Starting Over

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ghost Dance - Douglas Wright

Douglas Wright is New Zealand's perhaps best known dancer and choreographer. He danced in New Zealand-based Limbs Dance Company and then in the New York-based Paul Taylor Dance Company. On returning to New Zealand he formed his own company the Douglas Wright Dance Company and produced some of the most awe-inspiring and moving dance/choreography I've still ever seen.
Dance for me is the art-form that, at its best, really activates every sense and engages me. Something about the physical presence and about pure movement creates a direct, personal form of artistic communication that reaches out and pulls you in. As a young man in New Zealand, the work of Douglas Wright really turned me onto dance as something that was not only entertaining but much, much more than that.
Ghost Dance is a kind of memoir, that meditates on friendship, love and performance. It moves between London, Europe and New York in a seemingly randomly constructed stream of consciousness, tinged with both black humour and deep humanity. Like stage sets, he described tableaux of place and people, and then with unabashed honestly tells the tale of growing up in the 1960's, through drink, drugs and sex, to the height of performing and creating his art. Partly the simple tale of a local boy done good, struggling against adversity and low expectations, its also a book touched by illness, death and mortality; a lyrical elegy for lost friends and past performances.
Two things struck me most in this book - firstly the loyalty and passion of Wright for his friends, for Malcolm Ross (for whom this book is in someways both a love poem and a eulogy), Janet Frame, Tobias Schneebaum and Lloyd Newson; and secondly how at the height of his fame and success Wright seems internally to feel broken and torn. At that time I couldn't imagine that he would be anything but basking in the adulation he so deserved.
Ghost Dance is a sensual and physical text, pulling together gay bath houses, meditation retreats, road trips, performances and friendships to create a work that forms a whole composed of these separate and connected parts that flows like a beautiful and moving dance piece.


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