‘The Blue Bird’ as Live Dance Theater and Classic Silent Film

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In January, New Yorkers will be offered two very different experiences of “The Blue Bird” by Belgian Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck, a fairy tale with the theme of the search of happiness. One is a contemporary dance theater piece by Witness Relocation; the other is Maurice Tourneur’s classic 1918 silent film, which is presented as part of the 37th annual Dance On Camera Festival, co-sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

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Workshop presentation of The Blue Bird at in the 2007 CUNY Prelude Festival/Spotlight Japan. Photo by Julien Jourdes.

Witness Relocation will present “The Blue Bird” by Mikuni Yanaihara, translated by Aya Ogawa and Kameron Steele, January 7 to 24 at Clemente Soto Velez (CSV), 107 Suffolk Street. The play, adapted by Artistic Director Dan Safer into Witness Relocation’s rough-and-tumble style of physical theater, is based on a 1980 Japanese Anime series by Hiroshi Sasagawa, “Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird: Tyltyl and Mytyl’s Adventurous Journey,” which was in turn is based on the famous 1908 play by Maurice Maeterlinck. (DETAILS BELOW)

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In The Blue Bird (1918), directed by Maurice Tourneur, the two children, Mytyl and Tytyl, are played by Tula Belle and Robin Macdougall. Photo courtesy The Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science.

“THE BLUE BIRD” AS CONTEMPORARY DANCE THEATER

“The Blue Bird” by Witness Relocation (http://witnessrelocation.org), Clemente Soto Velez (CSV), January 7-24.

Witness Relocation’s work normally blurs and ignores the lines between dance and theater, and includes aspects of installation art, live video, task-based performance, timed activities, competitions and improvisation of all sorts (movement, dramatic, and philosophical). The source of this production is an enigma play by Japanese choreographer Mikuni Yanaihara about scientists who are tying to find the last bluebird.

Yanaihara’s play was partly inspired by a 1980 Japanese Anime series by Hiroshi Sasagawa, “Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird: Tyltyl and Mytyl’s Adventurous Journey,” which was in turn is based on the famous 1908 play by Maurice Maeterlinck. “Now we are bringing it back into a Western culture,” says Dan Safer, comparing the process to “a snake biting its own tail.” He adds, “We will allow ourselves to be fascinated by what’s foreign about it; colliding with the script.”

In the play, scientists who are tying to find the last bluebird. With industrialization having taken over nature and people having stopped looking at the sky, Japanese and American scientists in an Animal & Plant Science Research Center attempt to revive frail and extinct species of animals and insects. With good intentions come disasters, and a gordion knot of climatic repercussions and chemical side effects ensues.

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Workshop presentation of The Blue Bird at in the 2007 CUNY Prelude Festival/Spotlight Japan. Photo by Julien Jourdes.

“The Blue Bird” as contemporary dance theater will be performed January 7 to 24, 2009 at Clemente Soto Velez (CSV), 107 Suffolk Street, NYC (between Rivington and Delancey). In the first week, “The Blue Bird” will play Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm. In subsequent weeks, the schedule will be Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $18 and $12 for students. The box office number is (212) 868-4444 . Online ticketing is available at www.smarttix.com. The company’s website is www.witnessrelocation.org.

“THE BLUE BIRD” AS DANCE IN CLASSIC SILENT FILM

The Blue Bird. Directed by Maurice Tourneur, 1918 film, US; 81 minutes.

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Director Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard, Count Maeterlinck. Photo by The Nobel Foundation.

Based on the play of the same title by Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck, this silent film fantasy with allegoric overtones cries out to be a full-length ballet. Combining lavish sets, ingenious camera effects and disarmingly naturalistic performances, it evokes the whimsy of Melies and looks ahead to the expressionism of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” Two children–a girl and a boy named Mytyl and Tytyl (Tula Belle and Robin Macdougall)–are joined by the fairy Berylune (Lillian Cook) in their quest through magical realms for the elusive Blue Bird of Happiness. Reminiscent of “The Wizard of Oz,” this “Blue Bird” has its own distinct Old -World charm. Preserved with its original color tints, the print has undergone some decomposition but is still breathtakingly lovely to behold. Accompanied by live piano music by Ben Model.

This classic silent film will be presented on Sunday, January 11 at 2:00 p.m. in the Walter Reade Theater West 65th Street, between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave. on the upper level. “The Blue Bird” is presented as part of Dance Films Association’s 2009 Dance on Camera Festival, co-sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Tickets are $11 for the public, $8 for seniors (62+) and $7 for Film Society or DFA members, student (with ID), or children (6–12, accompanied by adult). The box office is available at www.filmlinc.com.

Jonathan Slaff is a New York publicist in the specialty of international cultural events. Jonathan and his writers keep us ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.