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October 2, 1996
Production combines poetry, dance for emotional performance
By Angela Walker
For the Daily
In Performance Network's latest production,
"House of Life" and "To Julia," director, chorcogra-
9 er and dancer Suzanne Willets-Brooks combines
oetry, dance and the art of song in exploring the con-
cepts'of life, death, love and the woman. The show is
about taking poetry and transforming it into vocal and
,"House of Life" is performed
first, followed by "To Julia:"
"House of Life" embraces the
poetry of Dante Gabriel ' Hou
Rossetti and the music of Ralph Thurs,
Vaughan Williams. Willets- at P
crooks described Rossetti's Ca 663-0696
poetry as "his life written down
on paper." And a despairing life it is. After Rossetti
participated in a series of affairs with other women,
Rossetti's love and wife of two years, Elizabeth
Siddal, committed suicide. He buried his poetry with
her, and much later in life finally unearthed it and fin-
Rossetti was a painter as well as a poet and was pas-
sionately involved with love and with death, In his
poetry, everything is a question and nothing is
answered. "House of Life" uses five of Rossetti ' son-
nets to tell the story of Elizabeth Siddal and inc rpo-
rates slides of his paintings into its framework.
"To Julia" brings together Roger Quilter's poetry
with the music of Robert Herrick. In "To Julia," cach
song (sonnet) is representative of a different aspect of
the woman. This part of the show focuses on "firming
all of your different facets and loving them all,"
Willets-Brooks said. Once this has been achieved, she
said, "the soul is free, and fr ,e to
V I E W love," which sparks the show's
ending as Julia runs into the irms
e of Life of a man.
y through Saturday The two segments reflect: into
Jormance Network. each other as they both explore
r more information the concepts of women and love.
They are based on the contrast
between lightness and darkness and that of obscurity
and inobscurity. Each of the sets is encompassedEby a
garden. In "House of Life" the garden consistis of
cement and statues, while the garden in "To Jtlia"
integrates satin and flowers.
The order of the segments is based on the mokd at
the end of each piece. "House of Life" ends withi the
sorrow of two lovers that will never meet again, with
the longing for something that cannot be reached- "To
Julia" offers a much more uplifting ending. It con-
cludes with two people uniting, rushing together into
each other's arms - a moment of success rather than
one of unfulfilled longing.
"I want the audience to conic away feeling slower,"
Willets-Brooks said. "I want them to feel sensual, to
have a feeling of meaning. I want them to feel what
I'm feeling on stage" The production was inspired by
the death of her father three years ago. Together with
her brother, Jeffrey Willets, she has put together a
drama that illustrates that love is very important, that
one should take the time to love because time passes
by so quickly.
One aspect of the show that has been difficult for
Willets-Brooks is her dual roles as director and per-
former; she is a dancer and also the choreographer.
"It's hard because I can't sit back and watch it. I have
to depend on videotape and other peoples eyes," she
said. "It's hard to be in it and then come out and be
According to Willets-Brooks. however, the show is
"becoming its own thing" as each performer adds
something to the mood and style of the piece. "House
of Life" and "To Julia" combine the sensuality of the
woman with a strong emphasis on the importance of
love and the finality of death.
Holding hands can be so dramatic.
Polly Jean Harvey and John Parirh collaborate on 'Dance Hall at Louse Point'
John Parish and Polly
Dance Hall at Louse Point
"Dance Hall at Louse Point," a col-
laborative album by John Parish and
Polly Jean Harvey, contains numerous
mood swings, haunting vocals, and
eerie sounds that would be perfect for a
Coen brothers movie. The music is
written and played by Parish, a co-pro-
ducer for PJ Harvey's 1995 album, "To
Bring You My Love, while Harvey
intermittently whispers and croons over
er own lyrics.
While only 39:55 long, "Dance Hall at
Louse Point" nevertheless varies in
tempo and attitude from song to song
quite well. Opening with two mellow,
country-ish tracks, "Girl" and "Rope
Bridge Crossing," Parish and Harvey do
not even hint at what is to follow. "City of
No Sun" begins with Parish playing gui-
tar chords quite similar to Sonic Youth's
"Candle" before Harvey's evil-sounding
ocal rant leads into and out of a pretty
chant. Parish and Harvey then
pull a 180 with "That Was
My Veil,' with Polly Jean
singing beautifully over
Parish's acoustic gui-
tar, quite possibly the
best tune on the }.: ,
The fifth track.
