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Untold story of Andy Warhol performed through ballet

Untold+story+of+Andy+Warhol+performed+through+ballet
Collegian | Trin Bonner

Andy Warhol is a paragon of modern pop culture. Most people learn his name in an elementary school art class or see a Campbell’s soup can, and from that point forward, he’s the first person many think of when considering the art scene of the ’60s.

The godfather of pop art himself was a lot more than his colorful creations; he was an openly gay man before and during the Stonewall Riots as well as an avid opponent of the concept of celebrities. The lesser-known parts of the artist’s legacy were brought to life through “Ballet, Beer and Pop – The Andy Warhol Story,” performed by Canyon Concert Ballet Sept. 7-9 at The Lincoln Center.

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This show places the audience in a liminal space between then and now. The set design uses projections of Warhol’s quotes and artwork on blank white walls to transport the viewer into a storytelling space that can transform into whatever it needs to be.

The juxtaposition of sound clips from Warhol’s voice, jingles from brands he used in his work and complex instrumental pieces create a story the viewer is led through. The pieced-together feel also encourages viewers to create their own connections between the performance and the scenery, how a quote being projected before a number relates to it or how fluctuations in the music relate to changing emotions in a duet.

The dancers of Canyon Concert Ballet portray a story that has been cherrypicked by the media in a way that’s new, raw and vulnerable. It focuses on the emotional tax constant scrutiny can have on a person and their intimate relationships.

The show takes place through a series of conceptual vignettes, from Warhol’s parents — played by Jenna Smith and Conner Horak-Flood — meeting in Eastern Europe to his colossal legacy following his sudden death in 1987.

In each and every moment on stage, there’s a different emotion tugging at your heartstrings. For example, the shocking shift from Warhol — played by Binyamin Salzano — on his 17th birthday to the first atomic bomb dropping on Hiroshima the same day was illustrated through an interrupted “Happy Birthday” song and a mushroom cloud projected behind the artist and his mother is downright chilling and creates context for Warhol’s views later in life.

The artist’s interactions with each of his lovers share a theme of uncertainty and fatalism, and each duet exemplifies this in a different way. From his first unreciprocated love in grade school to his relationship with film executive Jon Gould — played by Horak-Flood — these feelings can be recognized multiple times throughout the play.

The vivacity of a tense scene between Warhol and his first public partner, the interior designer Jed Johnson  played by Hamish Vipond  in Studio 54 creates a high point in the show where the viewer is made to play something of visual tennis between Warhol, Johnson and the man between them.

The friendship and collaboration shown between Warhol and other creatives such as Jean-Michel Basquiat  played by Josh S. Schadl  and Edie Sedgwick  played by Audrey Gellman  carries a platonic intimacy so vibrant you can practically see the exchange of creative energy between the dancers. Each vignette contains a different piece of the puzzle that makes up the inner workings of the artist’s life.

The show portrays Warhol’s life through an emotional narrative rather than a structured storyline, and although it may seem like this could make it more difficult to understand, it in fact simplifies it.

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“Ballet, Beer and Pop – The Andy Warhol Story” allows viewers to feel the emotion required to peel back the layers of this iconic artist and how his fascinating life influenced his creations.

Reach Hailee Stegall at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @haileenstegall.

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About the Contributor
Trin Bonner
Trin Bonner, Illustration Director
Trin Bonner is the illustration director for The Collegian newspaper. This will be her third year in this position, and she loves being a part of the creative and amazing design team at The Collegian. As the illustration director, Bonner provides creative insight and ideas that bring the newspaper the best graphics and illustrations possible. She loves working with artists to develop fun and unique illustrations every week for the readers. Bonner is a fourth-year at Colorado State University studying electronic arts. She loves illustrating and comic making and has recently found enjoyment in experimental video, pottery and graphic design. Outside of illustration and electronic art, Bonner spends her free time crocheting and bead making. She is usually working on a blanket or making jewelry when she is not drawing, illustrating or brainstorming.

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