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Arts Watch: Douglas Dunn Brings Cassations to Danspace Project

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Douglas Dunn is a downtown original. A dancer who began his career performing with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Dunn was a founding member of the groundbreaking improvisatory group “Grand Union” and later created his own company, becoming an acclaimed choreographer.  Cassations, a new work he debited last fall at the 92nd Street Y, is coming to the Lower East Side this week.

Dunn’s dazzling and inventive choreography has gained him worldwide recognition. His company has traveled the globe, from Europe to Australia and South America. He has been commissioned to create dances for some of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies, including the Paris Opera Ballet, and been given numerous fellowships, awards and accolades for his body of work, from a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for sustained achievement to France’s coveted insignia of the French Ordre des Arts et Lettres.

For nearly 40 years, Danspace Project has served as Dunn’s unofficial home.  And so it is fitting that he has chosen to bring Cassations to the sanctuary at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery. The production is based on Carol Gilligan’s The Deepening Darkness and Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America. Dunn uses operatic arias as a base for a suite of dances that bring together and separate men and women in changing configurations.  The New York Times’ Claudia La Rocco described it as “a marvelously wrought world, an imaginative feast that mashes up court dances and images of creepy crawlies, twining the ridiculous and the sublime. It is structured and poetic and distinctive, performed by a fiercely talented cast.”

In case you were wondering, a “cassation” is a musical form of the 18th century, and also refers to the ability of one court of law to nullify the decision of another.  Sound a bit mysterious? According to Dunn “This esoteric definition fits well with my inner evolution regarding format.”  Still curious? Only the dance will tell. Longtime collaborator Mimi Gross provides set and costumes.

Douglas Dunn & Dancers, Cassations / Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery / February 7 – 9, 8pm / $18.


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