The Week In Review(s) November 8 – 14
Last week was a busy one for Culturebot and here’s a round-up of the week that was.
MONDAY we had a great meet-up of Culturebot writers at The Scratcher on 5th St. It was great to have a such a great bunch of arts aficionados gathered in one place. Alcohol was consumed and the ideas were flowing. We hope to have a bunch of interesting stories and interviews for you over the next couple of weeks. One thing we’re definitely focusing on is an interview series with curators so we can get some insight into who they are, how they do what they do and what they’re thinking about.
TUESDAY took us to Sarah Maxfield’s THROW at the Chocolate Factory. We looked at works-in-progress from Aynsley Vandenbroucke, Liz Santoro and Enrico Wey with Jen Rosenblit. It was a groovy evening of work and discussion. Basically, the format is that each choreographer shows up to 15 minutes of their work-in-progress and then they ask the audience three questions related to the work they just showed. Curator Sarah Maxfield keeps the discussion focused and timely, which is great. No rambling, discursive comments that wander far afield. And by having the choreographers ask the questions that they are specifically hoping to have addressed it seems like a much more valuable way of focusing discussion rather than a free-for-all discussion. Really interesting night. Look for the next THROW to happen in the spring.
WEDNESDAY took us to Now and nowhere else at PS122 which was a whole bunch of mayhem and beer. I was sitting with a bunch of students from, I think, Marymount. They didn’t know quite what to make of it and I can’t say I blame them.
THURSDAY was a highlight of the week as I took in Palissimo’s BASTARD at LaMama. BASTARD is the first part of a trilogy of new work based on Jerzy Kosinski’s THE PAINTED BIRD and it will be presented as it is created over the next year or so. I look forward to parts 2 and 3.
The show opens with two dancers show stand up and lie down in slow, deliberate patterns across the floor of the cavernous space at LaMama. They circumnavigate the space, delineating the playing area and setting a hypnotic tone.
When they stop, the lead dancer, Jaro Vinarsky, enters in a strange posture, waddling around in a kneeling position, wearing a brightly colored coat,as if he were the titular painted bird. He waddles around the playing area as if lost or befuddled and his action is both comic and precise.
Eventually he sheds the coat and strips down to a pair of pants that are turned inside out, with huge pockets. He proceeds to do a an alarming, muscular and twitchy solo.
A sword falls from the ceiling and lands point-in to a box that Jaro pulls open to reveal a mirrored interior. The staircases of the LaMama space light up and he tries to escape into them but as soon as he reaches the stairs they go dark again.
The repeated frustration of his action makes him seem sad and lost in the immensity of the cavernous space.
The score, performed live by Christian Frederickson, is alternately percussive and melodic and noisy and it quite dramatically underscores the movement.
Eventually Jaro reaches into the mirrored box and paints himself black and starts to sing in a strangled punk rock voice.
Just when it seems like the show is over – and its a little unsatisfying and mysterious – all these people flood onstage from the audience in multicolored street clothes and start moving around in patterns on the stage. Jaro, the bird, is overwhelmed by the crowd and the hubbub.
They reiterate the standing up/lying down phrases from the opening sequence, but en masse, and it is both a powerful reference to the danger of groupthink and, I gather, a reference to killing fields. The overall effect is moving and exciting and overwhelming – after Jaro’s extended solo contortions and painting himself black, to see him subsumed by a crowd of regular people really delivers a powerful, if somewhat inchoate, message.
Overall the piece is impressive and moving. Joe Levasseur’s lighting is dramatic and Pavel Zustiak’s choreography is fascinating and compelling. He uses simple phrases and the natural disposition of the dancer’s bodies to create drama and emotional effect. Great work, very enjoyable and rewarding.
BASTARD is playing at LaMama through November 21st.
FRIDAY night we went to Young Jean Lee’s discussion session at the New Museum where she invited the audience into her creative process for her new show -the Untitled Feminist Technology show. What ensued was a really thoughtful discussion about issues around feminism, queer theory, gender theory, representation, power, and more. We didn’t actually see too much of what Young Jean has been working on – since her process involves writing a whole bunch of stuff and then basically discarding the entire first draft. She works closely with the actors to develop the script and it sounds like that is a bit of an unwieldy process. But it will definitely be interesting to see where this project leads.
After that we went to the N+1 launch party at Secret Project Robot and drank beer with literati. They were celebrating the release of their book “Death of the Hipster” by throwing a party for hipsters. Fun.
SATURDAY was an interesting day. A friend of mine had invited me to the National Dance Institute’s fundraiser show at Symphony Space and, for a number of reasons, I decided to check it out. National Dance Institute is an organization dedicated to providing dance experiences to young people. The program at Symphony Space was pretty much exactly what you’d imagine from a dance recital of and for kids. Most of it was very simple, energetic choreography with upbeat musical numbers. Two of the pieces were actually pretty cool – one of them was a cello piece that featured the older kids, first a trio of young ladies and then a quintet of young men. It nodded towards modern dance movement vocabulary with some sharp lines and some interesting patnering/balancing stuff. The other fun piece was a big show-stopping group number that was based on traditional African dance. It started with an African drummer laying down an aggressive beat and then the whole band joined in. Eventually the stage was filled with nearly 50 kids going crazy with African dance. It was a lot of fun and their enthusiasm was infectious.
I have to admit that it made me think back to the dance I’d seen earlier in the week – and many of the discussions I’ve had recently with dancers and dancemakers who are, for all intents and purposes, burnt out. So many dancemakers seem frustrated with dance, with the challenges of trying to express what they’re trying to express through the medium, with the limitations of “dance”, etc. And here were all these kids who, while technically amateurish, were absolutely enamored with dancing. They were so much in their bodies, unashamedly ecstatic about moving and being physically alive. It was not overly intellectually, they were not bored or copping an attitude – they were just dancing. And I wonder if there’s a lesson to be had there for more mature dancers – about trusting that embodied performance can be enough unto itself. That all of this angst about dancing is just noise distracting from the business of making dance. Joy is revolutionary in a way and it would be interesting if people set about rediscovering the pleasure of movement rather than running away from it. What do you think?
SATURDAY NIGHT took us to the Incubator Arts Project for closing night of Karinne Keithley’s Montgomery Park or, Opulence. Part installation, part performance, Montgomery Park explores a fictional community own as Montgomery Park and the building in which it was housed. Keithley has created a complete world using her distinct poetic voice and homespun aesthetic.
Entering the space we were encouraged to explore a museum of artifacts and documentation of Montgomery Park, learning its fictional history. After 15 minutes or so we were ushered into the performance space where Keithley and her collaborators performed a series of songs, movement sequences and text that illuminated and elaborated on the material in the museum.
The piece, taken as a whole, is like a performed poem or an abstract novel brought to life. The whole thing had an intimate, delicate beauty, if not a clear narrative. I found the meticulousness of the construction, the precision of the dances and the gentle harmonies of the songs to be deeply satisfying. It was like being immersed in a hand-crafted dream world.
SUNDAY we tried to get wait list tickets for GATZ and were denied. We are starting to despair that we will not get to see the show. This is what happens when you wait ’til the last minute, people! I could have seen the show years ago at The Performing Garage and didn’t make it. Now I can’t get in. BLARGH!
Anyway – more fun to come. See you ’round town!!