Julie Mayo’s “There, there” @ JACK
Shown as a two-night run at JACK in Clinton Hill, Julie Mayo’s There, there (performed by Mayo with Katie Dean, Stacy Grossfield and Jillian Sweeney) is “a dance with a past, present, and future happening at the same time.” The utilitarian vibe and foil-covered walls make the space feel comfortably DIY and stylish. The four women are already in the zone when we enter, huddled together but not speaking, periodically separating and re-collecting, finally settling onto their backs, heads together, singing, clicking, air-kissing, laughing. When they stand up and face us we witness a wild cycle of emotions — crazy eyes, shaking fists, anxious stillness. We quickly learn that the interstitial space between their positions and tasks is significant; we are watching them consciously choose what to do next.
We watch Dean lucidly follow Grossfield and Sweeney as they stumble / careen along the back wall. Eventually she succumbs to their dizziness. Her eyes roll back and the top of her head floats forward.
Grossfield alternates between impish and tearful, exiting the boundaries of the floor and yelling “woah WOAHHH” as if trying to call a timeout (she is ignored). She climbs the stack of chairs in the corner, fiddles with the cash box, looks around to see if anyone is noticing her, and re-joins the group, invading the front row and hovering on one leg. She seems satisfied that we see her now.
The episode replays, and we notice four distinct scores. Sweeney flutters against the prickly foil wall, embarks on a walking pathway, pauses in the center to assume a deep lunge and vacantly swing her limbs. Mayo rocks on her back mumbling something about “science…math…if you flip it…” and gesturing to herself.
Grossfield marches with randomly flying arms and a glazed expression. “I dont know what to say but I know how to play,” she recites, repeating and distorting until it reads as anxious, non-verbal vocalization. She pauses to itch her thighs and stare at us. Later, she stands among the audience with a hand on her groin and the other on her breast, making eye contact. It’s unclear if she’s seeking approval, attention, or merely acknowledging that we’re seeing her in a lightly subversive / supposedly unacceptable position.
Dean enters with an armful of clothes and slowly replaces her tee shirt and sweats with a long wig, flowy blouse, and 70s-ish flared jeans. She leaves and returns later in her first outfit.
Sweeney turns in place and glances around, startled. She is the most physically wild of the women. Later, she and Mayo sit down in chairs for a 60 Minutes-style interview. They smile and nod nervously. Sweeney asks nonsensical questions with seriousness and Mayo responds in kind. “It all started with the ribs,” she says. “Ribs and foil — a good combination.” Sweeney twists away from her interviewee and grimaces while Mayo waxes poetic about bananas for soothing the stomach. Sweeney’s posture is half showing-off-sexy, half in pain.
Grossfield and Dean go skimming across the floor, Dean incredibly balanced and quiet and grounded and Grossfield more free and flighty. Dean arranges her clothes around the space with great ceremony.
There is a strong sense of who each performer IS within the system of scores and intentionally composed choreography. We feel like we are watching them be themselves. It is unclear how the phrases / scripts were generated — the vignettes hang together cohesively, as if all invented by the same person, but the performers inhabit their roles with such comfort and each identity is so distinct that there’s also a feeling of group ownership. The question of authorship feels very present in There, there…how much of what we are seeing is real-time decision-making and how much is pre-orchestrated? It doesn’t feel totally spontaneous but it also feels activated in a way that a tightly choreographed version would not.
There, there lives in my memory as a collection of mini worlds — every tiny solo action and two-person exchange is equally important. The work unfolds with its own rhythm and progresses by its own system of logic. There’s a sense of inevitability, like everything that happens is the only thing that could possibly happen, so I’m completely okay with feeling like I don’t understand its origin.