Wednesday, January 5, 2011


By Nancy Condit

Top: Two Opening Night goers watch the Hartel Dance Group perform in the lobby of the Cox Convention Center last New Year’s Eve.  Photos by Nancy Condit
Bottom:  The Hartel Dance Group danced “Morphus” New Year’s Eve in the Cox          Convention  Centeer Center lobby while roars from the Thunder basketball game could occasionally be heard from upstairs.  A small but attentive group gathered to watch the performance.


By Nancy Condit

New Year’s Eve at Hartel Dance Group performed excerpts from three dances as “Morphus.”  Later performances were scheduled for 8 and   Stationed in the lobby of the Cox Convention Center, with floor to ceiling windows opening on Sheridan and cars going by in the early evening, the company, under the artistic direction of Austin Hartel, progressed well in their dance from “The Yellow Dance,” to “Vastus Sylvus,” to an excerpt from “In the Garden.”

When Hartel presented the newly formed company in its first performance last April at Rose State, he said that two of the things he wanted the company to do was performance art, and dance that appealed to families.  With this performance his company has done that in the Arts Council of Oklahoma City’s family friendly Opening Night of 2010.  While roars from the Thunder basketball game rolled down the escalators and musicians played within earshot, dancers clad in layers of leotards and with bare feet – yes, modern or contemporary dance, attracted a modest audience of adults who stayed to watch, wearing long flaming pink or green wigs or not.

With perhaps no more than six or eight feet between the dancers and audience, which stood or sat on the floor, people had an immediate and unhindered view of the dance and  the dancers’ art.  The changing room was choreographed into the piece, with no place but the dance floor to change, as one leotard effectively gave way to another. 

In “The Yellow Dance” the six women dancers were clad in shiny bright yellow helmeted unitards that connected each dancer with long bands leading to the next dancer.  This way the dancers could react and resist each other’s movements times six partners instead of the more usual times two partners, and use more space between them.  It was lovely.

Caption: Dancers form a square by balancing on each others’ shoulders and feet in Hartel Dance Group’s “Morphus” last New Year’s Eve.  These types of shapes are a trademark of the style of Pilobolus, for whom Hartel was a co-choreographer for five years.

This costume gave way to the aqua or green batik patterned helmeted unitards of the imaginary creatures of “Vastus Sylvus.”  The dance also used the dancers’ voices, barking like seals, to communicate.  At one point one dancer knelt, another leapt into her outstretched arms, and the kneeling dancer tossed her over her head.

After stripping into white short legged tank top unitards, the group performed an excerpt from one of their signature pieces – “In the Garden.”  Dancing to “In-a-Godda Da Vida” – which does mean “in the garden of Eden,” the six dancers appeared to walk hesitatingly with a two step walk in two opposing circles with heads, arms, legs, hands and arms at angles.  There was nothing fluid here, just two circles of three dancers walking in opposing directions who gave the impression of more than six dancers.  In one move, one partner lay on the floor with her arms straight up, and the second on top put her hands – straight-armed – on the other’s shoulders. They each connected again at their toes and feet, forming a square – an effective shape.

Caption: In an excerpt from a signature dance of Hartel Dance Group, “In the Garden,” three of the company – which is all women – stand on the lower backs of other company members, and circle slowly. 

Company dancers were Nicolette Battle, Olivia Martin, Becca Schmedt, Thyrsa Da Rosa Hartel, Rachel Hendricks, and Lynna Schneider.

This was a nice beginning to Opening Night.


By Nancy Condit

Across from the Opening Night information desk staffed by the Arts Council of Oklahoma City staff and volunteers were students of Dana Helms, The Upside-Down Performing Artist.

            A seven year old artist works in pastels on Opening Night under the
            direction of his teacher The Upside Down Performing Artist Dana Helms.  "There
            is so much pressure on artists that I believe that having even children creating
            art upside down relieves a lot of that pressure."  Three children, from seven to
            eleven years old, demonstrated her theory in the lobby of the Cox Convention
            Center by the Christmas trees.  Photo by Nancy Condit
            Another upside down artist, eight years old, prefers to work on his pastel on
            the floor on Opening Night.  The three students concentrated so
            thoroughly on their drawing that they appeared to uphold Helms idea that drawing
            upside down relieves a lot of the pressure artists, even as children, feel to
            perform.  Photo by Nancy Condit

                                 Waiting for the Flaming Lips Freakout.


By Nancy Condit

It was louder and brighter than the 60’s, but The Flaming Lips New Years’ Eve Freakout concert was still love, peace, rock and psychedelic.
People stopped strangers on the stairs to say, “Have you ever seen so many happy people?”  They high fived people as they walked to and from seats or concessions.
And they dressed up for the concert.  Ask a man dressed as a penguin where he was from, and he’d say, “A group of my friends and I flew in from Alaska for the concert.”  “Really?”  “Noo,” and he laughed.
Gentle silliness and patience filled the crowd, dressed up for New Year’s Eve, or costumed for a concert.  We even saw a bearded, and robed man crowned with twisted branches.
Wayne Coyne came out about or to say what was going to happen, including “Somewhere around we’re going to count down and then we’re going to spend some minutes in the love.”  This would be followed by the first playing of the Lips  album “The Soft Bulletin.”
An LED screen was the backdrop with a rainbow of primary red, blue and green bands, giving way to the outline of a dancing naked  woman outlined in red against a yellow-gold background.  Yellow stars resolved to her lower torso, and echo lines pulsed to the music as she sat and the band entered from her womanliness.
Love and reassurance that other people were lonely – you were not alone – was the name of the evening as the crowd roared its approval.
“You guys, how I love you, and I hope we can do this forever.”
And again, “I love you guys.  I love you guys.  I love you guys.  There’s a lot of other things you could be doing tonight.”
“Think of those who couldn’t be here tonight, watching this on their computer” – the concert was streamed live.
A guy sitting above this reporter, four rows from the roof, kept yelling, “Do you hear me?”  There was no way he could, from one end of the arena to the other, but, when he yelled his loudest, Coyne had paused, and said, “I hear you man.”  Was it acoustics or coincidence or someone else sitting much closer yelling the same thing? It was the only time during the concert that Coyne answered that question. 
Coyne entered a clear huge bubble and rolled in it onto the upstretched arms and hands of the crowd waiting on the arena floor.  Strobes and arena stage lights, with emerald green
strobes created beams of light off a giant mirrored demi-ball in the arena ceiling.

Coyne’s smiling face, surrounded by good looking greying curls, came on the screen in an extreme close-up.  For one number we saw a green bloodshot eye red-rimmed eye.  In another, there were rockets from what appeared to be ‘60’s news footage, ending in rockets that failed and crash landed, hurting no one.
As the countdown to neared, Coyne yelled, “The balloons wouldn’t wait” as three foot in diameter ones rolled down from the stage side seats and the standing crowd played with them.  We all counted down to .

It was quite a concert, quite a performance, and quite a pary.

c. Nancy Condit

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