Maura’s Week in Review(s)

Andy beat me to it, but I’m going to play the “single mom for a week because Perry had to suddenly fly to Qatar(!?) to play shakuhachi for Vangelis” card in explaining why I couldn’t get a moment’s quiet to think and write my own wrap up before today. (Seriously? Qatar? Tomorrow? But, I have so much dance to see this weekend.) Luckily a hearty stable of babysitters allowed me to maintain most of my planned viewing of last week’s insanely amazing offering of live performance events. Man, I love this town. Right? I mean, screw backyards and your own bedroom. This is where where risk breeds, craft thrives and greatness lives (and, finally, rests). And, I suppose that describes in very short form my week’s viewing.

Fresh Tracks 2011: Pictured Left to Right: Levi Gonzalez (Fresh Tracks Adivsor), Lorene M. Bouboushian, niv Acosta, Hadar Ahuvia, Saύl Ulerio, Yanghee Lee, Aretha Aoki, Marýa Wethers (Program Manager)

On Wednesday, I caught Fresh Tracks at NY Live Arts as they continued DTW’s signature program with a roster that heralded great promise for the kind of voices we can expect the new organization to foster in the future. It’s a subtle shift, but this round, I’d hope, represented how NY Live Arts might be able to bring a healthier range of artists to the proverbial table than some of the more recent versions. Fresh Tracks remains the quintessential showcase for emerging choreographers and provides vital boosts for these artists, not only by supporting them through the presentation of their works, but more importantly through the substantial Residency Program, still under Program Manager Marya Wethers’ and Artistic Advisor Levi Gonzalez’s skillful guidance, which includes almost 60 hours of rehearsal time, performance fees, commissioning funds and dialogue and professional development workshops. Getting in doesn’t necessarily guarantee sustained achievement or involvement in the field; that is up to each artist’s tenacity, but based on the show, I hope we see more from all of them.

Hadar Ahuvia‘s solo Class/icism opened the program. She explored a rich movement vocabulary based on her grandmother’s stroke and resulting paralysis. The dance is comprised of several short variations of a movement motif of threading between limbs, bending at the joints, rolling and twisting torso, and collapsing hips accompanied by short solo piano variations played on a small boombox placed downstage right. It is a lusciously compelling movement investigation sprinkled with bits of wry wit. Ahuvia plays off an examination of immobility with grace and a light touch, while engaging highly sophisticated physical research. Aretha Aoki, who I’ve worked with in the past, offered up a fraught examination of bided time in her The Turning of Events. She seems to spend much of the work alone although she is joined and shadowed by FT alumna Vanessa Anspaugh. There are also occasional bursts on stage or quick flitting passes through the space by Kristina Dobosz and Line Haddad who are clad in short, sparkling, pink skating tunics. A computer-generated, but South Asian sounding woman’s voiceover by Aoki’s collaborator Ryan MacDonald fills the work with a tone of quieted frustration and Aoki’s contracted gut and bent legs speak of deeply seated tensions before a final kowtowing bow acquiesces to larger forces.

Lorene Bouboushian

Lorene Bouboushian’s performance of her The White Lady guts flail gluttonous fail is an exercise in structured insanity and extreme performance. Seemingly similar in method to a solo by Grace Courvoisier that I saw and reviewed two weeks ago, Bouboushian mines both words and movement for their hidden agendas and exploits them to their fullest. She gives a virtuosic performance that unpacks white liberalism, sexual aggression, body image, and dance in viciously wacky ways. I want to see it again and I want all my friends to too. I wish I could give her to one of my sister’s for Christmas. It would be the best present eveRRR. Yanghee Lee’s Dusk is a personal presentation and rumination on her relationship with her deceased father. She begins seated on a chair holding a large drawing pad with words from a monologue she speaks about losing her father, being alone, her state of mind, etc. She pulls the pieces of paper off the pad, drops them to the floor, re-arranges them and dances with a studied liquidity and forcefulness, while singing along with the Korean song accompanying her dance. niv Acosta is on my hit list. Where he goes, I’m going to follow. This 23 year old, Dominican, transgender artist structured a quartet (with his mom yessenia acosta cunningham, Joey Kipp and Cason Bolton Jr) that provided me with great ammunition for my regular ‘contemporary dance is just white people getting their freak on’ debates with students. Acosta pulls from vogue, post-modern task-based practices, hip hop, disco, song, family, and film for denzel again. Somehow it is supposed to be inspired by the 1989 film Glory, I didn’t catch that, but it didn’t matter. His opening silent face-off, vogue-based duet with Bolton Jr., his song with his mom, his endurance structure with Kipp and a final downstage line-up where all four began to lip-synch a re-mix of Alice Smith’s Love Endeavour summed up to reveal a brilliant, new visionary for our field, someone as he says queering ‘brown involvement in performance’ in a way that speaks honestly and articulately from the here and now. His source materials, artistic treatments and casting are reflections of what live performance can be and who it can speak for today. Did I mention I love this city? Saul Ulerio performed a duet, of sorts, with FT alumna Mei Yamanaka. His an ocean in between begins with highly dramatic Wagner-ian Wagner music playing while the audience sits in darkness, the house lights come back on and the audience begins looking around to see if there’s some action behind them. We hear someone walking across the black stage and then following a thunderclap, Yamanaka slaps Ulerio across the face. She slaps him again. This was a, literally, striking moment. The force and sound of the slap were satisfyingly honest and I recalled a very physical, violent duet Yamanaka had performed at HT Chen’s Newsteps a few years ago. I was wondered if more of that was to come and, eventually, after quite a bit of swirling and avoiding one another, a bikini-clad Yamanaka walks in front of the languidly reclined, bikini-trunk clad Ulerio. At which point, he crushes the beer bottle he was holding in his hands, she gingerly walks on the crushed ‘glass’ and he returns with dripping red hands.

