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Moonscape [1976, Chicago]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0485
Run Time
0h 21m 45s
Date Produced
"Moonscape" is a modern dancework choreographed by Jan Stockman Simonds, set to music by Michael Horvit and inspired by her husband's work with NASA. Its professional premiere was in June of 1975 by the Houston Ballet. 

This video represents either a dress rehearsal or performance of the piece, recorded on April 15, 1976 in Chicago. It is being danced by the Chicago Ballet, but the video is a bit dark and grainy.
The video begins with a great deal of static, which then slowly abates to reveal a shot of a stage where a moon landing apparatus prop stands on an otherwise empty stage. After the minimalist electronic music begins, dancers slowly begin descending to the stage via this landing gear. They then spread out a bit on stage, walking slowly with bent knees to mimick the experience of walking on the moon. Several of the seven dancers partner each other as they spread. As the choreography becomes more complex (and the music more 'alien'), the dancers perform it in a cannon pattern. Soon, they all join together for a segment of ensemble movement. This is followed by similar patterns of dancing in unison, separate choreography in two groups, cannoned steps, and couples' movements.

About halfway through the video, the dancers reach a crescendo and then all fall to the ground in a crouching position. The two dancers closest to center then slowly roll toward each other, rise, and begin dancing together while the rest remain on the ground. The female dancer soon goes limp and is variously manipulated and carried by the male dancer--as he begins to carry her away, the other dancers rise up from their positions on the ground. One of them leaps to center and dances a lively solo, and the others soon follow with similar jumps and otherwise 'big' movements. Before long, they slow down again and drop a bit toward the ground in their movements as the man from the couple who exited runs onstage and dances his own fast-paced solo. When he joins the others in dropping toward the ground, his female partner enters and dances a similar solo. All then joing back together for an ensemble dance that ends with the entire group standing in a cluster at center.

This cluster seems to function as a sort of 'reset;' from there, the dancers begin slowly spreading out all over again, though they remain more in the vicinity of the landing apparatus this time. Some slowly crouch for a few moments before standing again and walking more. They then break off and perform various movements, several dancers even ascending the landing apparatus in doing so. Before long, the four who remain on the ground begin dancing fast, urgent choreography; then just two, then one from the landing gear; then all five now on the ground.  To end the dance, all return to the landing apparatus and ascend at least a little bit. The video ends there. 
Additional Credit
Horvit, Michael (is composer)
Stockman Simonds, Jan (is choreographer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)