The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Danced!

So, back when the Adult Beginner was a college sophomore, there was this Life Sculpture class,
See, I had wanted to take Life Draw, you know, three hours of drawing a live model, you know, HEAVEN, but by the time it was Sophomore Registration Day all the good classes had been snatched up by the seniors and juniors.
Those jerks.
This is why I never got to take ballet in college either.
So I took Life Sculpture instead. Turned out to be amazing. Three hour class way off campus in the sculpture lab, with a live model, learning to make a wire armature and then building it up with clay, loved it, and the teacher was the coolest guy, he was this tiny and excitable visiting artist from New York, his thing was these elongated skeletons, like ranging from three inches to six feet, weird, fascinating, elongated skeletons, he made tons of them. Not in class though, in class he was busy getting us to really think about the armatures before we jumped into clay, and getting excited about Important Movies We Students Had Never Seen.
Like Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête.
And The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari.
Getting so excited that one day he was like, Screw Clay! and instead class met in the art building where he’d set up a tv monitor and played us The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Gentle Reader, this is an amazing movie.
Its a silent, German expressionist horror film from 1920, directed by Robert Wiene. The sets are these amazing jagged painted flats, the acting is jerky and dance like, the make-up is all gorgeous and 19-teens and heavy eyes, and it’s credited with introducing the Twist Ending to the movie genre.
Go do a google image search, seriously, I’ll wait.
Ok so the other day I happened be driving down Lankershim Boulevard and glanced over at the marquis for the El Portal Theater, which is one of those great theaters we have a few of in Los Angeles that were originally vaudeville houses and then converted to movies and then talkies and are still around and kicking,
So I was driving along and looked over and the had to immediately slam on the brakes and do a few donuts and pull over because the marquis said, Astra Dance Company, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
A Dance production of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari??!!!?!
I am so there!
Couple weeks later I was there, on the last night of their run, with Mr. Adult Beginner, and it was amazing. Gorgeous scary music composed by Regan Remy, amazing dancing, particularly the lead guy, Marlon Pelayo, who really had a handle on that whole silent-movie-grimace-of-horror thing, lots of circus performers, looks like Astra Dance has a bit of a Burning Man connection.
Wished the lead girl had been on pointe. Not to add grace, just to add ethereal weirdness, kinda felt like, really? You can get a guy on stilts and a contortionist but you can’t get your lead en pointe? She was lovely on flats no doubt, just would’ve loved the heightened strange-and-Other factor pointes could’ve given. One of my favorite moments with her was when The Somnabulist comes to her bedroom to murder her, and she struggles with him and faints, and he dances with her limp body and then just sorta picks her up with one hand like she’s a rolled-up newspaper, like she weighs nothing, and steals off into the spooky forest.
And here’s the good news, Gentle Reader: at curtain, the production team came out for a bow and announced that Astra Dance Company is doing another run of Dr. Caligari at the El Portal in October.
So it’s not too late for you to totally see it!


About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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2 Responses to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Danced!

  1. Jill says:

    oh man, I love this movie. Find a version of it on youtube! So worth it. Too bad I’m not in the states…

  2. chrisgo says:

    For a second there you story began to sound like the Simpsons episode where Bart and Milhouse are late for school and Bart is forced to take ballet because everything else is full.
    We watched The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in a film studies class once, and became one of my favorite silent movies (it’s a very short list btw). I can only imagine how cool it would be to see it all balletizied.

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