape of women chanting.
Also alluringly austere: Johnny Tu in his solo, “Cardboard Blanket.” Bursting with elegant, occasionally violent arm gestures and stamped with tai chi-like deliberateness, Tu explored life among the homeless.
Less successful were works making use of props and spoken text: “From Delphi to Dodona,” choreographed and performed by Deborah Rosen with Jeremy Jacobs, featured lunges and athletic lifts, but the shower of fortune cookies was overkill as they divined the future. Indeed, Grace Umali’s and Richard Owens’ live musical accompaniment proved more compelling. “Stone Blind Love,” created and performed by Dana Wieluns and Bill Celentano, saw the duo acrobatically moving within a circle of stones and spouting poetry, to little effect.
“Berserker,” Paul Outlaw’s take on Nat Turner and Jeffrey Dahmer, was an unfortunate cross between Karen Finley and the comic Gallagher.
Neither profound nor funny, Outlaw splattered tomatoes and smeared his naked body with red noodles, popcorn and honeydew chunks, simultaneously giving irksome voice to the pair.
By Victoria Looseleaf (October 07, 2002)
French Festival Hopefuls Compete in DanceWest
In creating and continually enlarging an international festival of contemporary choreography, the city of Bagnolet just outside Paris has become an evolutionary force with an ever-widening impact. Eighteen countries currently participate in the festival selection process–some with only token representation–luring choreographers with the prospect of major artistic recognition, prizes of $20,000 plus travel expenses to the biannual event.
During the weekend, West Coast companies competed for festival entry for the first time, with two programs in the Luckman Complex at Cal State L.A. showcasing eight applicants out of an initial field of 36. Judges at the performances will make their final choices in March: a total of 15 international winners to present their works during the sixth Rencontres Choreographiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis from May 12 to 17.
Titled DanceWest, the two Luckman programs were mounted by the local foundation that stages the annual scattershot Dance Kaleidoscope festival but strongly reflected the much more focused priorities of the Rencontres judges. Indeed, a casual observer might conclude from the Friday and Saturday performances that most West Coast choreographers share a taste for eccentric and arbitrary discontinuities, black-and-white design schemes, onstage costume changes and collage scores dominated by the sound of rushing wind.
That observer also might have found other intriguing family resemblances–the tendency of the two Bay Area companies, for example, to choose daunting themes and make dance distinctly secondary to other means of expression. In “Night,” Nancy Karp took on Kristallnacht, the 1938 Nazi rampage against Jewish-owned property in Germany, but provided little beyond a neatly crafted public display of sensitivity. The real heat of the performance came from the score: Alvin Curran’s “Crystal Psalms” (fragments of recorded music fusing in a horrific lament), plus the furious smashing and bashing by percussionist Joel Davel. At one point, Karp’s six-member cast looked around helplessly as loudspeakers amplified the sweeping up of broken glass: dancers as numb, passive witnesses to an experience evoked for the audience through sound.
Similarly, Bay Area choreographer Joe Goode used dance to illustrate “The Maverick Strain” but told his tale of AIDS burnout primarily through speech. Casting himself in the role of relentlessly ironic Truth-Teller, he hectored Lizz Burritt for cowardice in scenes defining the distinctive concept and style of the piece while every so often dancers appeared in the background to perform cuddly, sentimental statements of farewell to music by Beth Custer.
The two Seattle-based companies each looked ruefully at women’s sense of displacement, not so much creating new choreography as collecting familiar motifs from popular culture and arranging them in revealing behavioral parodies. In “Sleep (Making Peace With the Angels),” the Pat Graney Company staged a dreamlike goodbye to girlhood, with an anything-but-joyous wedding looming ever larger in consciousness. Unfortunately, several false endings and a weak real one dimmed the luster of the piece’s deepest images.
For their 33 Fainting Spells company, Dayna Hanson and Gaelen Hanson cleverly stitched together cliches from show business, the office and singles bars in the whimsical trio “Maria the Storm Cloud,” detailing the heroic task of sustaining individuality in a world with a pigeonhole waiting for everyone.
All the Seattle and Bay Area works had been excerpted, condensed or adapted from full-evening creations, and several of them seemed disjointed or incomplete at the Luckman. In contrast, the four Southern California entries were presented unabridged. In “Windscape,” butoh artist Oguri collaborated with composer Shane Cadman on a work that used two dancers to amplify and externalize the storm ranging within Oguri’s own body downstage–a storm distorting his limbs and torso into impossibly grotesque alignments.
Hae Kyung Lee’s “Confrontation” enlisted music by Steve Moshier in statements of apocalyptic violence expanding from combative sex-war duets to forceful repetitive ensembles. John Malashock’s “Force Fields” also focused on combat, punctuating stylized wrestling for the gladiatorial ensemble with a series of more realistic sword and knife battles for Malashock and James Newcomb.
