Last Thursday’s Salon Performance was a triumph. On September 29, 2022 at 7:00 pm an audience of just over ninety gathered at The Trolley Barn in Atlanta, Georgia for an evening of dance and conversation. The evening include a visual art exhibition of works that were catalysts for dances presented during the evening or works created during the project. After the performance of the dances, audience members offered questions for the artists to answer and discuss. Photographs from the evening can be seen here.
The visual art exhibition included work by three artists, Margaret Katz Nodine (1956-2015), Abraham Walkowitz (1878-1965) and John Ramspott. Three by Margaret Katz Nodine a four by five foot, oil on canvas was presented and is the image which inspired Carolyn Stine McLaughlin’s dance, Beauty Through Mattus. Two reprints, Isadora Duncan, in Green, Dancing and Woman in Red Dancing by Abraham Walkowitz were on display. Douglas Scott’s dance, You Were Once Wild Here, was in part a reaction to works by Walkowitz. The last groups of visual art pieces displayed were by photographer John Ramspott. They included a group from the Olmstead Linear Park Series and a selection of three images from the Inman Park Dance Festival Series.
The dancing of the evening began with Isadora Duncan’s Narcissus performed by Ashlee Jo Ramsey-Borunov. This work is from Duncan’s Dramatic period and dates from 1904. It was danced with skill and grace by Ms. Ramsey-Borunov.
The second offering of the evening was a suite from José Limón’s Dances for Isadora (1971). Each dance in this work represents a different period in Duncan’s life. Primavera which was danced by Mercy Matthews represents Duncan’s early years and the idea of Spring. It is a joyful dance which has direct echoes of Duncan’s Narcissus. This was followed by Maenad performed by Andie Knudson. Maenads are female followers of Dionysus and were said to perform frenzied, ecstatic dances and have super human strength during these episodes. The dance represents the period of Duncan’s life when she was in her full feminine power. Last of the suite presented was Niobe which was performed by Julianna Feracota. This solo based on the Greek myth of the same name, represents the tragic period in Duncan’s life when her children and their nanny’s carriage fell in to the Sein river in Paris and they all drowned. All three dances were performed by the same dancers at the Inman Park Dance Festival in April of 2022, the benefit of being able to perform these works again was apparent in the depth of the performance.
The next selection on the program was Carolyn Stine McLaughlin’s Beauty Through Mattus. This dance, like the prior selections on the program, was set to music by Chopin. The trio was danced by Charlotte Angermeier, Jenna Latham and Meagan Novoa. The contrasts of adagio and allegro in the music were reflected in the movement as the piece brought to life the figures in Nodine’s painting Three. The artists conveyed through the work the feelings of awe and joy.
The final work on the evening program was by Douglas Scott and was performed by the eight dancers of Full Radius Dance; AK Bayer, Vic Davis, Julianna Feracota, Jodie Jernigan, Courtney Michell McClendon, Ashlee Jo Ramsey-Borunov, Matthew Smith and Peter L. Trojic. The work included the intricate partnering which the company is known for. The lines of Walkowitz’s drawings could be seen in the lines of the dancers’ arms and in the contrapasso pose of a dancer in the later part of the work.
During the intermission, the audience was invited to give questions for discussion by the artists. The questions offered ranged from the practical; “How long did it take to learn the dances?” and “How do the dancers not breakdown and cry when the dance give so much emotion?”, to the cerebral; “How has being involved in this project affected you as a person?” and “What should the youth of today glean from Isadora’s transformation of modern dance?”
Many thoughtful responses were given by the artists, including a serendipitous one by John Ramspott, the project photographer. After first shooting the Limón masterclass and reconstruction in early April, he took a deeper dive into the life of Duncan and read her auto biography My Life. After reading this, he came to the idea that seeing Duncan’s work in a natural setting would be fitting and he began to look for sites to propose for a photoshoot. The one that he was drawn to was the Olmstead Linear Parks which are along Ponce de Leon Avenue. It turns out that the seed for the project came from this same site. More than a decade ago, with a Volvo full of children for carpool, the project director Carolyn Stine McLaughlin was stuck in traffic on Ponce de Leon Avenue at the Olmstead Linear Parks. As she was waiting, she look over at the beautiful rolling terrain of the park and immediately saw dancers moving with the buoyant and upward gestures of Duncan’s vocabulary.