When the Loaf was still a toddler in 1989, Charlotte Repertory Theatre brought us a Dracula to delight those of us who love Bram Stoker's novel. Eight years later, Moving Poets Theatre of Dance brought us a Dracula fashioned out of movie memories steeped in the nightmare visions and choreography of Till Schmidt-Rimpler, who had already perfected the role of the Transylvanian vampire while he was a principal dancer at N.C. Dance Theatre. Staged at spooky Carolina Theatre on Halloween with Schmidt-Rimpler's own slithery choreography, the Moving Poets' Dracula not only put the company on the map, it became the benchmark for Halloweens to come.
October in Charlotte suddenly became spooktacular — and stayed that way long after Rep folded in 2005 and Moving Poets departed for Berlin in 2006. So it's kind of spooky to see key players from both these long-forgotten Draculas returning to the scene of the crime within the space of three weeks — in October, of course.
Rep stalwart Duke Ernsberger savaged the wrongheaded authenticity of that bygone dramatic production in Dracula Bites, a comedy co-written with his mom which just finished a run at Spirit Square. And this week, Schmidt-Rimpler is returning with the usual suspects — dancers, actors, singers and visual artists — to stage Moving Poets [Re]Loaded at Booth Playhouse.
It's a conspiracy!
Schmidt-Rimpler's co-conspirator is Sarah Emery, charged with sustaining a new Moving Poets Charlotte while he continues to run his Moving Poets Berlin center for the arts. Both of these dancer-choreographers will need to stretch, Schmidt-Rimpler to administratively span two continents with his brand, and Emery to choreograph in the signature Moving Poets multi-disciplinary style.
It's already happening. [Re]loaded will include an oldie from 1998, "Contact," as well as one new piece by Schmidt-Rimpler and one by Emery.
"I choreographed a couple of things for Moving Poets years ago," Emery recalls. "Actually, they were both for 6/15, so 15 minutes is probably the longest I've put together, and this one is between 30 and 40 minutes. This has definitely been different for me, working with musicians and actors."
There, in a nutshell, is the uniqueness of Moving Poets, for the likelihood is that none of their dancers, singers, actors or visual artists have worked as intensively outside their own discipline before joining the company. The jolt can be even more powerful for the audience.
"People who have seen a lot of the Moving Poets' work are trained to expect the unexpected," Schmidt-Rimpler says. "For some total newcomers, I think there will be a moment of getting accustomed to some of the stuff."
Schmidt-Rimpler's "Contact" reprises a couple of salient elements from the 1997-2006 era. There's the Moving Poets' artistic ragout for one thing: the Schmidt-Rimpler choreography will enfold live painting by N.C. native Lee Baumgarten and Vietnamese painter Duy Huynh, while Robert Lee Simmons, one of Charlotte's finest, will do the acting — with a text inspired by two of Oscar Wilde's most celebrated critical pieces, "The Critic as Artist" and "The Decay of Lying."
Wilde's work was also a recurring motif, for Moving Poets also put their unique stamp on Wilde's darkest drama, Salomé, and presented a compilation called Going Wilde, which cobbled together some of the author's fairy tales with excerpts from De Profundis. Schmidt-Rimpler's fondness for the notorious gay decadent began when he was with the Dutch National Ballet, long before Gross Indecency became an international sensation. Excerpts from The Picture of Dorian Gray were woven into that early choreographic effort.
"What I like about him is his edginess," Schmidt-Rimpler says, "and he's also very humane. On the forefront, he can be very edgy and satirical and provocative, but there's so much depth to it."
Schmidt-Rimpler's new piece, "The Left Foot Smile," has typically disparate inspirations: the quirkiness of mankind and work with great South African musicians. The piece began in Berlin and has evolved so much in rehearsals that it may possibly become the first American export of the Berlin-Charlotte Poets regime. It will feature original music by Donovan Copley's Hot Water and the experimental Afrikaans band, Die See.
There are theatrical and contextual elements to the piece that Schmidt-Rimpler would rather not reveal, other than to say they're "unusual."
Emery may be new to creating in the full-out Moving Poets cross-disciplinary mode, but she certainly isn't dipping her toe in shyly. "Three" features her choreography and a text developed from her original concept by local actress Katherine Goforth. Original music will be homegrown and performed live by Gina Stewart, Brenda Gambill and Blake Barnes. Billy Ensley performs the text in Emery's choreography, his Moving Poets debut and probably his first world premiere.
No, it isn't about a love triangle, but it references Emery's personal life.
"'Three' is really about missing someone," she hints. "It's about relationships and how people affect your life. Reminiscing. We want to leave it open for a lot of audience interpretation."
Zany and nostalgic are the adjectives that pop out at you in the Moving Poets press release describing "Three," an unlikely combo outside of Schmidt-Rimpler's surreal, boundary-dissolving universe. In another sign that Emery is ready to take on the American mantle of the Moving Poets international enterprise, she came up with the title for the company's latest Halloween treat. It comes in the wake of such Witches' Sabbath invasions as Casanova Frankenstein, A Devil's Dance, and Seven Deadly Sins from Halloweens past.
For those who have hounded Emery for years, asking her what happened to Moving Poets, telling her they missed Moving Poets, and wondering where in Charlotte you could see anything like them, Moving Poets [Re]Loaded is her answer.
"We're back, and we're firing. We're ready to go!"