Doggie Hamlet on the Dartmouth Green
Hopkins Center hosts a world premiere
A herd of sheep trucked in from Strafford VT, four human adults and a seventh-grade boy, a sheep handler and her three dogs. And Doggie Hamlet's creator, internationally known choreographer Ann Carlson, watching from the sidelines. On Thursday in the late afternoon, the world premiere of Doggie Hamlet appeared on the Dartmouth Green.
Ann Carlson, center, in red ball cap, consulting with her performers during Thursday morning's set up on the Dartmouth Green
The production was mostly wordless, heavy on symbolism that was not always clear, and with an unexpected element--rain that had been the antithesis of everyone's hopes, lending a sweetly sorrowful air. The dancers moved their way around the area as the dogs, on command, swooped the sheep throughout the fenced-in "stage." If the crowd was baffled by some of the human choreography, it was smitten by the animals.
The optics felt like home. Dancers were dressed in our own New England garb of the earth--knee-high Wellies and plaid flannel shirts, one of the women in a thin summer-print house dress. Hair and clothing became ever more molded to bodies as the rain soaked through. In one particularly moving moment, a performer, previously partnered, ended up dancing alone, her arm outstretched, bereft, as the rain trickled over her.
The location was not an accident, but purposefully chosen. Of the Dartmouth Green, Carlson said " . . . this land turns herself into our dance floor. This land, of course, has its own history, mixing with the meaning of what is happening and has happened . . . Doggie Hamlet choreographs itself in front of our eyes, with two-and four-legged dancing that rages, goofs, soothes and hunts. It all lives on the symbolic ground within ourselves and upon the actual ground that also nourishes." Program notes remind us that the Green "is no stranger to livestock." It has a long history as a grazing land for cattle. As if they could sense the past, the sheep of Doggie Hamlet took it as their right to casually grab a mouthful of grass in spite of, or as part of, the afternoon's performance.
Waiting for the cue.
A second performance was scheduled for the evening. For me, another viewing might have helped to provide a better and more nuanced understanding of the piece. But I sure enjoyed the spectacle.
Diane Frank, Peter Schmitz, Ryan Tacata, Imre Hunter-To, and Yesenia Major were the human performers in this production. Diane Cox was the artist who handled the dogs, Wull, Monk, and Lala. The flock of border cheviots came from the Strafford farm of Steve Wetmore.
For my earlier preview of Doggie Hamlet, please click here.
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Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge