Dancing, drumming and...calligraphy? It might seem like throwing a pickle onto a peanut butter and jam sandwich, but local jazz legend Jerry Granelli asserts that it's a natural fit. "It's just exploring these means of communication from different forms," he says. "All art is the same, but the forms are different, and it's very interesting when you start combining those forms."
The upcoming event Facing the Future 4: Motion---Brush/Movement/Sound will see Granelli drumming alongside dancer Susanne Chui and calligrapher Barbara Bash, whom Granelli first met while teaching at Naropa University, a Buddhist school in Boulder, Colorado.
"Jerry was the first guy who said, 'Why don't you just come into my class and make some brush strokes?'" Bash says. "I was like, 'I've never done anything like that,' and he was like, 'Just come in and we'll play the brush strokes.'" This involved Bash painting while musicians, storytellers, and dancers did their thing. "For someone who's used to working in a very concise way, this is like being invited to jump off a cliff," she recalls.
What began with Bash having her "back to the audience, facing the page" ended with her becoming what Granelli calls "an amazing performer, her ability to improvise and compose is just incredible."
Bash points out that the word calligraphy comes from the Greek words kallos (beauty) and graphe (writing), "so it has an association with writing that has a lot of decoration on it, and that is one aspect of it, but that's not what I'm going to be doing. I'm more interested in the writing of the moment, which could be abstract brushstrokes, in that it's not necessarily a letter, but there's something that's being said."
Calligraphy is "a form of visual expression that is immediate," Bash says. "It happens and you don't go back and touch it up. There's another definition of calligraphy that it's something that happens, it's a gesture in space that leaves a track behind."
"Art comes from space," Granelli says. "It's not from our imagination, it's from one mark on a page and one movement of the hand, a sound...spontaneous composers start to organize those into constructions and pieces."
Bash says there's a "basic plan" for the performance, but that's it more of a "sketchy road map" than anything due to the show's improvisational nature. "I'll have paper on the wall and the floor," she says. "Sometimes I'm moving in relation to the dancers, sometimes I'll be drawing something like an icicle or writing out some kind of text and sometimes I'm just the drone for the whole thing, just doing straight lines while everybody else is doing all the movement."
"Sometimes we're all dancing," says Granelli. "Sometimes we're all talking. Sometimes Barbara is harvesting what's being said, and there are some solo pieces Susanne is going to do."
Chui is artistic director of Halifax's Mocean Dance, and it was Granelli's desire to have Chui meet Bash that led to their involvement in Motion---Brush/Movement/Sound. "You know how it is when you say, 'I want to have so-and-so over for dinner and let's invite so-and-so because that'd be really fun,'" Granelli says. "I find myself approaching a lot of work like that. It's kind of like a mad scientist approach."
The performance will take place at 1313 Hollis, where Granelli teaches drumming and collaborates regularly with local musicians, including Facing the Future's creator, pianist Tim Croft. Granelli has no expectations when it comes to audience reactions: "Our job is to do the work honestly. I hope that they have an experience. They'll have an experience, but however they have it is up to them."
Motion – Brush/Movement/Sound
Sunday, December 15 at 8pm, $20/$10
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