Saturday, April 29, 2017

Dance Theater: Grimm Brothers Get Transported To Age of Social Media To Save Their Literary Legacy in 'Tales of Grimm'

Contemporary parables are woven together with tales of the Brothers Grimm
This unique twist on Grimm’s Fairy Tales places these literary brothers of the 1800s smack into the middle of modern day society. Perplexed by the antics of our 21st century lifestyle, the brothers’ vivid and iconic text literally dances off the page to pull inhabitants of our screen-obsessed, social-media age back into the world of books—and into the stories they thought they knew so well…

When you hear about 'tales of Grimm' you don' usually expect the brothers to make an appearance, let alone watch them in their tale telling and editing. The beauty of this concept shows exactly why and how fairy tales still have something to say.

This production sounds very unique, and if we were local, we'd definitely make time to go see this! Everything we've read about the character and concept development sounds interesting and well thought out - both as an homage to the work of the Grimms in their time (it was much more complex than collecting a bunch of tales and publishing them!), and showing how fairy tales are still as relevant today as they ever were - even taking into account people's obsession with selfies... The production, choreography and dancing too, are getting good critical reviews.

Here's the concept, from toledocitypaper:
Broken into vignettes, each classic tale has been contemporized to cope with modern issues and connected through a fun fourth wall-breaking narrative that invokes an awareness of the audience. The characters themselves emerge from the stories to exist in the real world. And at the forefront of the modern issues being faced is this sort of disconnect between society and another endangered classic art: books. “In a haste to not lose this idea of books, [the Grimm Brothers] rush back to this huge book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales that they have, and they start to rewrite all their stories to fit modern society,” (Director Michael) Lang explained, showing off a few of the props for the forthcoming performance. 
Included in the mix was an ornate gazebo, strung up with braided locks of rope, representing Rapunzel actress Semira Warrick’s lengthy hair and a conference table that will serve as the set piece for Rumpelstiltskin’s impassioned performance. “There’s a very percussive number, and he just pounds away at the table,” said Lang of Rumpelstiltskin actor Phillipe Taylor. “When I read Rumpelstiltskin, I thought, ‘You can say what you want about Rumpelstiltskin, but he did do the work.’”
“This show is such a twist on these tales and will not be what anyone is expecting,” Lang said. “The retold stories have a unique connection to the originals, and yet, are profoundly relative and anchored in today.”  (this last quote from The Blade)
The Toledo Ballet calls this piece more 'dance theater', which implies it's more theatrical in terms of presentation and story, as opposed to pure dance, and there's certainly a lot to be communicated in this one. On their Facebook page, for teaser purposes, the company posted a picture representing a section or character of the ballet, along with a neat summary.

We really like how they looked at different aspects of the fairy tales and found the human and still relevant thread in them, to explore. How the Grimm brothers, navigating modern society for the first time, help do this, is to be revealed and part of the fun.

Oh - and you might be surprised at some of the tale inclusions as well... Kudos to the director and writers who chose to boldly include How Some Children Played At Slaughtering, along with nods to other lesser known Grimm tales.

Take a look at some of the teasers below:

Opening the Book - As our book opens, the Brothers Grimm are mysteriously transported to an altered world of obliviousness and folly. While navigating through this unfamiliar sea of electronic glow, they struggle to find purpose and anxiously watch their literary “ship” sail off in the distance. Determined to save it, they revisit their tales and laboriously search for compromise.Little Red Cap - In an electronically obsessed world where all are accessible to many, our Modern-Day Red is warned to stay on the path. Ignoring parental admonitions, she quickly discovers that one can never be certain who the predators are or where they await!

Briar Rose - Bearing witness to the malice of his daughter’s childhood journey, a father’s love and desperate desire to protect provokes him to close her eyes from uncertainty, heartache, and pain. In time, he recognizes that by obsessively closing her eyes from the world she ends up with no world at all!

“Hansel” & Gretel - Overwhelmed by the endless tasks of motherhood, and frustrated by her sluggish husband, “Hansel” & Gretel’s modern-day mom fantasizes of taking her young offspring deep into the woods … and leaving them there! Her dream of freedom and self-indulgence is suddenly interrupted by Gretel’s cry for rescue from a tyrant old teacher. Her maternal instincts quickly remind her that, in reality, she would assiduously fight any battle for the family she loves.

Rapunzel - From the expectations constructed by society’s “tower”, Modern-day Rapunzel contemplates her “braids” of doubt, fear, guilt, and hope. Releasing the grips of entanglement, she reflects and ponders upon her place in a world yet to come.

How Some Children Played at Slaughtering - Each generation cries, “The world has gone mad,” though a journey through history reveals a far more reprehensible past! Exposed to a constant barrage of violence, our unattended children create a “game” of their own.

Rumpelstiltskin - Discouraged by nepotism and a bias environment, our modern-day Rumpel strives for a beat of his own. He industriously follows the rules of his daily grind until a bombardment of injustice forces him to his breaking point.

The Little Glowing Hand - 
Torn from the pages of her literary existence, Storybook Red struggles to make out her peculiar new surrounds. Her curiosities are intrigued by the illumined hands that appear to guide the bizarre ways of her unacquainted peers. Feeling scared and alone she studies a Modern-Day Teen in search of familiarity, understanding, and home.

The Displacement of Red - Feeling anxious and muddled, Storybook Red endures her bewildering journey. Alarmed by the tatters of her rapidly fading pages, she clings to the mast of her fairy-tale “ship”. She discovers the book that may provide resolution; but her efforts are blocked by her uneasy source. 

It's billed as a family friendly production and the company has had some wonderful promos during April at the Toldeo Lucas County Public Library. Check out some of those pics below:

As you may have gathered from the summaries above, however, this production, while being family friendly is not 'kiddie' - something some colleagues of ours have been discussing recently: quality theater for young audiences. Parents in particular may want the heads-up that the production doesn't shy away from some pretty harsh realities: bullying, oppression, murder and even genocide are all alluded to at least, if not represented, but then, if you will recall, it's in the Grimm texts as well. It all depends on how these are handled. We haven't seen this ourselves to be able to assess how all these issues are portrayed, but between the promos and this lively 9 minute interview you can listen to online  HERE that talks about this exact issue of bringing children to the show, hopefully you can make a good assessment for any children you're wanting to take. (Note: the link worked at the time of posting but we don't know how long it will be available to listen to.) Here's what the director Michael Lang said to the Toledo City Paper:
... while Tales of Grimm is ultimately a family-friendly performance, the stories contained within hew closely to the original tales put forth by the occasionally macabre Grimm Bros. These aren’t the Disneyfied translations one might otherwise expect from the former dancer-turned-director who was one of the original cast members of Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. “I don’t save [Red Riding Hood] in the end. I feel like with this message, it needs to be a message. This doesn’t always end well. I’ve got a lot of lighthearted moments as well, but there are a lot of moments that make people sit back and go, ‘Oh wow.’”
“I’m on this kind of quest, and I think that’s why the theme of this show has turned out like it has, to get people to put their phones down for a little bit and get back to theater and art,” said (Director Michael) Lang. “ Dance is always a tough sell, but this is for everybody, not just the people that love ballet.” 
You only have tonight and tomorrow to go catch this show! Quick! Go grab a ticket! (And then tell us all about it, would you?)

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