Rare Books in Action: Modernextension Dance Company

Performance with an image of Abeceda projected in Gerrard Hall

Performance with an image from Abeceda projected in Gerrard Hall

On Saturday March 29, the Modernextension Dance Company demonstrated the vitality of rare books in a multimedia dance program, which was partially inspired by Abeceda, a classic work of Czech modernism recently acquired by the Rare Book Collection.  The company, directed by Heather Tatreau, performed their “Haunted” program to a full-capacity audience, who were encouraged to change their vantage points during the seven dance pieces, in order to experience different views from within the University’s historic Gerrard Hall space.

M is for Milča Mayerová, Vítězslav Nezval, Abeceda (Prague, 1926) / PG5038.N47 A62 1926 / Hanes Foundation for the Study of the Origin and Development of the Book

Vítězslav Nezval’s Abeceda, or “Alphabet,” was the inspiration for the piece “Ghost,” choreographed by Wilson Library employee and Modernextension Dance Company member Matt Karkutt, and “To the Letter,” in which five dancers created solos in response to the book. Abeceda, published in Prague in 1926, shows dancer Milča Mayerová enacting letters of the Latin alphabet, opposite Nezval’s poems. The noted Czech graphic designer Karel Teige is responsible for the illustrations, which manipulate photographs by K. Paspa.

Karkutt’s choreography and the solo dances effectively exploded common conceptions of the static nature of letterforms and books. Dancers mimicked Mayerová’s poses and spelled out words, with images from the book projected behind them.

It was an evening of forceful performances, with a great vibe. The Rare Book Collection hopes for future collaborations with other artists on campus. Indeed, the RBC considers itself a museum in the very best sense of the word: in it, the muses are at work. All artists–and every man is an artist–are encouraged to seek inspiration in the Rare Book Collection.

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