Sunday Afternoon Report: The January Shit-Show Circus?
Oh good lord I’m tired. This January thing is killer, huh? I’m not even seeing shows today–it’s meetings and parties and interviews and so on. But it’s good. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how nicely Dixon Place has served as the COIL Festival hub, and even managed to do some writing there the other day. They’ve been nice enough to supply free wifi in the lounge, which opens up at 4. Not that I expect much will be happening there today, seeing as how tonight is Red & White. Which–ugh!–I’m already sort of dreading since I can feel the exhaustion in my bones. But whatever.
I’ve reported a bit on what I’ve been seeing at Under the Radar, which–regardless of whether I personally liked it or not–has been provocative. One of the things I’ve been reflecting on this year is that for all the hideous trade-show quality of APAP and the sense that these festivals are fundamentally a front for selling work (or trying to) onto the “market,” in reality it’s evolved beyond that. And each festival has taken on its own particular qualities that are driving dialogue around the work. UtR remains the linchpin for the global perspective. This year, the line-up is really provoking, as Russell himself told me, a dialogue about the power to speak: Who gets a voice? Certainly not all the pieces fit neatly into that frame (it’d actually be kind of boring if they did), but the combination of C’est du Chinois, Zero Cost House, and Ganesh vs. the Third Reich–soon to be joined by Belarus Free Theater–offer a profound portrait of disenfranchisement and displacement, either internally within a nation or society, or through global transience.
American Realness has certainly come into its own, as well. In its I believe fourth year, Ben Pryor has grown the event from what was essentially a showcase of dance in production (versus the non-teched showcases running at dance centers all over the city for presenters) into a true festival. It’s scaled back from last year, when it was just plain too much, to a sharper and smarter festival that taken as a whole is giving voice to the contemporary American dance scene from coast-to-coast. And the supplementary materials they’ve commissioned–which we’re the exclusive publishing partner for over on Culturebot.org–are taking the dialogue to a new level. I’ve been deeply impressed by the quality of the writing and highly encourage you to check it out. You can als acquire them published as a punky DIY zine called READING at Abrons.
And PS 122’s COIL has been glorious so far. I have to admit that, like a lot of people I’d suspect, COIL had become a matter of concern as PS122 abandoned their space for the refurb. All of a sudden, what had once been a festival mainly showcasing prior season highlights for visiting presenters had become a full 2/3 to 3/4 of everything they’d present. A series of NYC, US, and world premieres at the single busiest time of year, when artists and audiences struggled to find time to see work. But Vallejo Gantner has been damn near ebullient every time I’ve seen him. Shows are full on selling out, and despite stiff competition some of the buzziest pieces this January have been quieter pieces presented as part of COIL. Kristen Kosmas has been feeling the love in a big way, which is great, because There There is a beautiful piece. I haven’t seen Half Straddle yet, but it got a huge amount of pre-opening buzz and while I’ve heard diverse opinions, I’m looking forward to finally catching it this week. And Emily Johnson has likewise gotten a huge amount of attention.
So anyway, maybe January isn’t quite the shit show it’s made out to be. I ran into Miguel Gutierrez on the street last night who spoke for a lot of people, I think, when he described how exciting it was to engage so deeply in such an intensely energetic environment with the work of his community and colleagues. (Okay, so if you know Miguel, you know I’m paraphrasing ‘cuz I don’t remember it verbatim, but the sentiment is accurate).
But since I haven’t reported anything gossipy yet, I thought I’d offer a morsel. Remember this guy? Everyone assumes we know who s/he is but I ain’t saying publicly. Whatever the case, in an interesting twist, a few weeks ago I was hanging out with some European artists who’d run into the person-who-probably-wrote this at IETM in Zagreb in the fall. Turns out, s/he has been talking up starting yet another January festival showcasing artists s/he thinks should be getting the attention. Now, I have no idea where funding would come from, but it’s interesting. My initial thought was that it was downright stupid to propose yet another festival. But I’m sort of reconsidering. While schedules don’t allow for much more, the dialogue the critical mass is generating I think is a net positive. So maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t be so bad. Anyway, I’m sure someone will have some spleen to vent over that one, so go for it.