Jessica Lang Dance
“A master of visual composition” (Dance Magazine), choreographer Jessica Lang transforms ballet language into artfully crafted, emotionally engaging contemporary works. Lang is the artistic director of Jessica Lang Dance, a New York City-based company formed in 2011 after the choreographer and former member of Twyla Tharp’s company, THARP!, received a 2010 Joyce Theater Artist Residency. The company has performed at festivals and venues across the United States, including Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival, the Kennedy Center, and Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance.
Lang, a graduate of The Juilliard School, has created more than ninety works on companies worldwide. “… Lang has a knack for conceiving a complete universe in each dance—distinctive in its look and mood, sound and atmosphere,” writes a Los Angeles Times critic. “She is a ballet illusionist, a more serious and intellectual cousin of the hallucinatory dance company Momix.”
The company’s Penn State program includes Solo Bach (2008), performed to music by Johann Sebastian Bach; Sweet Silent Thought (2016), danced to an original score by Jakub Ciupinski; Thousand Yard Stare (2016), set to music by Ludwig van Beethoven; The Calling (2006) featuring music by Trio Mediaeval; and Tesseracts of Time (2015), set to music by David Lang, Morton Feldman, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, and Arvo Pärt.
A Los Angeles Times reviewer describes Solo Bach, a three-minute work for a single dancer, “short, gracious, and buoyant.” A Seattle Times critic calls it “a virtuosic bauble of a piece.”
Sweet Silent Thought, performed by two female and two male dancers, took inspiration from selected sonnets by William Shakespeare. The dance features readings from five of the bard’s poems. The work “perfectly physicalized the sensations inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnets, transforming dance into poetry,” writes a Huffington Post reviewer.
Thousand Yard Stare’s title “refers to the blank and bewildered gaze of a shell-shocked soldier, and the program noted that Lang interviewed battle veterans and investigated post-traumatic stress and its treatment as research,” the Los Angeles Times reviewer writes. “The piece begins as a continuous stream of crisply exacting formations. Lang’s outstanding nine dancers march slowly across the stage in profile, stop and lean backward, begin forward again, stopping in midstep with a lifted, flexed foot. It’s a zombie-like procession. They are knocked over, and reverberations of bombs catapult them into remarkable body-twisting leaps. The dancers crawl and clump together to form tunnels. There is fear, cowering, and compassion among comrades, an echo of the gentleness of Beethoven’s somber String Quartet No. 15.”
The Calling, a four-minute excerpt from Splendid Isolation II, features a single female dancer in a while gown. “The image of her bare back and arms emerging from the column of white is one that will stick for a while, as so many of Lang’s images do,” observes a writer for Dance Magazine. A reviewer for the Bermuda Sun describes The Calling as “a heavenly ballet. … The beautiful movements seamlessly moved from the long and lyrical to urging and angular, leaving the audience completely mesmerized.”
Lang created Tesseracts of Time in collaboration with architect Steven Holl. “For laypeople, architecture might reside in a glossy magazine cover or a building glimpsed from the street,” writes a critic for The Chicago Tribune. “But another way to think about it is from the perspective of someone living or working in it. And that’s the perspective choreographer Jessica Lang takes in her astonishing … Tesseracts of Time. … Divided into four sections representing Holl’s sense of buildings’ relationships to the ground—they can be under, in, on, or over it—Tesseracts takes nine dancers (and its viewers) into that lived experience.”
Performers will also participate in a post-performance discussion with audience members.