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Water Study [1978] - When Summoned

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0458
Run Time
0h 31m 27s
Date Produced
"Water Study" is a dancework choreographed by Doris Humphrey in 1928, set not to music by natural human breathing and pulse rhythms. 

"When Summoned" is a dancework choreographed by Bill Evans to Morton Subotnick's electronic musical composition Wild Bull. He choreographed it in 1969 for the Berlin Opera Ballet.

This video appears to represent a studio rehearsal of a reconstruction of "Water Study," recorded on January 26, 1978--perhaps for a 50th anniversary performance by the Chicago Ballet. It is then followed by live performance footage of "When Summoned," date unknown. 
The video begins with a shot of a dance studio, in which nine dancers crouch on the ground, evenly spread throughout the studio floor. After holding these positions for about a minute, the dancers begin rising up on their hands and knees, heads still bowed. They lower themselves back down, and then rise back up a few moments later in a cascade pattern. After lowering again, the dancers plunge forward in a wave, the last two of which plunge into a lying down position. After they return to their original positions, the dancers repeat this sequence a second time as well. When they repeat it a third time, all stand and separate into two rows, one on both 'stage right' and 'stage left.' 

From these positions, the dancers continue to mimick waves: half of each group runs to the center, jumps up, and crashes into a fall while the halves on the sides sway and roll. They then switch groups several times, giving the overall effect of a series of waves moving in and crashing. This sequence is then modified into partner work, with standing dancers pulling fallen ones up and to the side. After all sway on 'stage left' for a moment, they cascade toward the center, with one of the two rows dropping into a roll as they reach it. The dancers continue to scurry back and forth for awhile, eventually separating and spreading across the stage.

The dancers remain fairly still in this formation, but soon begin swaying in unison. All begin standing, and then crouching. They then return to their initial crouching positions until, in a cascade, they sit up and throw their heads back. After reversing this wave to return to their initial crouches, they cascade again, this time into a flat lying position. This seems to represent the end of the piece, as a piece of fabric is then held up in front of the camera lens. 

The video then cuts to the same rehearsal space, where the same dancers seem to conduct a second rehearsal of the piece. When they finish the second rehearsal, a black binder or folder is held up before the lens. 

Next, the video cuts to a shot of a stage with a full audience before it; the stage is bathed in bright lights. A male and female couple stands in the downstage left corner (wearing unitards or similar) and they perform an angular sort of pas de deux--they fall away from one another, creep toward each other, and engage in counter-balancing and lifts. The male dancer continually returns to a 'looking out' position (often with one arm raised), and the female dancer continually attempts to pull him back. 

After the female dancer jumps into the male's arms, two more male dancers appear and slowly march toward center; this is followed by a second female dancer running onstage and jumping into the arms of one of the newly arrived male dancers. Three more couples similarly assemble and the original couple leads them all in a cannon of shared choreography. The video then cuts forward to a point where the female dancers separate out and perform an ensemble dance together; upon their exit, the male dancers do the same. Still, the original male dancer often separates from them and dances a solo.

Before long, the female dancers rejoin the rest and all perform an ensemble dance together. They reform into couples only to then exit. Three of the male dancers then begin an ensemble dance, but they are immediately rejoined by their female partners, each of whom jumps into her partner's arms. The couples exit again, leaving the primary couple to perform an intense, stacatto pas de deux alone. Eventually, they separate to different corners of the stage and a second male dancer enters, moving in unison with the other, and leaving the female dancer to perform a sort of tortured solo. She exits and reenters, followed by three more male dancers performing a separate dance in unison. A second female dancer enters and seems to replace the first, who exits. Then, additional women enter in couples. Soon, all five female dancers frenetically circle this trio at the center of the stage. After they exit, the trio continues its ensemble dance and they are rejoined by a female soloist. She falls to the ground as the music slows and they exit slowly, with one arm up in the manner of the original male dancer.

The other female dancers run one by one across the stage as the soloist continues her slow, tortured movements. After awhile, she is joined by a male soloist who keeps to the ground, and a second female soloist moving in unison with her. A couple also enters, followed by another female soloist and another male soloist (as if repeating a pattern). Eventually, the first female soloist is finally joined by a male partner (thus recreating the original couple?), but he is limp and difficult for her to work with. She drags him toward center and into embraces with her. But the original male once again goes limp. As she tries to pull him up again, the video ends. 
Additional Credit
Evans, Bill (is choreographer)
Humphrey, Doris (is choreographer)
Subotnick, Morton (music)