Performing the Self in Rage – The Life of an Artist

Published in collaboration with thINKingDANCE. Access original post here.

Photo: Michael Yu

Photo: Michael Yu

In 2005, while attending ADF, I was assigned to be Miguel Gutierrez’s wardrobe assistant for his solo Retrospective Exhibitionist. For those three nights I embodied his mom—washing his underwear. Since then I’ve followed his work and taken his workshops any time I could. When I moved to Philadelphia in 2006, Nicole Bindler was the first person to welcome me. She invited me to her show, which incidentally was the first time I met my future husband. I’ve worked with Nicole on and off for nine years. I also met Gabrielle Revlock in 2006. Gabi and I spent three weeks traveling together around Poland on a residency this past summer.

I love these people and our shared histories. But the world of dance making, as we know it, is dying. In one week I saw works by all three—Nicole and Gabi’s The Dance Apocalypse/Solosand Parts 1 and 2 of Miguel’s Age & Beauty triptych—in which they rage, rant, and even party in an attempt to process the harsh realities of the life they/we live.

Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/

FringeArts was set up as a three-walled white box, inside of which Miguel and mickey mahar danced, played, and explored their queerness, sensuality, anger, and frustration. Miguel wore a Barbie-pink one-piece bathing suit, his mouth and eyes smeared with lipstick, as if applied by a child. He passed a bottle of pink nail polish to the audience. It felt like a pretend tea party, and the evening itself became a revisited game from childhood, presented through a grown gay man’s wishes, desires, and perceptions of self. They vogued in unison, shared a kiss, fought, mickey exposed his ass, they both donned white twill dresses. Ultimately Miguel’s charismatic presence “shaded” the younger and more feminine-looking mickey.

The end took me by surprise. Miguel sang into a microphone, creating a wall of ever louder, looping sound. It was beautiful, engulfing, and isolating. As he screamed aggressively “You can leave now!” the charming persona was gone, the dance over. Was Miguel finally just himself and not the performer? I left.

Age & Beauty Part 2: Asian Beauty @ the Werq Meeting or The Choreographer & Her Muse or &:@&

Just days later, on the day of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Miguel began by asking the audience for a brief moment of silence in solidarity. Michelle Boulé, “the muse,” entered, dressed in all pink, with a rope light  of the same color fastened around her body. She sang, her silhouette reminding me of a pink gingerbread cookie. A projection explained who the people on stage were: Ben Pryor (Miguel’s manager); Jaime Maseda (playing Miguel, dressed in Miguel’s costume from Part 1); Michelle Boulé (his muse); and lighting designer Lenore Doxsee (not present). Sitting at a table for most of the show, Jaime/Miguel and Ben reenacted real conversations, while the “Asian Beauty” (Michelle Boulé) poured herself all around the stage, ignored by the others. The real Miguel, also a witness on stage, brought a sense of duplicity. Who is the artist and who is the person? Are they different?

In the 90 minutes that it took Jaime/Miguel and Ben to talk, do business, fight, struggle with paying rent, and send tons of emails, Michelle danced all the solos she had ever performed for Miguel. Almost 15 years were compressed into 90 minutes, her sweat and presence seemingly invisible to the others. It was real and sad and they all kept going without much change for a long time.

Finally the stage exploded into a party, everyone dancing in unison, facing and engaging the audience. There was real joy in their eyes, but I couldn’t stop thinking: at what cost? While my heart beat the rhythm of the song and my lips curled into a smile, I felt sad remembering Michelle sweating and alone on that stage, Miguel not having money to pay his rent, the beauty and decay and struggle and joy this life is. The show ended with Michelle standing atop the table, breathlessly screaming the end of her solo from Everyone: “Yes, I am writing a poem… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… one down… so many more to go.”

head over to thINKingDANCE to read the rest of Zornitsa’s piece.

Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/, Miguel Gutierrez, FringeArts, Nov. 11 – 12, 2015, Photos: Ian Douglas

Age & Beauty Part 2: Asian Beauty @ the Werq Meeting or The Choreographer & Her Muse or &:@&, Miguel Gutierrez, FringeArts, Nov. 13-14, 2015, Photos: Ian Douglas

The Dance Apocalypse/Solos, Nicole Bindler and Gabrielle Revlock, AUX Space at Vox Populi, Nov. 13-15, 2015, Photos: Michael Yu, performed at JACK.

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