THIS IS NOT A REVIEW: JENNIFER MONSON’S LIVE DANCING ARCHIVE

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New York Live Arts, Oct 16, 2014

all images by Katie Dean

On Thursday, I went to see Jennifer Monson’s Live Dancing Archive at New York Live Arts, which originally premiered several years ago, and is one manifestation of many years of research. This iteration was re-imagined with two additional performers, Niall Jones and Tatyana Tenenbaum.

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It is dark, and we’re listening to nothing, then something swells and the silence is bigger- a tone springs out of it, then a layer of sound, then footsteps. It is dark, or it’s as dark as NYLA gets, with some light bleeding from the stairs. I can barely make figures out, like first moments of sunrise when it’s not even clear that it’s started to get light. When the lights rise, the first figure we see is Valerie Oliveiro, a member of the tech, pressing through the space- as if through mud, sensing without looking, with tenderness, a call, probing. When Jennifer, Niall, and Tatyana come in, they charge the space with constant movement culled from three very different articulations- a sturdiness, a direct clarity, an elasticity. The three performers move through patterning- they return to spots, they redo movements- a belly slide, a chance meeting, a squat. Proximity seems to be important, as is seeingwithoutlooking and long looping patterning- there’s a feeling of knots being loosened and retightened, long tendrils of movement that fold back in on each other to repeat, eventually, irregularly but purposefully.

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Through the work, lighting and stage designers Joe Levasseur and Valerie Oliveiro walk around and casually adjust lighting instruments (on stands which can be raised and lowered, and on wheels). The sound score by Jeff Kolar responds to the dancers and outside frequencies by way of a series of radio transmitters. The proximity of the performers is important, as is what is coming in from outside.

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The work feels episodic, or seasonal, and there seems to be a strict evolution or deconstruction between scenes- the three, costumed in lavender, coral, and fur by Susan Becker, probing into the space, physical manifestations of neurological impulses, scattering, charging, rushing; reemerging as tan, white, brown and fur, a synchronized pattern by Jennifer and Tatyana alongside a solo by Niall- root chakra body systems, sex organs, moving into flight or near-flight, into sounding in a tight formation which leaks out, into something like pleasure, with shyness, with a smirk, into higher awareness, into a slow cavernous wanting, a prehistoric amoebic state, into extremes of too light too dark too loud, into starkness, into brain stem undulations, convulsing together, climbing over and seeking.

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Monson’s work is both the product of research and actively, presently researching- perhaps the act of performance but perhaps also seeing and being seen as an animal, being present and aware of other animals watching- with a wildness and potential for wreckage leaking- reaching out with antennae, movement bubbling up, almost boiling, and pattern-making in a way that illustrates the dynamism, the impossibility, and also the inevitability of nature. And in the same way as in nature, even the silence isn’t quiet- it is thick and gurgling, and what seems at first to be silence isn’t- a din that’s not quite bees, chainsaw, computer, power lines- and the audience joins in, uncrossing legs, closing programs, swallowing- and then footsteps in darkness, or not quite darkness. Then they’re gone.

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THIS IS NOT A REVIEW is a series of visual and written artistic responses to dance and performance. the series is centered around inspiration, proposing response as a form of loose preservation rather than criticism or time-bound documentation.


 

(Supporting images taken or created by Katie Dean)

Live Dancing Archive, October 15-18, 2014
Choreographed by Jennifer Monson
Performed by Jennifer Monson, Niall Jones, Tatyana Tenenbaum
Music Composed by Jeff Kolar
Lighting and Stage Design by Joe Levasseur and Valerie Oliveiro
Costume Design by Susan Becker
Video Installation by Robin Vachal
Digital Archive: Josephine Young Jae Bae
Production Manager: Davison Scandrett

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