Marya, Jon and Enrico at Danspace Project

212_fOn April 6, I caught a shared program with Marya Wethers and Jon Kinzel/Enrico D. Wey at Danspace Project. I offered my first draft written response to the artists and asked them to write back or comment as one way of playing with keeping the sense of critical conversation going. However, by this time Rico and Marya had both left this time zone (and regular internet access), Jon was back at Danspace preparing to perform in Vicky Shick’s work and I’ve had a college musical to put up. So, while my first attempt at online horizontal criticism was a bit of a bust, Jon and I did have a little bit of exchange. What follows is the basic write up and then a version that includes Jon’s written response and my follow-up.

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Photo by Ian Douglas

Photo by Ian Douglas

In her solo (w)hole, again, Marya Wethers lays splayed on the floor of St. Mark’s Church. Her face covered in an electric blue knit took, complete with pompom on top. She is dressed in a matching blue hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants. She rises to a kneel and pulls the cap up off of her face, gazing out at the audience and then rising to her feet. Her focus is calm, powerful, and shifting with an easy, but intense focus. Her right hand reaches out at a low angle from her side and she SNAPS her fingers while looking away over her left shoulder. The snaps increase in tempo and in location in space, sometimes crossing her body. Her focus remains steadily out at us.

As she begins to move through the space, I find myself drawn to the challenging simplicity of residing in a recognizable self, the ‘ness’ of her being-ness, the way she inhabits postures and weight changes and compels our attention with her strongly grounded presence. She is so there, there. The physical actions are relatively simple, sometimes moving fluidly, sometimes bouncing on the balls of her feet, shoulders easily rising and falling in the shifting task of simultaneously protecting against and preparing for an attack – say, you know, should you find yourself sparring. At one moment, she stops moving, standing up against the wall of the church’s raised altar, we get a pose, arms raised, elbows bent – tough, triumphant and deadpan wry.

She puts on a single boxing glove, shoves plastic cups into her crotch, pulls down her pants to reveal matching electric blue, boxing shorts and thrusts her pelvis forward. She returns downstage, removes one cup from her shorts and crushes it in her hand. The crushing amplifies an image of control and decimation. She does it with one hand, crumpling and crumpling until it is a small ball. It’s a plastic cup, but the articulation of her finger digits and the ways it ties to many a remembered action movie trope (“I could crush you with one hand”) is very evocative and simple. She crushes another and then while crouched on the balls of her feet begins opening and closing her thighs, crunching the remaining cup between her legs. Yet another acquired action cliche that pulls the ruminations about gender play to the forefront of my mind (“I could crush your head with my thighs”).

The interplay of the tough postures and boxer accoutrements with her mildly, haunted vulnerability is potent. This is Judith Butler’s gender trouble placed before us in subtly clear form. The way in which basic stances of the (still, typically in our minds) male fighter can be acquired into a female body and re-presented in a pared down movement exploration reveals some of the component parts in masculine performativity that tough girls model. It’s “Rocky” versus “Girlfight.” Of course, I have a moment when I think: “that’s just all your shit, Maura. Maybe she’s just rebuilding from a breakup.” Perhaps “(w)hole, again” is about returning to some personal sense of a singular self, remembering who you are when you go solo. This occurs to me as “Can’t Hurry Love” is playing and she’s running around the space, through the doors, around the balcony and ripping off layer after layer of sweatshirt, t-shirt, etc. But, then I’m reading her Constellations and Influences response in the program and remembering the different Marya’s I’ve known over the years – fellow western Mass Seven Sister and female action hero aficionado, advocate, presenter, writer, thinker and “marked” body and I decide it’s all of it. Perhaps, different modules, but in the end inseparable parts of the body and the body history and the performing body’s history that we’re seeing on stage. And, it’s specifically constructed, the bittersweet swagger of a post-modern Starbuck.

551496_10151521738934522_955800647_nJon Kinzel and Enrico D. Wey’s duet “harmony hard, a pulsing vein” relocated us into gauntlet style seating, two long rows of chairs facing one another with mats on the floor at our feet, a narrow aisle between the opposing sides. Jon and Enrico enter, each carrying a spool that from my seat, look perhaps like ceramic wheels. As they each walk behind a row of chairs, looking across at one another, I’m looking at the smiling (Ralph Lemon) or surprised faces (Cathy Weiss) across the way and enjoy the moment of observation while also conscious of my place as potential backdrop to the other side. Both halves of the program have treated the beautiful space with the kind of loving care we feel for it as a flexible and warm home for dance that while steeped in history, is one of the most direct feeds to what is most current in dance. This duet attends to all of this with ease, athleticism, and a very meta sound design referencing the collaborative process of developing a work about collaboration. The discourse is set with simplicity, intimacy and some plain and simple labor.

There’s a bit of rough push, some separation, and I’m aware of breath, pulse and male-on-male action, literally, when Rico places one foot – back stepping his heel – on top of Jon’s arch and pressing his back into Jon’s front or carrying Jon on his shoulder fireman style. There are simultaneous events executed at opposing ends of the performance area that gather into very personal entries into the other dancer’s space, as when Jon is standing and Rico rises up along the front of his body, standing face to chest. I begin to think about what movement choices like that reflect about an artist, about how the bodies executing the material are the bodies that designed it – or found it and kept it. Do I think I now can see the world as one or both of them might? With Jon’s twisted torso, raised elbows and bending wrists, do I read a kind of gallantry in his character from some toreodor allusion I’m constructing? Does that actually make him chivalrous in person? Did he choose that material for himself? Rico is athletic and explosive. The outbursts, set after his repetitive bending over, exhaling, hitting the floor and deeply inhaling as he full of clear portrayal of effort, of a body at work, but does the sudden and mildly violent tinge to his powerful movement speak to internal restlessness or his willingness to slide up the front of his collaborator’s personal space reference a mischievous, provocateur sensibility?