"Urn With Dead
Flowers in a Drained
*ool" is the fastest song on
"Dance Hall." Starting slowly
and gradually building to a crescendo,
Harvey consistently hits some very high
notes and wails, "There is no more
rain!" "Taut," the seventh song on the
album, finds Parish once again imitat-
ing the style of Sonic Youth guitarist
Thurston Moore, this time like the sem-
John Parish and Polly Jean Harvey are so cute together.
inal New York band's "Nic Fit." albeit
with clearer tone. Polly Jean sounds like
she has a sore throat as she speaks the
depressing lyrics about being taken
advantage of in the backseat of a red
car, before crooning, "Jesus save me!" a
Of the 12 songs on the
album, all are originals,
except for a cover of
the Peggy Lce stan-
dard, "Is That All
There Is?" Harvey
once again nails the
ing her range and abil-
ity to handle the
demands of each tune. as
she tenderly sings the low-key
and very slow song. Harvey's emotive
and technically good voice easily out-
classes current female "rage" singers
(read: Alanis Morissette and Courtney
Love), and complements Parish's
ambient music quite well, making
"Dance Hall at Louse Point" an inter-
esting album that.
Test For Echo
is hard to deny that with 193's
"Counterparts," the Canadian trio
appeared old and tired, rehashing old
ideas to minimal results. This disc was
hyped as a return to chunk-laden form
but proved as wimpy as ever.
Which brings us to the refreshing
new "Test For Echo," which comes as
close to the band's glory days as you
could expect from three guys pushing
50. This is no "2112," but it's a
Fresh from his pseudo-grunge
sideshow "Victor," guitarist Alex
Lifeson flexes his chops on ballsy rock-
ers like "Totem" and "Dog Years." over-
powering the subtle synth textures that
hide in the mix.
Of course, bass legend Gedd I .ee
bubbles low-end rhythms all over. and
Neil Peart, who supposedly took drum
lessons for this album, does lots of
tricky fills. While Lifeson may be com-
ng out of his shell. the band remains
the focus. Together. they produce the
tightest. juiciest songs Rush has mus-
tered in a long, long time.
Despite the disc's relative excellence.
Rush remains Rush and isn't likely to
win lots of converts. Peart's pedestrian
philosophy that dominates the lyrics
and the band's virtuistic leanings will
continue to delight some while repuls-
ing others. The delighted sect of Rush-
heads, at least, can rejoice over "Test
Bass Is Base
Memories of the Soulshack
Three people, two guys and a girl.
One guy looks like a long-lost member
of the Jackson 5; the other resembles a
Don Juan. The girl reminds me of one
of the small handful of whites who
respect black popular culture so much
without Irving to perp they are "adopt-
ed" into the family. Together, this
Canadian trio has created a niche of
musical creativity in which only they
reside. What makes "Memories of the
Soulshack Survivors" so exciting is
that. while its soul-istic sounds seem
very familiar, you can't quite put your
finger on exactly what kind of music
you're listening to. It's like you know
what it is, only you don't know how to
put it into words.
When I first heard "Memories of the
Soulshack Survivors," all I could think
was D'Angelo. Bass Is Base's genre
seemed strikingly familiar to his '90s
revampment of ol' school smoothness.
the major difference being Bass Is
Base's more upbeat tempo. "Memories
of the Soulshack Survivors" has it all:
'70s music as utilized in "Dreams" and
"WestSide Funk" and (Can you say
"Shaft'?") blunted down cuts like
"Floating." uptempo songs like "I Cry,"
Caribbean-influenced sounds like "Do
You'?" and the v ibe of the urban street
"Memories of the Soulshack
Survivors" is refreshing because in it,
Bass Is Base has included an impor-
tant element that is often missing
from music today: Ingenuity. Few
people are into taking their music to
greater heights; they are more than
content to simply make a few bucks
doing what has already been done,
treading the worn path of same old
music. But from the get-go, Bass Is
Base has been all about the new. And
in demanding newness, this trio has
created a rhythm all its own and a
sound that reaches deep into you with
its smooth digestibility. "Memories of
the Soulshack SUrvivors" is straight-
up CIh a.
Somewhere in tlhe early '80s. art-rock
pioneers cum AOR radio favorites Rush
hit a watershed in their career: '82's
"Signals" clearly marked the departure
from the wailing banshee vocals, 10-
minute virtuoso workouts and heavy
guitars that dominated the band's first
The conventional song structures and
keyboard-heavy arrangements that fol-
lowed, besides polarizing a large seg-
ment of their often inexplicably adoring
fan base, produced its share of good
("Presto") and, well, not so good ("Roll
The Bones") records.
Regardless of which era you prefer, it
Bass is Base take in some sun.
The Daily Arts
section is still
books, fine arts
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