As many of you might know, The Association of Performing Arts Presenters is in town. So there are tons of programmers from across the country -indeed the globe!- running around NYC looking at showcases and performances of all shapes and sizes. It is a huge arts trade fair and it is fun and crazy.

Last night P.S.122 kicked things off presenting a reprise performance of Saar Harari’s Herd of Bulls and Australia’s BalletLab (making their U.S. debut) with Amplification. These are part of our winter dance festival Coil, which includes Adrienne Truscott’s They Will Use The Highways and also Helen Herbertson (from Australia) Strike 1.

We strongly recommend BalletLab’s Amplification, which is really sexy and intensely physical. With a live dj mixing an intricate sound collage and stark flourescent lights flickering against an enormous muslin backdrop, the dancers propel themselves through a series of tightly choreographed and rigorous figures. Thematically it is a riff on the body before during and after a car crash, the milliseconds in which split decisions are made and lives are altered. While the piece does reference automobiles, both in the sound design and with actual little tiny cars that move across the stage, the dancing is very human and expressive, the car crash angle is more a riff or an idea than an explicit them. The whole piece is impressive and many of the individual moments and images will stick with you for a long time. Plus there’s lots of naked beautiful youth, if you like that sort of thing.

On a different note, Culturebot will be attending as much as possible at Under the Radar the “crash course” in international work curated by Mark Russell for The Public Theater.

We started off this morning at Kommer, by the Dutch company Kassys. It was a very compelling piece, understated but powerful. It is an exploration of grief, 50% live and 50% filmed. The performance begins with the 6 performers onstage, standing around awkwardly in somebody’s living room. Or really a minimalist suggestion of a living room. They are there, it soon becomes apparent, to mourn the loss of a friend/lover/relative. What ensues is a wistfully funny and sensitive examination of loss and grief. With only the barest fragments of dialoague the actors portray the social discomfort of offering solace, the misplaced attempts at humor, the fumbling interpersonal negotations and the ever-present subtext of inexpressible grief. The experience of Kommer, strangely like Vivarium Studio’s d’apres nature, was of watching life under a microscope. Small encounters coalesce and subside, groups cohere and shift and change, a few sentences are exchanged, lengthy silences are punctuated with brief, abrupt outbursts of violence, destruction or just incongruity. The performance is simple – the acting unadorned, the dialogue sparse – but worlds of meaning unfurl with each exchange, whether spoken or physical.

The second half is a film. The transition is clever and amusing – there’s a neat trick that I don’t want to give away – but after the intensity of the live performance the film at first seems a bit glib. Slowly though, the film progresses as we follow the lives of these people/actors/characters beyond the world of the play. (meta-meta-meta!). The film moves slowly but purposefully from funny to sad and concludes on a note of almost unbearable sadness. I’m sure there is a word in German or French for this tone, this state of being, which is both very funny and absolutely bleak. If you know that word, please tell us.

Speaking of words, I asked a Dutch person sitting next to me what kommer meant, and he said it was a Dutch word for hardship. It is an older, more formal, word and is not used frequently. It is part of a Dutch phrase which I’m not sure I heard correctly, maybe “kommer und kvell”. Apparently its like if you talk to an old person and all they do is complain about their ailments then their life is filled with “kommer und kvell”. I’m not sure. Once again I appeal to the community at large to elucidate.

Either way, try and go see the show. Under the Radar is only this weekend so if you want to see any of the work you have to get motivated and buy tickets as soon as possible.

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