I begin to wonder if I’m only wondering because I’m aware that I’ll be expected to make public comment and don’t get to just watch and witness. Sometime soon (that soon being now) I will need to describe what occurred and inherent in that description will be some interpretation and in that interpretation will be some projection and so on and so on… and then Tei Blow’s voice comes out of the speakers and in his reading of the collaborators email exchanges about a title for the work and other marketing related concerns that begin to reference their own inclusion in the sound design that the reconstruction of a surface level focused discussion opens up the potential for continuous feedback loops. Much like the wheels that turned out to be spools of short strands of fabric that Enrico eventually winds into one cohesive, and finite, whole.

And, so, the work opened the door to a response that might reflect the work. As their email exchanges became the content for their sound design, including their emails about including their emails in their sound design, I wondered if we, dance writer versus dance makers could have a similar ‘review’ process.

Tlamama-jon-kinzel-by-jon-kinzel2HE DIALOGUE VERSION:

Jon Kinzel and Enrico D. Wey’s duet “harmony hard, a pulsing vein” relocated us into gauntlet style seating, [Would like to hear more about your use of the word gauntlet to describe the seating arrangement; here’s one way it is used in a phrase … “take up (or throw down) the gauntlet accept (or issue) a challenge. [ORIGIN: from the medieval custom of issuing a challenge by throwing one’s gauntlet to the ground; whoever picked it up was deemed to have accepted the challenge.”] thanks for that question, Jon. I meant it in the “to run the gauntlet” – between two rows, a kind of intentional, tension of opposition and placing yourselves between us – but maybe everyone’s going to think of gloves… two long rows of chairs facing one another with mats on the floor at our feet. Jon and Enrico enter, each carrying a spool that from my seat, look perhaps like ceramic wheels. [Glad you noted the props and that there presence and the material that we used to make them was a little difficult to figure out. Choosing the audiences’ proximity to the objects was enjoyable. The distance between you and the objects provided some ambiguity; whereas in a gallery setting you may have the option of choosing your proximity, examining an object on a plinth by walking around it for example.] As they each walk behind a row of chairs, looking across at one another, I’m looking at the smiling (Ralph Lemon) or surprised faces (Cathy Weiss) across the way and enjoy the moment of observation while also conscious of my place as potential backdrop to the other side. [Adapting to the architecture of St. Marks-Church-as-house-of-theater was one of the initial ways we began to work on the piece. From the beginning, we rehearsed in the studio using specific measurements to designate a playing space, the idea of two parallel rows of chairs separated by an empty channel. This helped us re-contextualizing the stage (designed for us as well as the audience) and significantly informed how we developed material. Bringing the audience onto the stage, out from underneath the overhanging balconies, provided unobstructed site lines in many directions – people could look above them into the vaulted church ceiling, as well side to side and across towards an unbroken drift of seated viewers, a kind of mirror image.] Both halves of the program have treated the beautiful space with the kind of loving care that the field feels for it as a flexible, warm, informal home for dance that is steeped in history, but quite responsible for directly feeding the current moment. This duet attends to all of this with ease, athleticism, and a very meta sound design referencing the collaborative process of developing a work about collaboration. The discourse is set with simplicity, intimacy and some plain and simple labor.

There’s a bit of rough push, some separation, I’m aware of breath, pulse and male-on-male action, literally, when Rico places one foot – backsteppin his heel – on top of Jon’s arch and pressing his back into Jon’s front or carrying Jon on his shoulder fireman style. Their are simultaneous events executed at opposing ends of the performance area that gather into very personal entries into each other’s space, as when Jon is standing and Rico rises up along the front of his body, standing face to chest. I begin to think about what movement choices like that reflect about an artist, about how the bodies executing the material are the bodies that designed it – or found it and kept it. Do I think I see the world as one or both of them might now? [This previous passage of writing both confuses and interests me. It seems like you, Maura, are saying something about how you are relating to the particular-ness of our bodies, the material??] Yes, I’m thinking about how my knowledge of you both as the creators of the material, the actual bodily material and the enactors of the choreographic material is influencing my ‘read’ of the work. Basically, how the duet would reach me differently if I thought it was constructed by a 3rd party. With Jon’s twisted torso, raised elbows and bending wrists, do I read a kind of gallantry in his character from some toreodor allusion I’m constructing? Does that actually make him chivalrous in person? Did he choose that material for himself? Rico is athletic and explosive. The outbursts, set after his repetitive bending over, exhaling, hitting the floor and deeply inhaling as he full of clear portrayal of effort, of a body at work, but does the sudden and mildly violent tinge to his powerful movement speak to internal restlessness or his willingness to slide up the front of his collaborator’s personal space reference a mischievous, provocateur sensibility? Aspects of this work were decidedly personal, so it is nice to hear your read and the various connections between dance, emotion, behavior, form, physicality, and character.

I begin to wonder if I’m only wondering because I’m aware that I’ll be expected to make public comment and don’t get to just watch and witness. Sometime soon (that soon being now) I will need to describe what occurred and inherent in that description will be some interpretation and in that interpretation will be some projection and so on and so on… and then Tei Blow’s voice comes out of the speakers and his reading of the collaborators email exchanges about a title for the work and other marketing related concerns, the reconstruction of a surface level focused discussion opens up the potential for continuous feedback loops. Much like the wheels that turned out to be spools of short strands of fabric that Enrico eventually winds into one cohesive, and finite, whole.

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