Michelle, Miguel, Ish & Emily, Tere & Adam Linder
So, it is still January. And, while, Claudia LaRocco has provided her #apapsmear for ArtForum and Andy has taken on Realness (my shared concern being the overwhelming ‘whiteness’ of an “American” “realness” – though Michelle Boule’s fluffy prom dress could have been a reference to her Filipina heritage) and other respondents have taken on Andy, I’m just going to share brief thoughts on some of the works presented. I can’t pull it all together into an observant essay nor address the bigger questions that arose, because, honestly, real life stuff took priority and me away from the whole sh-bang right in the middle of things. If you want a blow by blow about the Sherry/Rebecca incident, read Siobhan Burke’s piece for Performance Club.
Michelle Boule’s Wonder turns smiling into a virtuosic act. When she strides onto the stage of the Playhouse at Abrons Art Center, dressed in nothing but an enormous grin with chin raised and eyes gleaming, she’s a puttin’ on… and on… and on…and oh…she’s still putting on…the ritz. The sustained act of showing those teeth while moving through the audience and around the stage (with occasional “step touch, step touch” interludes) distills the razzle dazzle down to the elements of energy output and external trappings. In fact, the moment when she just drops the façade entirely and shifts pace, drops her sternum down, and adjusts her jaw it’s like double scoops of postmodern, natural body yummy goodness. Ah, yes, “realness.” Boule navigates through the artist’s desire for authentic representation of self against the performer’s innate itch for approval, meeting her own (confessed) competitive tendencies with compassionate, humanistic internal terrains. Circus tricks (her double pirouettes into a coupe jete en l’air while spinning a hula hoop elicited a sincere whoop of delight) are countered in quietly affecting moments. When Boule slowly makes her way around the circle of seated audience members, I notice that my observation of her wilting, shifts in front of others across the stage has become detached. I appreciate the idiosyncratic nature of the movement material, but start attending to audience member’s faces and then my thoughts wander elsewhere. But, as she approaches our section of the circle, I feel myself pulled into her energy field. There is a brief moment wherein I feel directly inside her sphere of influence. And, too quickly, it’s over. There was a tender passage into the fleeting intake of energy and cohesion when she was right in of us and then, only the sensation of irritation and impatience at being passed by and the impatience in waiting for her to finish off the crowd. The way in which that experience set up mildly increasing expectations and a resulting dissatisfaction with the ephemeral, impermanent nature of a constructed connection between viewer and viewed was heady. For a brief few seconds, there she was…real and I was in love. Then, she moved on to share herself with others and I became increasingly agitated. I met her midway around the circle. I did wonder how my experience could have varied depending on whether I was closer to the beginning or the end of her journey, and how this is akin to life’s meetings. Will I see you again?
Emily Wexler and Ishmael Houston-Jones’ 13 love songs.dot.dot.dot has the best back story around. He was her thesis advisor at Hollins. They hit it off and while working on a duet about love and love songs, he unknowingly suffered a heart attack until after a few days was told he’d need quadruple bypass surgery. She became his primary caregiver, essentially moving in to care for him for a month. And so, they premiered a work with some heart break and a break down of the experience of falling in love. Along the way though, there’s some screeching, some crying (thanks to a viscerally squirmy sequence with sliced onions rubbed on the performers faces – brilliant!), some decidedly non-heart attack recovery style thrashing, Wexler reads years worth of obsessive entries in her adolescent diary about one boy, and Ish makes us sing along to a crappy love song. They end by having volunteers lie down on the stage and Wexler guides them through an exercise that leads them to gaze at another volunteer and encourages them to fall in love with that person, one physical attribute at a time. The effort of falling in love is simply the act of sustained positive attention. If you are willing, both in an emotionally open and intellectually effortful way, you can make yourself fall in love with anyone. However, I was not among those on the floor, and though I enjoyed Ish’s accompanying chant, watching was not the same as doing and, in the end, I know I didn’t experience the real thing. At least, not there. Not then.
Okay, so…if Miguel Gutierrez really had the lithe and supple Connor Voss’ dick in his mouth during a performance of myendlesslove could he have been arrested? It was dark enough and I was far enough away from the stage to believe this could be occurring. In fact, I hoped I was watching one of the most authentic and inspired (while intensely emotionally neutral) contact-based exercises I’d ever seen. I wanted to believe that Miguel, had taken his work “yes, of course, of course, where else could he go, but here” to this level of the Real. And, managed to construct it with adroit pacing, iconic imagery and post-post-pomo detached sincerity. Perhaps sensationalist in my desire, but while I delighted in the multiple Miguel’s on stage and video and in my ears, looping around each other and rocking some fly high heel boots, I was overwhelmingly blase in my immediate response to the elements with Voss. I hoped that maybe something more transgressive was happening, so my being present to witness their pairing, a dissolution of irony and call to the new sincerity mattered.
Tere O’Connor is a master weaver. To watch his “Bleed” up close – during a special presentation at Danspace Project in St. Mark’s Church – is to see the delicate threads inside the inimitable and bold patterns of his making. His is sturdy work from Heather Olson’s captivating opening solo to the slow fade to black for the entire ensemble. It is satisfying for every evocative solo and rousing group moment that builds or disintegrates away from the straight line of progress – brilliant fractals at every turn. With O’Connor it could go anywhere, but whereever it goes, we go and I think repeatedly, “God, I love dance.” “God, he loves dance.” “God, he makes me love dance.” Only in this form can the ebbs and flows, the spray and the swell of consciously determined movement appear symbolic and yet, deeply, corporeally, literal – they are just bodies working through time and space. It can mean nothing more than that, and yet move us and, somehow, mean so much. Of course, it helps that he has gathered an aesthetic playground of bodies to work with. The tenaciously supple David Thomson and Cynthia Oliver, the regal articulation of Silas Riener and Ryan Kelly, the wily devonn emory shadowed by the tranquil Mary Read, Oisin Monaghan’s uncanny angelic curls and piercing countenance, Tess Dworman, Natalie Green, Michael Ingle – each body audaciously ripe with individuality. This is why I come to “the dance” – for the relentless crafting of individuals into some kind of cohesive but impermanent experience.
For you I put this dress on – for you I put the stress on – act like you know me, act act like you know me. Adam Linder sings along, riffing off of Bristol musican Tricky’s Slowly to a remix by Brendan Dougherty and I’m completely captivated. Plus, I sing those lines endlessly for the next several days, carrying Adam’s booty popping transformations with me all the way to LA (not the best soundtrack or collection of images for a friend’s memorial, but workable when stuck in traffic on the 101). Linder, an Australian dancer who trained at the Royal Ballet and is now based in Berlin, presents an irresistible persona bringing a pliable physique together with an insouciant bravado. For this work, he purposefully ‘re-skilled’ as a rapper and is explicitly negotiating the terrain of appropriation. He does it well. Very well. It’s a fascinating mash up of high art and vernacular culture. He vogues, he twerks, he locks, he raps but it’s all inside a highly trained, classical body. There’s a delicious shifting portrayal of gender and culture in his performance. He’s a sexy bitch. With the concentrated effort of re-skilling and his physical agility, he makes authenticity difficult to delineate. In fact, the value of authenticity becomes questionable against his fluid shifts. What’s really real? And, when was the last time “real” really mattered anyway.