Jacques Heim’s previously reviewed group gymnastic showpiece “Quatre” for Diavolo Dance Theatre completed the programs.
Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times (December 8, 1997)
Oguri Sequel Courts Distant ‘Flame’
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, along comes butoh artist Oguri with a splashy full-evening sequel to “Drift,” his 1994 creation that used the Watercourt at California Plaza as a liquid environment for dreamlike, Neo-Expressionist movement spectacle.
“A Flame in the Distance,” commissioned by the plaza performance series as a site-specific collaboration, premiered Friday in and around two fountains at the outdoor downtown venue, enlisting Oguri and four members of his locally based company Renzoku, along with six musicians from Shane Cadman’s Illustrious Theatre Orchestra.
Part 1 found Oguri and Renzoku wearing white and crouched atop a low fountain-sculpture near Grand Avenue–a concrete sunburst made up of five stacked concentric discs pierced by lights and waterspouts. As water streamed away from its center, everyone except Oguri slowly moved down the sides and out into the flat, dry surroundings, while Cadman’s moody score just as slowly expanded from a solo woodwind to a full sextet.
In a typically amazing demonstration of his mastery as a performer, Oguri made memorable drama from the tension between balance and imbalance, with every shift of weight or prolonged stretch becoming heightened into a metaphysical statement–the body as an independent living thing, feeling its way, always on alert for the next threat to survival.
Suddenly the computerized fountain began sending high jets of water onto Oguri’s circular platform, taking him into a new range of metaphor. Sometimes the water seemed to bombard him and he staggered grotesquely through the spouts like a shellshocked war casualty in the line of fire. At other moments, he seemed to be dancing inside a waterfall, protected by the torrent, gathering strength from it and definitely dangerous when wet.
To bridge the two parts of the program, Oguri and Renzoku danced through the arcade leading from the Grand Avenue fountain to the Watercourt, an area in which a wall of fountains sends cascades down a wide staircase to a large, shallow pool. This transitional sequence offered a final close-up look at Oguri and an instructive contrast between his fierce, second-by-second specificity as a performer versus the more generalized, pictorial effect of the others. Although they had mastered the excruciating, sustained crouch-walk that linked the two halves of the piece, Renzoku danced in a bland wash of feeling while Oguri made the act of merely spreading his fingers seem a momentous kinetic process.
As a result, his absence from most of Part 2 made this sequence largely belong to the excellent musicians, now relocated in a poolside gazebo. Incorporating electronic samples drawn from the fountain mechanisms, Cadman’s score expertly layered instrumental textures in a somber sonic landscape while Renzoku (wearing black) waded into the pool, drifting ever lower and farther out until you saw nothing but heads bobbing on the surface. Then, with Oguri rejoining them, everyone stamped through a brief, joyous coda on the steps of the waterfall-staircase, sending sprays of water shooting from under their feet.
At this point, a little girl in the audience wandered to the edge of the pool, obviously as tempted as everyone else to join the company. However, she prudently knelt to touch the water, and the coldness of it sent her scurrying back to her seat. Butoh baptism is obviously not for the faint of heart–even during a California heat wave.
Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times (September 29, 1997)
The Illustrious Theater[sic] Orchestra were a chamber group founded in 1989 and based out of Cal State Fullerton. Led by saxophonist and keyboard player Shane W. Cadman, they consisted of keyboard player Paul Greenhaw, cellist Christine Dietrich, baritone saxophonist John P. Hoover, and clarinetist Scott McIntosh. Unlike any other classical chamber ensemble of their time, the Illustrious Theater Orchestra insisted on playing their own compositions, which were informed to a small extent by minimalism and were unvaryingly tonal, though not "new agey," and they did not venture into jazz-styled territory or indulge in improvisation. The compositions, often bearing bizarre, whimsical titles such as "Hats Off to the Lemming People" and "Love Answers Under Rain's Allure," were designed to reflect their own strengths as an ensemble and their love of certain harmonic combinations; Cadman's "All Night Long I Heard the Birds Flying" was conceived, for example, as a clarinet concerto for McIntosh. The Illustrious Theater Orchestra felt no pressure to make the music thornier just to conform to the established taste of the music conservatory environment of the time, nor to pretty it up to please the crystal worshipping pyramid power crowd -- it is the perfect synthesis of classical chamber music and what used to be considered "pop music." For a time, this approach was viewed as fresh in some quarters, and the group got strong support from public radio, particularly at KCRW in Los Angeles, where they were championed by Chris Douridas. The Illustrious Theater Orchestra self-produced two full-length CDs, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (1993) and Pythagorean Xydiko Machine (1995), both of which were well received, although record stores found it difficult to figure out just where to stock them. Nevertheless, as the 1990s wore on, outside commitments began to tug at the members of the Illustrious Theater Orchestra, along with the realization that the new music scene in the United States was still too hostile to accept them on the kind of concert tour they could realistically book. After Cadman left the group, citing family commitments, the group struggled on for a while before finally disbanding. The Illustrious Theater Orchestra were mostly forgotten thereafter, but when the book is finally written on the transition from late modernism to 21st century styles, they will figure as a prominent stepping stone between these two historical poles.
