THIS IS NOT A REVIEW: REBECCA SERRELL CYR’S “ASSEMBLAGE” AT JACK
PART 1: EROTIC DISNEY EXERCISE ROUTINE
On Friday, I went to see Rebecca Serrell Cyr’s Assemblage at JACK in Brooklyn. It was the first day of spring but it had snowed all day and gotten dark early, so coming into the JACK theater was like entering a bunker or a post-apocalyptic living room. I was given an LED flashlight and entrance to the house, which was unlit except for our flashlights. Aretha Aoki and Alex Escalante were already on the stage, surrounded by collections- the foil walls of JACK extending into the floor, onto a picnic blanket, on a sleepover, reflective surfaces and dull ones, and Alex, moving slowly, a meditating praying mantis, a sports fan. A doll’s house staged with cutout figures of soccer players bisected the stage- on one side, Aretha (it is later revealed) is buried under piles of clothes maybe, or garbage, or fake flowers. The stage is full of collections- of things but also representations of things, approximations of things (an artificial flower- is it more than a representation, does it count as its own thing?). It feels like the past; it feels like the end of something.
Once our LEDs are taken away, Rebecca Serrell Cyr and Alex Escalante begin a duet to a sweeping cinematic score. The timing is punch line-setup- punch line-punch line-fog machine- setup- fog machine -a timing of surprise and reveal, a metamorphosizing erotic Disney exercise routine. They ping off each other- an embrace becomes a set up, a pushup becomes a cave- subtle, surprising, delightful, the moving equivalent of a Mary Poppins bag.
PART 2. THIS SHAMAN DRINKS A LATTE™
The second duet between Rebecca and Aretha Aoki further continues the onion peel- Aretha is revealed, having been on stage the whole time under blankets, or trash, or a potted plant. When she sits up, she pulls off a hiking boot to reveal a ballet slipper, which could be emblematic of the piece- stripping off a layer, with the expectation of what would come next (a foot right? a sock?) and being surprised by the reality. It feels like a birthday. Aretha and Rebecca are captivating; they are storytellers. They are ancient and new. This shaman wears Bose headphones. This shaman drinks a latte. An unending barrage of layers are revealed and discarded, a trap door bag of tricks and tassels and bouncy balls, balloons, bubble machine. Aretha and Rebecca together with a dynamism, they are the executors of the madness but also the calm in the middle- whirling dervish yogis- they are the lightning rods, the electricity. It is so much. It is impossible. It happens anyway, executed and timed in a specific kind of fury.
PART 3: GEL CHANGE or YOU CAN STAGE DIVE IF YOU WANT TO and PART 4: EVERYTHING GOES
After an infinite amount of time, an infinite amount of objects touched, pulled, thrown, throned, adorned, donned, wiped, magician’s scarved and STUFF STUFF STUFF STUFF, flying, whizzing past, tumbling over, gold sequins and gold balloons, cheerleading with a rubber snake, high kicks, high leaps, in a mosh pit, suddenly, eventually, there’s just nothing. It is quiet. There is nothing on the stage, it is wiped, tape is peeled, it is spit shined. It is a baptism.
PART 5: YOU ME AND BOBBY McBOB ROSS
Once Rebecca clears the space, a duet begins between dancer Eleanor Hullihan and Bob Ross’ disembodied voice. Bob explains how to make an oil painting of a landscape. He anthropomorphizes the trees, the clouds, the mountains, while Eleanor begins a quiet dance- she shuffles along the space, nameable dance steps bubble up between a wringing shuffle rhythm and windows into baby idiosyncrasies. Eleanor wears a draped dress (Titanium White) and jazz slippers (Raw Sienna). Their voices overlap. An arabesque, a turquoise mark- a tap dance, this yellow ochre. The elements making up the painting- strokes of paint, strokes of a foot, combined to make a quiet, ASMR’s dream. There are dueling paintings, and neither is visible, but both are explained.
Bob Ross leaves. The next voice is a woman, this time reading a review of Assemblage, which is happening now, but has already happened before, of course. The review comes in, and it folds the work back on itself- I am watching the work and it is happening and the review explains, coolly, what has happened before, then it meets with the dancer in real time. The review explains how the work ends and cuts out, and I am left, knowing it’s not over but thinking I know how it ends, and I see the future and I am right and the performer knows what’s going to happen and so it goes.
The work is full of constant transformation- of using and reusing, of discarding and replacing. A blanket becomes a skirt; uncovered artifacts can either become costumes, or set pieces, or disappear as soon as they are uncovered. The work is a great purge- a sort of hoarding in reverse- where we start with detritus of fake flowers, trash, a water bottle, dirt, Mylar curtains, a doll house, curated ephemera, a fury of movement collages, and end with just a stage and a performer, looking out, which doesn’t feel sentimental, but maybe earnest?, or maybe stripped down, maybe we are all new, it feels sweet but not saccharine, maybe just relieved, perhaps because, in the most satisfying way, it was such a barrage getting there.
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.
All images, unless otherwise noted, created by Katie Dean.
Performed by: Aretha Aoki, Alex Escalante, Eleanor Hullihan, Rebecca Serrell Cyr
Voices: Catherine Taylor-Williams, Bob Ross
Lighting: Ben Demarest
Sound Engineer: James Lo
Costume Assistant: Emily Meister
Curated by: Stacy Grossfield