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“Sick of the seriousness of “the dance” and theater, American iconoclast Harry Partch wrote this “dance-satire” from 1952 to ’55. Set in the mystical realm of the University of Illinois, Partch’s 10 vignettes catapult the absurd into the life of the everyday student and audience member–and that life, in turn, on stage, is snapped right back into the absurd (representative titles: “Visions Fill the Eyes of a Defeated Basketball Team in the Shower Room,” “The Cognoscenti Are Plunged into a Deep Descent While at Cocktails”). While the musicians and dancers intermingle indiscriminately on stage (the former performing on Partch’s notorious carefully constructed and invented microtonal instruments), the theater rings with the cadences inspired by Chinese musical theater, erratic to the Western ear. That as the foundation becomes punctuated, when necessary, by wild percussion swirls, the odd screaming frenzy, solemn-march patterns, and scatters of bells: all in a delightfully shameless unpredictable fashion.

(Robin Edgerton)

 

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