Maura’s End of September Round-Up

The end of September began with Faye Driscoll at DTW, adeptly discussed in Jeremy’s post here.  September is a rough month with for anyone on academic calendars, being on 3 at once (my own and the elementary school set) sent me into the perfect anxiety-ridden frenzy to match Driscoll’s “There’s so much mad in me.” I was left appropriately gutted and wanted to sit on a curb and weep, it felt relevant and true to today’s malaise and many familiar neuroses.  Instead, I went back to educating NYC the next morning.  A couple days later, I was sitting on an audition panel for HT Chen’s Newsteps Series which will provide choreographers Krysia Bock, Lindsey Drury, Andrea Gise, Monica Robles, Heidi Turzyn, and Leanne Schmidt and Company with rehearsal space, stipend, marketing and presentation in the Chinatown theater, Dec 2-4.

After a day teaching and a few hours of watching hopeful, earnest choreographic auditioning I walked up to St. Mark’s Church to catch Larissa Velez-Jackson’s “Holy Now!” at Danspace Project.  Part of Trajall Harrell’s “certain difficulties, certain joy” Platform 2010, Velez makes great use of the sanctuary, setting up an actual altar.  I sat a few feet away from the doe-eyed Sarah Holcman who along with Katy Pyle, Abigail Levine, and Velez-Jackson gazed beatifically up into the stage lights while organ music played.  The group moved through ecstatic possessions complete with rolling eyes, choked speaking in tongues, reciting Latin, fake snakes and a bizarre Jewish-ish wedding and absurd head smashing wafer ritual.  Along the way there were split leaps, fouette turns and various shifting sequences of follow-the-leader.  The dancers playful energy was apparent, but I was spent and left at intermission.

I spent most of the next day at the Fourth Arts Block Festival and Block Party showing my own absurd works-in-process at the Fourth Street Theater and on the outdoor stage, before heading back to Chinatown for more audition panel duty.  Monday night, I gathered with The Field’s ERPA artists at the elegant OpenPlans penthouse to moderate a panel discussion in celebration of the launch of their book “We are No Longer Strangers,” a compilation of their models for making money from their art.  Along with the discussion of bartering and CSA-inspired theater support systems, the evening also included a keynote by cultural advocate Arlene Goldbard.

Thursday night, I checked in on Fall for Dance where the young Brazilian dancers of Companhia Urbana de Danca provided a deft deconstruction of hip hop movement vocabularies.  Friday’s performance by olive Dance Theatre stayed truer to hip hop’s roots with “Swift Solos,” an upbeat homage to the legendary b-boy Ken Swift.  While Brazilian artists like Bruno Beltrao, seen last season at DTW, and the French-Algerian Compagnie Kafig share Companhia Urbana’s ability to remove hip hop from it’s outer trappings and treat it as a physical form ripe for exploration on the concert stage, American artists often seem stuck trying to re-create the communal, street/gym/basketball court atmosphere of practice sessions or battles onstage.  This often makes the work run the edge of hokey, feel good, playacting but taking Swift’s body of work as basis for the show, and securing one of the NEA American Masterpiece grants was a bold and valuable move.  It was a pleasure to watch archival footage of Swift and then see it dissected and re-performed by the young and capable cast.  The movement material and Swifts expansive treatment of the form are highlighted well and his brief dance cameos provided a spark that reflects true mastery.

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