Rebeca Medina’s Paraiso @ Five Myles Gallery
Below is a documentation of two conversations we had about Rebeca Medina’s Paraiso, which we saw on November 12, 2015 at Five Myles Gallery in Brooklyn. Our first conversation took place immediately following the performance and we followed up three days later.
Walking home from Five Myles
Shannon Elizabeth O’Brien: I really liked the last image. That was where I felt the most. It’s like walking into an abandoned house, where everything’s been left the way it was and you then know how it was put there. I liked that image better once the dancers had left. That was the most powerful part of the piece for me.
Angela Mariana Schöpke: It’s interesting you say that, because in that moment, I felt like a loved one had just died and I was seeing their space.
S: It felt like a space with people gone.
S: I had a hard time with the part right before the final image. It’s difficult to incorporate dialogue into/after dance.
A: I remember that was my initial feeling when the piece started. I also struggled in general with some of the beseeching looks to the audience.
S: Yeah. Especially when you’re so close to the audience, sometimes it’s already clear that you are aware an audience is there, and a look like that isn’t necessary.
A: At the same time, I do wonder, how does one connect with an audience, and where does one look? Do you do the above-the-head gaze? Is there a way to look at the audience without looking like, “engage with me, engage with me.”
S: Or just look at them as people.
S: I was very impressed with the timing of everything, with so many different props. The audio tape, which something unplanned must have happened to, still finished coiling back into the box on the floor at the exact right moment. That was smart. I almost wish the entire evening was just watching people set things up. In the beginning, I didn’t like the dancer in the corner, tying strips of cloth up into a web of clothes lines, making the image of a tree. But as she continued, I kind of liked it. I felt like I was watching a girl in her room, setting it up, nesting the way she wanted to. I can relate to that because I do that all the time, when I start going through something and I get going on a little project. It’s very cathartic going through trinkets, and remembering all these things. It was nice. I kind of liked those parts of the show that were just taking things, moving things, having things. Because all those things have memories and people tied to them.
A: It reminds me of this feeling – I felt as though a lot of it sort of described the 20-something-year-old journey. At the end, I noticed that the thing I was really looking for was some kind of answer, because I’m asking myself the same kinds of questions. So I was hoping that maybe they would have some insight about what you actually do with your life once you go through the 20-something journey.
S: I was thinking about that too.
A: But then, the dancer with the curly hair said something about marriage. The whole piece felt like it describes a journey, and independence, and being 20, and emotions, trees, life… That’s oversimplified, but you know, the 20-something journey. But then, at the end, that question of marriage… I feel like that sort of lent some weight, for me, to the thought of what’s next. Because I find myself thinking, I’m in my 20s and it’s amazing but then I have these moments when I feel the advent of what’s next very clearly. I think about children… I don’t know, for whatever reason, it felt like an insight for me. Just that one moment, the idea that marriage is in a boat.
S: Maybe it’s the boat part that takes you to a different place and a different phase in your life, and maybe it’s just a simple metaphor like that. I saw all of those boats scattered across the stage as all those little trips you’ve taken, each transition from one thing to a next.
A: Oh, interesting. My first thought about the marriage boat was this feeling of something far and sailing away, strangely enough, like the ship has sailed.
S: I thought, from an installation standpoint, the work was really beautiful. I think I feel more from the motion of objects than the motion of people. The slow audio tape, slowly being sucked back into the box. That movement struck me the most out of any movement in the evening. I feel that way about life a lot too. The movement of things is almost more honest than the movement of people. The person is like, “I’m showing you something,” and the tree is just moving because it’s moving. But watching objects move still makes me think of people.
A: One thing I was thinking about too was the section in which they were circling around each other. That part was the first part that didn’t have text. I thought about whether I found the speaking to add anything; what did it add? And I feel like it really did. I think that what speaking the stories did is kind of like what you were saying about the space without the people: first there was speaking, and then in that moment where they stopped speaking…
S: You heard the words more.
A: Yeah. It was like that space at the end, without the people.
3-Day Post Show Discussion
A: Have you thought much about the piece?
S: I’m going to go back to what I said about enjoying watching things being built on the stage, with the wrapping of the fabric strips to create the tree. Another similar moment we didn’t talk about was when the dancer with the short curly hair pulled her long glove down off her hand, and she was dancing with it dangling under her robe, skimming the floor. It was that idea of an object meaning more and having more significance when something was removed from it. The gloves were so intriguing because there weren’t hands in them.
A: In that moment, I remember thinking that they were likes bones, sort of inanimate, like a skeleton. There was a lot in there that seemed to recall death.
S: And maybe that’s sort of the same thing we were talking about. Death and the emptiness and the space someone has made when they’re gone.
A: When I was watching that first section when she was setting up the cloth tree in the corner I remember thinking that it was sort of web-like, or like a parasite that grows in that way – grow, latch on, grow, latch on – or like a system of neurons developing. From tree growing to parasite. The movement moments that I remember were those that were circular. The weaving in and out, or the movement with the stool.
S: Or the circular audio tape that she pulled out and then rewound. Even though I couldn’t see it, I could still picture the coiling up of the tape inside that box.
A: What I do find interesting is that, like you mentioned, the moments that stand out to us are the sculptural moments, or arrangements of space and inanimate objects that emulate life or recall life.
S: Or that were put there by people. I definitely think that the choreographer’s goal here was embodying memory.
A: So if the moments that stood out to us were the moments sans people, I wonder whether there could have been anything different about the choreography that would have made the dancing hold as much weight to us as the absence of dancing and people.
S: Do you remember that moment where the two dancers were downstage left making very small movements and they were perfectly in sync? I feel like that movement stood out to me. Also the moments that were repeated, like the woodpecker solo, or the syncopated, flopping floor phrase at the beginning. I liked watching that phrase because I could never quite figure out what the rhythm was going to be, so I was always surprised. Otherwise, the choreography otherwise feels like a lot of what I’ve seen in modern dance: one arm circling through the center-line, up and over, coming to a low 45 degree angle with the legs stepping into a relaxed arabesque. I think because I’ve seen a lot of that, it doesn’t stick with me as much. It’s almost like the dancing part has to happen because it’s a dance show, but it’s the other stuff that makes the show interesting. But I think what you were saying is that the dance-y part could have been something different.
A: I guess what I’m hearing in our conversation is that the moments that stuck with us were moments without people. And the people were important to making those moments. But, I’m wondering, would it have been possible for something to have been done differently so that moments with people would have stuck with us too? Again, the only moment that really stuck with me was the dancers circling around each other. Maybe if it had been shorter? I don’t know. Maybe if there had been less? But if there had been less would the absences have been less powerful?