They're mending the Great Forest Highway

Premiere 2011

A dance for three men (Matthew Goulish, Jeff Harms, John Rich) with a female DJ/classically trained pianist (played originally by Charissa Tolentino) and Hannah Geil-Neufeld, this work takes its title from one of a series of 8 Hungarian Folksongs by Béla Bartók composed in 1917.

The dance adopts its structure from another Bartók composition, the trio Contrasts for violin, clarinet, and piano, commissioned by Benny Goodman in 1938. The material of the dance derives primarily from found movement, mining the ever-shifting YouTube archive, and from movements invented by the dancers in response to directives. The concept of the work derives from Bartók’s own notions of the adoption of folk music on the verge of extinction, which he collected, notated, and wove in various ways into his own music. His methods kept these abandoned musical practices alive, not as museum artifact, but as living presences in live music and instrumentation (much of Contrasts reworks an old Hungarian army recruiting song). The titleThey’re Mending the Great Forest Highway introduces the theme of labor into the mix, and resonates with our historical moment –– a time of optimism, social engagement, and repair (mending), on a massive scale, in an expansive landscape. The creation of this performance has been supported by a Lab Artist Award from the Chicago Dancemakers Forum.