Lifetime Achievement winner's company to perform 'Empty moves'

Jul. 10, 2014 @ 08:22 PM

If past performances of Angelin Preljocaj’s “Empty moves” are an indication, there will be no riots when his company, Ballet Preljocaj, performs “Empty moves (parts 1, 11 and 111)” at the American Dance Festival today (July 11) and Saturday at the American Dance Festival. Performances take place at the Durham Performing Arts Center.
This ADF program marks the U.S. premiere of part 111 and the U.S. premiere of all three parts performed together in one program.
Before today’s performance, Preljocaj, founder and artistic director of his company, will receive the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Award for Lifetime Achievement. Other honors include France’s Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur and a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for his dance “Annociation.”
Born in Paris in 1957, Preljocaj lives in Aix-en-Provence, France, where his company is based.
While no negative audience responses are expected at ADF, the same cannot be said of Preljocaj’s inspiration for “Empty moves,” which happens to be avant-garde composer John Cage’s “Empty Words.” In the live recording of Cage, 65, reading Part III of this work at the Teatro Lirico in Milan, Italy, on Dec. 2, 1977, the sound of jeers from the audience can be heard. Accounts of this reading describe audience response as a riot as they screamed, hooted and otherwise protested.
(Longtime ADF audiences may recall that Cage’s “music” that co-existed, rather than went with, Merce Cunningham’s dances, proved puzzling at times and at other times delighted such as during Cunningham’s “Inlets 2,” when Cage and other musicians amplified the sound of water they poured into different seashells.)
The response of that Milan audience to Cage’s reading stemmed from the fact that many expected a musical performance and also because what Cage read made no sense. True, Cage had drawn his text from the journals of Henry David Thoreau. But Cage, using a chance method, randomly omitted sentences for Part 1, phrases for Part II, words for Part III and syllables for Part 1V. He read Part 111 at the Milan event, which lasted three hours.
One writer described the reading as “a lonely wilderness of glottal sounds.”
Preljocaj uses Cage’s “Empty Words” as the sound for his dance, in which he, like Cage, takes an abstract approach. Movements by the four dancers tell no stories, express no emotions or themes. “My tools are bodies, space and time. I really like telling stories with dance … like “Snow White”, “Romeo and Juliet” … but it is essential to me to work on abstract forms as a laboratory. These two ways of working together work together,” Preljocaj said in an email.
For this reason and because Cage’s work has four parts, Preljocaj said he plans to finish his “Empty moves” by creating a fourth part.  “‘Empty moves’” is a kind of laboratory in which I can work, try and find new possibilities, new moves that can feed my other productions,” he added. For instance, he can experiment with innovative gestures.
There are also benefits to watching abstract dance as one critic noted in a review of “Empty moves, part 1,” published on April 6, 2006, in “Liberation.” “Watching their simple movements, feeling their weight when they lean on one another, without troubling to think about possible meanings or resonances, you relax. … It leaves you in peace without insisting that you weep or laugh,” the reviewer writes.
If this is true, ADF audiences, who are planning to come to this program, may anticipate some peace – and they won’t have to bring tissues or handkerchiefs.


WHAT: The American Dance Festival presents Ballet Preljocaj in “Empty moves, parts 1,11 and 111.
WHEN: at 8 p.m. today and Saturday.
WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center.
TICKETS: Call 919-680-2787 or go to