March 13, 2008


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World dance at the Audi
It’s amazing what they can do on stilts
By Heidi Masek

Has anything like Carpetbag Brigade ever moved across the Audi stage in its 103 years? I’m not sure. Neither is David Murdo, who will produce the physical theater dance company’s show when they visit the Concord City Auditorium from their San Francisco home base.

The dancers move like giant insects, animals, an army of robots, or an interconnected group — mainly on stilts.

Carpetbag Brigade dancers studied acrobatic stilt-walking with an Australian, and evolved the form combining it with three other forms they study. Butoh is a modern Japanese dance with intense physical expression, which they learned with butoh dancer Diego Pinon, said founder Jay Ruby. They also studied contact improvisation, which involves dance based on a point of contact, involving weight transfer and other techniques. Ruby spent seven years in Germany and Denmark studying contemporary European physical theater, which involves non-linear narratives. Co-director Kristen Greco claims studies in Bali influenced her directing style.

Carpetbag Brigade also performs in Vermont and Rhode Island on this trip. Audi member Carol Bagen “did a good job pitching” the Audi, Ruby said. Their last visit to the region included a WaterFire show in Rhode Island in 2006 — which seems like an ideal setting for them. They performed outdoors at the Universal Forum of Cultures in Monterrey, Mexico, in the fall and will head to Athens this spring.

Grass is their favorite surface to perform on because of the physics of stilt walking, but their show fits on stages, too, amazingly.

They perform their piece “Vanishing Point,” in which giant stilt creatures transform into human-like beings.

While bending backwards on stilts looks painful on the knees, it actually has more effect on the hips, Ruby said. However, many of their moves are like fluid yoga with sticks on the ends of your legs, so sometimes the stilt moves “feel really amazing,” Ruby said.

The Carpetbag Brigade will give a workshop for area dance students, hosted by Cindy Flanagan’s Concord Dance Academy and sponsored by the Walker Lecture Fund, at 6:30 p.m. But no, the students don’t get to try stilt-walking at this event. Stilts need to be individually fitted, for one thing. They will teach basic techniques of contact improvisation and Butoh and how they use physical theater to create dramaturgical sequences.

“Vanishing Point,” is scheduled for Thursday, March 13, at 7:30 p.m., at Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St. Ticket costs range from $12 to $15. Buy tickets at Ballard’s Novelty Shop, Gibson’s Bookstore, or the door. See for video.

3/6/2008 Murder and rhinos