Ruth Doesn't Live Here Anymore (2013) is an evening-length trio by Lionel Popkin that questions the acts of cultural sourcing, representation and transmission. Loosely inspired by the career of Ruth St. Denis (1880 or so - 1968), the piece serves as a way for Popkin, who is half Jewish and half Indian, to wrestle with his own uncertainties and awkwardness with representations of South Asia. Miss Ruth revolutionized the concert dance world, first with her “Oriental” dances from the early 1900s and then again from 1914-1931 with the creation of the Denishawn company. Was her Orientalism an act of cultural appropriation or a legitimate examination of sources of dance? Can a century of perspective help the contemporary choreographer reach his own point of equilibrium?
Popkin has foraged through Miss Ruth’s archives in L.A., where she died the year before he was born, and examined her journals, photos, programs, sketches, costumes and notes. Her journals (particularly those from the notable Denishawn 1925-26 tour of The Orient) are filled with references to the costumes as the starting places for her dances, and Popkin will follow her through this point of entry. A vast array of fabric and clothing will be strewn across the stage. The performers’ attempts to sort through it all function as a metaphor for the way we try to order our messy pasts.
The work will feature an original score by Guy Klucevsek for accordion and violin, which can be played live.
There is an Elephant in this Dance (2009)
Playing off a comically overlarge plush elephant costume, worn in pieces or whole, this vividly imagined, adroitly executed quartet from choreographer Lionel Popkin looks at how an individual body can hold multiple histories and align itself with divergent cultural identities. By turns funny, uncanny and disquieting, "There is An Elephant" abounds with choreographic eloquence, clever direction and thematic layering: It organically elicits a set of meanings both obvious and unspoken, from the pachyderm in religious iconography to expressions of interior personal space.