Nicole Bindler and Gabrielle Revlock’s The Dance Apocalypse/Solos at JACK
A few weeks back I stumbled upon Nicole Bindler and Gabrielle Revlock’s trailer for their film Chicken Fight. Unfamiliar with their larger body of work, I was surprised at how instantly I felt drawn to their incisive humor and magnetic presence. Unearthing a bewildering array of sensibilities and undermining traditional notions of how live dance or theater can exist, The Dance Apocalypse/Solos, last weekend at JACK (April 3-5), further reinforced my initial enthrallment.
More or less commanding separate halves of the evening, Bindler and Revlock presented solos they created independently. Yet, while structurally set apart, they continually maintained an energetic presence in each other’s performances by at times supporting, questioning, or challenging each other’s actions. Appearing first, Revlock, equipped with a fake microphone made out of tinfoil, delivered a rambling monologue about her childhood friends/dance classes/mother/etc., (pointing to the back of her head she exclaimed at one point, “we didn’t even know how to make a bun!”). In an intentionally awkward (yet endearing) reference to failed Kickstarter attempts and a plea to the audience for money (Revlock literally passed the audience a recycled yogurt container for donations), Revlock subtly blurred the line between parody and reality.
When Revlock explained we would get a homemade “packet”— complete with a lock of human hair and a note from her psychiatrist — with every $5 donation we made, it became clear that she was satirizing the absurd nature of fundraising. Yet while employing comedic tactics to encourage her audience to laugh at the desperate lengths dance artists have to go to to get even the smallest amounts of money, she poignantly reminded us of the depressing insanity that is fundraising.
For me, the magic of The Dance Apocalypse/Solos existed in precisely the way that both Revlock and Bindler managed to not only continually blur the line between absurdity and reality but more importantly how they managed to use comic absurdity as a means of arriving at very real and genuine places. This was visible as Revlock transitioned from carrying out a sincere movement sequence that left her crumpled in on herself, to hula hooping her way through an apology/confession list that included apologies to people for everything from the very funny to the very serious.
Bindler’s solo blurred the line between somatic class and performance. She had the entire audience out of their seats and lying on the floor (an impressive feat) before anyone had a chance to opt out. As her guided meditation took us from being present in our own bodies to tracing back to being a cell in our mother’s uterus, it wasn’t totally clear how serious we were meant to take the exercise. For me, it didn’t really matter whether Bindler was completely earnest or testing to what extent we would follow her instructions. The level of openness of the “class” (Bindler encouraged us to improvise movement initiated from our pelvic floor) created an ambiguity of experience that forced each audience member’s subconscious to make itself and its expectations known, even if only privately.
With unwavering confidence and ease, Bindler moved seamlessly from leading the audience in a feminist meditation, to taking a piss in the bathroom while answering Revlock’s questions, to reappearing completely naked to move through a beautifully brazen dance sequence. I found it interesting that it was during a moment towards the end of her solo that Bindler, zipping up her onesie snowsuit and making eye contact with the audience, appeared the most vulnerably exposed. In that glimmer of a moment — once again dressed — she seemed to generously allow us to really see her.
I felt lucky to watch Bindler and Revlock reveal themselves over the course of the evening in such poignant, wild, hilarious, and generous ways.
In the end I left feeling as if I had witnessed Bindler and Revlock artfully split open, with one fierce swing, a radical unicorn piñata packed with sparklers, rock candy, colored condoms, and strawberry-scented swords. In the event of an apocalypse I’m glad I now know who to call.