Somewhere In That Vortex: Gillian Walsh at The Kitchen

Watching Gillian Walsh’s work is like witnessing the understated dupery of a seasoned illusionist: you see everything happening in front of you but can never quite figure out the mechanism behind it. You either submit to the subtle magic of it all or wrack your brain attempting to crack the code.

Walsh is a maker who manages to present choreography devoid of a “dance.” She has spent the past few years creating scores and locating their display in a performance context. Her work is not easy to watch if you let your eyes lead. She characterizes it as a “live working/performing scenario that [foregrounds] the working without displaying a show.” It is best to sit back and experience the matrix of recited scores and moving parts as they unfold.

Grinding and Equations, a previous work, saw scores that were drawn from the ephemera of pop culture and how those influences — material, ideological, superficial — pervade our daily lives. It developed in Walsh a sense of “understanding how to embed the object into form.” That meant creating scores that both challenged and embraced ideas of the ubiquity of pop culture and, as she deems it, “mass dance and pervasive hegemonic form.”

Gillian Walsh, earlier iteration of "Scenario: Script to Perform," at the Kitchen, June 2014

Earlier iteration of “Scenario: Script to Perform” at The Kitchen, June 2014. Photo by Paula Court.

In a new piece premiering at The Kitchen this weekend, Scenario: Script to Perform, the scores remain the deceptively cogent foundation on which the dance is laid. For me, her work necessitates descriptors that are constantly at odds with their more straightforward counterparts; dance that is anti-artifice, un-choreographed, quasi-performative.

“I work with the assumption that choreography is inherently tyrannical,” Walsh wrote me via e-mail. Scoring may be her way of taking back this power; to her, choreography is byproduct, not end-product.

Seeing this work take shape is, at times, disorienting. I am meditative or apprehensive or satisfied and acutely aware of all of this as I watch. I experience a lot of anticipatory anxiety that never quite resolves. If hers is choreography devoid of a dance, my viewing becomes spectatorship devoid of expectation. “There’s no didactic correlation between the content of the score and the experience of this work,” Walsh tells me.

As with the work of any great illusionist, you believe it when you see it.

Gillian Walsh’s Scenario: Script to Perform runs April 9-11 at the Kitchen. Tickets and more information here.

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