When Karen Stokes premiered Green at Barnevelder I was stranded in New York City with a bad case of the Jet Blues. Many months later I finally got the chance to see the whole piece. It reminded my of own wild child boys running in wide open spaces. So, of course ,I was so delighted to get to write about Green at Houston’s newest park, Discovery Green. I have not returned to fly on Jet Blue.
Celebrating nature’s wonders
Choreographer creates work that fits right in at park stage
For The Chronicle
GREEN AND THE COST OF LIVING <!– –>
Imagine a dance that fits in with kids on bikes, squealing babies and people walking their dogs. Green, choreographer Karen Stokes’ ode to the natural world, might be that dance.
Based on a bold, rhythmic score created by Stokes, the piece plays out in strokes broad enough to capture the attention of passers-by.
Which makes it a natural for Discovery Green, where it will be performed as part of the urban park’s Fresh Fridays performing-arts series.
“The percussive drumming grabs people right away,” Stokes said.
“Also, unison movement performed by a large group creates the kind of amplification necessary to read well from a distance.”
The costumes, green striped shirts and snug head caps with little green balls, are also just zany enough to command a second look from a pedestrian strolling by.
Stokes, head of the dance department in the University of Houston School of Theatre and Dance, did not originally intend for Green to be performed outdoors.
But once she was well into creating the piece, she realized it centered on her connection to the natural world.
“As I was working on the dance, I got the idea of the color green, and my feelings about the environment and the vitality of the color green surfaced,” Stokes said.
“The color is energetic and sassy. I also think it fits because Houston is such a green city.”
Stokes, 47, is known for work that evokes a sense of place, such as Hometown, her homage to Houston.
Although the specific location of Green remains elusive, the dance gives the impression of being outside.
For example, the unpredictability of nature is represented in the second half of the work, which has a wild, Lord of the Flies flavor. Stokes inserts an edge of seriousness here.
“Even with everything that is happening with the greening of our society, there’s a collective fear that the planet’s future is out of our control,” she said.
“Some of that unruliness plays out in the dance as an undercurrent.”
Open-air dance beyond Miller Outdoor Theatre is rare in Houston, which is one reason it’s a priority for Discovery Green programming director Susanne Theis.
“Dance is one of the most important art forms to present in the park. It is the universal language of movement in every culture around the globe. Being outside and experiencing the joy of moving freely is a big part of what we love about parks. Watching superb dancers at work is a logical extension,” Theis said.
Green, which will be performed by Travesty Dance Group, Stokes’ company, and the UH Dance Ensemble, will be followed at 8 p.m. by a screening of The Cost of Living, presented by the Aurora Picture Show. The 34-minute movie takes place in a seaside town where street performers David and Eddie struggle to find work and romance. The film incorporates sharp humor about the notions of how the fit and unfit are supposed to act.
The evening is presented in part by Fresh Arts Coalition, a nonprofit collaborative of small and midsize Houston arts organizations.