Paul Monaghan and Mathew Rogers (Niall Jones in background)

Thursday. Call me a fag hag, I’m in love with 4 gay boys. The gay cover boys Mathew Rogers, Paul Monaghan, Niall Jones, and Michael Ingle to be exact. After the performance of Cover Boy Tere O’Connor‘s latest, I felt dusted in fairy magic. And, I’m not using playful pejoratives to be wry. I want to attend to a very clear emotional experience I had with the pice because the exquisite care that O’Connor employs in his structuring of the work culminates in a deeply felt affection for the four people on the stage, especially Rogers who exudes a genuine warmth after performing physical pathos with an unrepenting sincerity that never approaches melodrama. I felt love. I felt included. I felt transported. I walked away feeling like I’d just ridden down the Mekong with these guys or maybe it was more like down the smaller, slower Russian River – landing in Guerneville, CA for some camping and intimate, low-key boy bars. Andy’s given a great review of the work already, so I won’t go into much recounting of details, but this work offered me something more than the incredibly detailed craftsmanship that Tere always provides. Like niv Acosta’s, and from Andy’s review I’d also guess like Kyle Abraham’s, this work opened up personal and political experiences in sophisticated and considered ways. In Tere’s hands, the personal and political aspects are not crutches or fodder. They are present and honest elements that are folded into a work that one can simply ride. I’m grateful to Andy for reviewing, because this work soaked its way into me in a way that makes analysis of it in a verbal or written way difficult. I’ll say this – GO. I know the shows tonight and Thursday at Danspace Project are sold out, but GO. They are releasing some now, but Go and get on the waitlist. If I weren’t still on domestic lockdown, I would go again tonight and I’d sit up close again and steep.

Friday. Okay, Cunningham. BAM. What’s to be said. The last stop on the Legacy Tour. There’s a New Year’s gig at the Armory, but basically, this was it. The end. I was exhausted, starving and managing a bronchial infection by this point. My generous colleague who shared her extra ticket with me and I made it just in time, running from the Open Lab that Dean Moss’s Live Art in the Visual Environment class performed, after throwing money at a babysitter for cab fare to get the ankle biters home and fed. But, I was there, putting in my time, paying my respects. Or, at least, that’s what I thought I was doing. “Okay, I’m here. It’s MCDC, at its end. I’m here for it. Don’t know if I’ll make it, but I made it.” And honestly for most of Pond Way was thinking “and I’m up here in the balcony, at the Opera House watching patterns and little people move around on the stage.” That’s not typically my preference. And, coming off of the intimacy and rich warmth of Tere’s piece in St. Mark’s Church, thought that this belief system was going to be strongly reinforced. I’m in it for the human-to-human scale, for the reminders of what it means to be live with other live beings in proximity. I’d rather see labor and effort and drips of sweat. But Rain Forest, Split Sides  and 2 intermissions later I was thinking “Jesus. That was I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. What if I had missed that out of sheer laziness?” The company was beautiful. Seeing works that were created decades apart from one another and thinking of how Merce generated something like Split Sides while in his 80s was astounding. I was properly put in my place. Alistair Macaulay actually (shhhh don’t tell anyone I’m saying this) captures the program very nicely here. So, I’m not going into detail (plus I was just a civilian attendee and didn’t bother with notes).

It was so far from my Wednesday and Thursday, but by the end of my Friday I kept thinking: “God, I love this town.”

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