Middlebury dance professor Peter Schmitz says the daring and specificity of Paul Matteson's talent was apparent even when he was a senior in college.
It didn't take long for the rest of the world to notice. Matteson won Dance Magazine's National Student Choreographer award, and only two years after he graduated, in 2002, he nabbed a Bessie for his body of work with the David Dorfman and Lisa Rare dance companies. To win one of the most prestigious awards in contemporary dance so soon after going pro "is sort of unheard of," says Schmitz.
Last weekend, Matteson returned to Middlebury for a concert that proved he deserves the acclaim. He moved with precise balance through "I Simply Live Now," a twisty, halting solo composed for him by Schmitz. Matteson's own choregraphy -- in "Rock Steady," a solo for Middlebury artist-in-residence Amy Chavasse -- evidenced Schmitz' elegant, angular influences, and its use of breath and half-vocalized words was fresh and very affecting.
But the piece that really hit home was "!Bullseye!" -- a duet conceived and performed by Matteson and fellow Dorfman dancer Joseph Poulson. Set to Ravel's Bolero, it was a brutal, funny mix of wrestling moves, trust exercises and dance marathon -- Elizabeth Streb without mats, WWF with flow.
Afterwards, in the green room, Matteson described the pair's first attempts to make a dance to Bolero. "It was so bad. We were being bulls, locking horns." They tried to rework it, got into a fight, then realized, "This is what this is about."
But after one black eye, two sprained fingers and one sprained thumb in just two performances, you have to wonder:
Is this healthy?
"We're questioning it," said Matteson. "How do we do it and survive?"
Assuming they manage, they'll be reprising the piece at New York's Symphony Space in April.
On Thursday, Champlain College opens a two-week run of I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a 1971 play by Celeste Raspanti inspired by the writings and artwork of children in the Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, Czechoslovakia. If that sounds familiar, it's because last month UVM Theater Department staged an original adaptation of the same material -- Remember the Children: Terezin.
"It's just an unfortunate coincidence that these two were happening at the same time," says Butterfly director Trudi Cohen. A former drama coach at CVU and South Burlington High School, she was lured out of semi-retirement by Shelli Goldsweig, co-chair of Champlain's Community Book Program. Goldsweig had seen Cohen's production of Butterfly 15 years ago at CVU and thought the play would be a good complement to this year's all-campus reading selection, the Holocaust memoir After Long Silence.
But would there be enough audience for two campus productions on the same tough subject? The Champlain team didn't think so at first, says Cohen. "We almost decided not to do it." Seeing the UVM version made her feel better, though, because the two plays are "so different."
"UVM's production was absolutely wonderful," she says. "That was to me more a docudrama, kind of an overview of what went on." Butterfly is "a very poignant story and focused on one child's survival."
Because Raspanti builds her story around a real girl, the horrific history of Terezin yields some hope. "She was able to live through this, to lose everyone she ever loved and still come out of it in the end feeling not alone, not afraid."
sound advice The Jacket, a psychological thriller slated for release from Warner Independent Films in 2005, is set in Vermont. So naturally, the movie's being filmed in Scotland.
Still, producers Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney and Peter Guber seem to be angling for a little Yankee authenticity. The film's dialect coach, Julie Adams, recently telephoned the Vermont Folklife Center's Greg Sharrow and Man with a Plan director John O'Brien seeking advice about the Green Mountain sound. She's coaching British actress Keira Knightley of Pirates of the Caribbean, who plays a nurse in the film. Pianist player Adrien Brody is her co-star.
"She was talking about a working-class Vermont dialect," says Sharrow. "I wanted to know what that meant. She wasn't sure."
Sharrow sent Adams some audio materials from the Center's collection and gave her phone numbers for high school principals in Bethel, Northfield and Ran-dolph, where his own daughters go to school.
O'Brien sent her his trilogy of Vermont films, with a caveat: "She knew well enough that Keira Knightley shouldn't sound like Fred Tuttle."