Uncle Dave Lewis, All Music Guide
"An Illustrious blend of musical influences...I love their spirit and sense of adventure in a world quick to lasso everything with a label. This is music you can't classify, and yet it's absorbing, highly original and entertaining. Listen to the Illustrious Theatre Orchestra-music with a mind of its own."
Bonnie Grice, KUSC, Los Angeles
"While Philip Glass and Michael Nyman are obvious touchstones, The Illustrious Theatre Orchestra takes music in fresh and wildly inventive directions. They're an important arrival in contemporary music...and fun to listen to."
Chris Douridas, Morning Becomes Eclectic, KCRW, Los Angeles
"Switching through the dial on my car radio recently, I almost hit a palm tree when I heard the music of The Illustrious Theatre Orchestra. The music washed over me like perfume . . . strange . . . intoxicating . . . this band has a great future."
Andy Summers, Guitarist/Composer (The Police, Solo Artist)
"The evocative, chamber-esque world of The Illustrious Theatre Orchestra brims with melancholy minimalist meanderings meshed with livelier, more traditional classical elements. And it's...OK. It's smart enough, it's good enough, and doggone it, it's likeable."Sandy Masuo, Option
"Combining the brash excess of American film composers, slick wiry repeating phrases; a dash of smart pop, and a measure of humor, The Illustrious Theatre Orchestra proposes a refreshing alternative. At UCLA's Schoenberg Hall, the ITO captured the audience."
" ...combining elements of classicism, popular music and minimalism in a series of woodwind-driven sonic adventures that are as entertaining as they are original. ITO recently performed with the Los Angeles Modern Dance & Ballet Company at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall in what turned out to be an absorbing evening of symbiotic contemporary music and dance."Tomm Carroll, Santa Monica Evening Outlook
"Reserved, stately and introspective, the ITO's neo-chamber music provides a bridge between those listeners inclined to the sounds of the classical stage as well as the functional avant-garde."Darren Bergstein, i/e
"...breaking out of the minimalist vocabulary, a genuine flair for harmonic and rhythmic complexity. This is a quirky and talented quintet."Paul Hodgins, Orange County Register
Archie Peterson, Eurock
"This [Standing on the Shoulders of Giants] is the best release by a U.S. new music ensemble in ages."
By MARK SWED, TIMES MUSIC CRITIC
September 16, 1996
Minimalism is our Baroque music. It is pattern music that expresses itself through lively rhythms and plays on predictable harmonic formulas. It is music that can stand on its own but happens to work very well in the background, and especially in the theater. And, as in the Baroque days, it is music that can be modestly made (although the music that is remembered isn't). Every town can have its Minimalist composer and Minimalist band.
Although not especially well known, the Illustrious Theatre Orchestra has tried to serve that function in Los Angeles since 1989. Its membership has changed only a little over the years, though the color of the hair of its principal composer and spokesman, Shane W. Cadman, has made the hip transition from dark to light. Its mission remains, in the band's words, "to educate the public to the music composed by [its] musicians."
To that end, Saturday night, the six-member ensemble offered a concert of seven new pieces by Cadman and saxophonist John P. Hoover at Whittier College's Ruth B. Shannon Center, with the concert recorded live for future CD release. (The ensemble has two previous discs available on Trompe l'Oreille, a label out of Anaheim.)
The band calls itself Postmodern, rather than Minimalist, but it seems to take its harmonic and accompanimental ideas from Philip Glass, and its bright, hook-oriented melodies and repeated-note effects from Michael Nyman. Postmodernism in music is more a European than American phenomenon, and there is little evidence here of the aggressive confusions of history that is found in, say, the more colorful Italian or Dutch Postmodern composers.
Nor does the Illustrious Theatre Orchestra seem to aspire to the virtuosic, knock-'em-dead kind of Minimalism that has made other bands so popular. Instead, Cadman and Hoover favor the contrast between sections of slow, pretty, noodling melodies with the more bouncy (but not too bouncy) traditional Minimalism. It's pleasant enough to listen to but would probably find a more useful home as part of some illustrious theatrical production.
The band is composed of saxophonists Cadman and Hoover, violinist Arthur Howansky, cellist Greg Adamson, clarinetist Scott McIntosh and keyboard player Ron Shelton. One expects they will polish their live performance in the studio before they release it.
Dance, music unites for purification of art - Ballet, orchestra appear together at Schoenberg Hall