Criticism Circle: “Work Up” at Gibney
Alyssa Gersony, Eli Tamondong, and Elena Light respond to each others’ pieces at Work Up, a presenting series for emerging dance and performance artists at Gibney Dance. Work Up ran from April 9-May 2, 2015.
Alyssa Gersony on English Country Ballz (Sadie Hawkins Remix) by Elena Light:
Side by side, not quite within reach, Elena Light and Margaret Tudor lock eyes. The two androgynous bodies are poised. Unison triplets are interrupted by breaks of sucking and stroking. An attitude à terre dissolves into a subtle hip thrust. Anonymous recorded applause cues a brief lay-down as the voyeur role shifts from audience to performer. Light courts the audience, Tudor courts Light and vice versa. Their world swings between a love affair and a dance affair. The serious and believable are shaded with aloofness and detachment. Choreographer Light cleverly demonstrates her artistic interest in “not being real,” while at the same time, “not becoming other people” on stage.
Romantic and sexual dynamics from the 19th and 20th centuries inspired this 11-minute waltz. There is a clear interaction between the past and present that’s revealed in the exploration of sex images and gestures. English Country Ballz (Sadie Hawkins Remix) pairs gyration with modest seated poses, and playful foot tapping with flirtatious glances. Especially striking is the pink-silhouetted tease Tudor performs while sashaying leisurely upstage, a 2015 Lynchian dream sequence.
Eli Tamondong on this place with the pretty-sounding name by Alyssa Gersony:
greetings to no one in particular
and you walk
into the ground
and the long roads turn into the
quicksand of circular memories
and you walk
impairment convulses inside your spirit
what they looked like
what they sounded like
the hands trace up and down
how the glow splashes her face
attach and slosh around
and you walk
the chains behind your back
rehabilitation convulses inside your spirit
Elena Light on Feast or Famine by Eli Tamondong:
Phil Mickelson is the epitome of straight white golfer. I remember watching him play in the Masters and PGA tournaments on various Sundays growing up, sitting with my dad on the family room couch. So, to hear Phil’s name as an announcer’s low voice rang through the studio theater was eerie and unsettling—at odds with Eli Tamondong’s delicately moving, underwear-clad body. In Eli’s solo dance Feast or Famine, presented as part of Gibney Dance’s Work Up 1.4, this type of disjunction was ever-present. The golf soundtrack moved abruptly into the audio from a gay porn film—two types of masculinity very rarely next to each other. As Eli’s waltz-like movements gained in tension and speed along with the grunts and exclamations of the two heard bodies, I found myself simultaneously smiling at the brazenness of Eli’s juxtaposition and troubled by my own assumptions around male sexuality. Why was it so jarring to see one particular body while hearing others in a sex act? When the moment of climax suddenly erupted into applause at a hole-in-one on the golf course, I laughed aloud. It seemed a cruel joke, but Eli’s straight-faced stare reminded me of the seriousness of what was happening: heteronormativity and whitewashing were being broken down onstage.
The final portion of the piece was an imagistic nightmare: Eli invited two audience members onstage to hold a long piece of white fabric. Wrapped around his neck, the white shroud became a beautiful noose. Slowly Eli moved backward, forcing the fabric to tighten around him as we watched, witnessing his face turn redder the further he walked. He read aloud from a little white book words that I can no longer remember, so troubled was I by the ethical dilemma facing the two audience members forced to hold this torturous object. His movements grew erratic, and Eli screamed, a painful guttural growl coming out of his mouth. I thought of the voices I’d heard earlier—Eli’s higher pitch set against those lower baritones. As the lights went down and Eli’s body faded into darkness, it seemed he might be gone forever, swallowed up by those voices and by that endless, oppressive whiteness.