AN ANGEL'S STORY
CHOREOGRAPHY & DANCE — CHOREOGRAPHER
CONCEPTION — HUGH LEVICK & CHOREOGRAPHER
MUSIC — HUGH LEVICK
For an idiosyncratic and highly personal choreography and the singular musical imagination of Hugh Levick, a polyphonic, contrapuntal drama for darkness, light, sound and movement: MARKING TIME.
MARKING TIME is built around Angelus Novus, a watercolor by Paul Klee which Walter Benjamin bought from his friend in 1920. Benjamin kept the painting with him for most of the remaining twenty years of his life.
An angel seems about to move away from something he stares at. His eyes are wide, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how the angel of history must look. His face is turned toward the past. Where a chain of events appears before us, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise and has got caught in his wings; it is so strong that the angel can no longer close them. This storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows toward the sky. What we call progress is this storm. [Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History, thesis IX, 392] --Sometimes the wind brings music to us in the world of the dead, and sometimes to you in the world of the living light brings appearances.[Pascal Quignard,“Tous les Matins du Monde”]
The Angel of History wants to get back to Paradise. The idea of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the idea of redemption, and reaching Paradise-- ‘making whole what has been smashed’--is a gift it wants to bestow upon the world.
Driven back by the storm we call Progress, the dancer/Angel is unable to regain Paradise.
Blown backwards into the future by these relentless winds, she has conceived a choreography of ruptures, junctions, bifurcations, explosions, cataclysms, and crises. These fissures break the continuum of the ‘storm’ in which we live. Thus allowing the now-time to be shot through with splinters of messianic hope—or, glimmers of light in the dark.
Up against it the dancer/Angel marks time, i.e. fractures the continuum of the incessant storm, in the hope that something improbable, some form of salvation now absent from every visible horizon might nonetheless come to pass.
THE DANCER DANCING THE ANGEL
The Angel is called towards Paradise by the string players’ music. Already the dancer has had trouble getting her wings on right. And the storm blowing from Paradise pushes her backwards. The Angel can’t reach Paradise.
(THE BELOW WILL, OF COURSE, BE TRANSFORMED INTO DYNAMIC DANCE BY THE CHOREOGRAPER.)
Thus unsuccessful in the Angel’s latest attempt to reach Paradise, the dancer takes off her wings and goes ‘home. Turns on the TV news: Images of innocents suffering, the buffoonery of the powerful, etc.
Daily tasks await her. The dancer has a household to maintain. She is lonely, is seeking a partner on the Internet. Has a hard time making ends meet and is getting older.
All this part of her dance is accompanied by electronic music and/or the strings played through digital filters and transformers.
But the mundane is also pierced by interruptions, by eruptions of the divine. The mop is plunged into a bucket full of light. Always there remains a chance to introduce transformational change into the present.
For marking time is--even for a moment-- rupturing the continuum of the ‘storm’, or, to say it another way, rupturing the continuum of the world as ‘always the same’.
The dance must take place in light to be seen, to exist.
Music, on the other hand, can be performed in the dark and its full effect is still experienced.
Darkness/Music. Light/Dance. This dialectic plays an important role in the experiential impact of MARKING TIME.
MARKING TIME is the angel’s story, but it is significant that it is being told in a concert of light, movement, penumbra, shadow, music and dark.
For in Paradise hearing and seeing were very much the same. Returning to Paradise is a metaphor not only for Peace, but also for a non-dualistic, common Being, a Being within which the separating, subject-object ‘storm’ has ceased to rage.
At times as the music unfolds in the darkness a spot focuses attention on the bow drawing across the strings, on the fingers pressing down the strings, or on a part of the dancer’s body…For instance, we see and hear that the simple friction of horsehair on silver and steel done in a practiced way can create moments that set the ‘storm’ in abeyance… we call this ‘music’.
At pivotal moments in the piece the music takes over in the dark and develops. We sense that the dancer is there, but we can’t see her. She is like a secret which would explain everything but which is being withheld. Then gradually the lights fade in and dance and music continue together.
At other moments on a lit stage the dance will take place without sound.
The music is a dancer, the dancer is an ensemble of instruments. ‘Accompaniment’ might grow out of the unfolding construction of MARKING TIME, but it is not a foundational concept.
The music itself follows a general but not a linear trajectory:
Acoustic > Acoustic/Electronic > Electronic
In Paradise the violin and cello play exclusively acoustic music.
When the dancer is in her daily, mundane life, the violin and cello sounds are distorted, and/or the acoustic music is mixed with electronic sounds.
As debris accumulates in the path of the Angel, who is now struggling more and more to advance, electronic sounds representing the storm explode from Paradise driving the Angel backwards towards the future.
Catastrophe portends. With a few beats of its wings the dancer/Angel holds off the rush of history and makes discontinuity and rupture into the possibility of salvation...however slim.