Dancer expolores human-animal bond in one-woman show

MIDDLEBURY — Dancer Patty Smith continues her exploration of dominion — of one species over another, of one race over another, of one gender over another — in a solo performance titled “Animal Dances” on Friday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m. at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater.
Like the first paintings on the walls of caves, animal dances were the first dances composed and ritually performed by earliest man. Animals were of paramount importance, providing people with food from their flesh, clothing and shelter from their hides, tools and weapons from their bones and sinew. The dances were traditionally performed before a hunt and designed to appeal, through reverential mimicry, to the all powerful and mysterious spirit of animism (anima: air, soul).
Interestingly, once animals were domesticated (dominus: lord, master), animal dances ceased to be created and performed. But the dances that Smith presents are animal dances for today; reverential in nature, they speak to a world that is a testament to the overwhelming success of the human species and where the only nature is human nature.
Like much of Smith’s work, these dances can be taken lightly or darkly, depending on the preferences of the viewer.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But as such, they are of equal appeal to adults and children alike (there is masquerade and puppetry) and should spark some interesting discussions.
Smith received her early and classic training in Boston where she was a protégée of Jan Veen, the founder of The Boston Conservatory of Music’s Dance Department and himself a disciple of the great German modern dancer Mary Wigman. (Since dance is passed on from one body to the next, Smith says, pedigree is of great importance.) She enjoyed professional success in a variety of dance disciplines in both New York City and San Francisco before launching out upon her own path. Since then, she has danced to her own drum, and although her work defies categorization, it has garnered her several Fellowship Awards from both the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Community Foundation.
Also on the program on Aug. 23: “Drama Queens and Tiny Divas,” the music of Janis Ian, Janis Joplin and Judy Garland.
Tickets to “Animal Dances,” $20, are available at the Town Hall Theater box office, 382-9222, or at the door.

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