Month: October 2016

October 8th, “Readymade”

Choreographed by Tanya Chianese

I’ll start with a point of reference, a quote by David Batchelor (a Scottish artist and writer) that repeated near the beginning and end of Readymade:

…and, you know, I think the aim of a lot of artists is to get people to look more closely at that which you often overlook.”

The repeating of this quote gave me pause, and I wondered what Chianese wanted us to look at more closely. About mid-way through the hour-long piece something struck me. Could Chianese be asking us to remember that we are the “readymade”? What are we overlooking in ourselves?

As Chianese mentions in her program notes, “Readymade is not about Duchamp’s work, but instead, aims to invoke his iconic idea of the do-it-yourself power to reshape one’s own life by changing how we view things.” This impulse is evident in the titles to the 14 sections of the dance – “What If?”, “Stop and Smell the Roses”, and “You Only Live Once,” for example. I could sense this impulse in the opening of the dance. The movement of afile_000-25rms and bodies in between three wide “ribbons” across the length of the stage hinted at how the intertwining of parts could be a reshaping or refashioning of what we might otherwise overlook.

This impulse is also evident at the end when a dancer walks out on stage with a piece of tissue stuck to her foot. She bends down and picks it up, looking as if she might toss it over her shoulder, like a piece of trash. Instead, she sees something else in that piece of tissue and decides with a smile to send it into the sky by blowing on it softly.

The music that accompanies Readymade reflects this whimsical spirit and amplifies the playful yet thoughtful tone of the piece. What is also very clear and uncompromising is the choreography and its execution by the dancers of ka·nei·see | collective. The movement quality was robust both in temperament and reach. The dancers never gave up, committing fully to each change of mood and intensity. The dance almost never stopped, but at one point during a long diagonal sequence, the dancers let their weariness show. I enjoyed the subtle humor and yearned for more. It seems a worthwhile sentiment to explore right now as well as in the context of the dance’s message to pay attention to what we normally overlook in ourselves.  How can we with a bit of humor start to rethink ourselves and how we see the world we’ve made?

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Source: Rob Best

Honestly, I wasn’t sure of all this when I left the theater, but an encounter with a friend a few days later opened my eyes to what I might have overlooked in the dance. It was an important reminder to me that I am a much better watcher (and writer) when I am in the company of good conversation about dance.

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September 22th, “The Way You Look (at me) Tonight”

Choreographed by Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis

First a little thank you note:

Thank you for moving to a point to tenderness and offering a moment to reflect on how we come to love (each other). Thank you for offering emotional exchanges about bodies, looking, and feeling. Thank you for trying to speak differently about how seeing and not seeing difference matters.

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The program notes frame the piece as a “social sculpture – a sensory journey for two performers and audience…[that asks] important questions about our habits and practices of perceiving each other and the world.” For the most part, The Way You Look (at me) Tonight stays within this frame. Cunningham and Curtis move their bodies and words to confront the sometimes uncomfortable spaces between the perceptions of others and ourselves. They navigate and narrate their own experiences with disability, age, and sexuality, reminding the audience that how we look at others has consequences and that as Diana Taylor says in her book, Performance, looking can be fraught, even risky (79). 

Cunningham dances with remarkable ease (and strength); her crutches are extensions of her body that move with precision and grace. At one point Curtis lies on the floor while Cunningham walks on him with the full weight of her body. During this sequence, Alva Noë’s pre-recorded voice (the philosopher consultant) voice thinks out loud about what he is seeing. I found this to be an unnecessary interruption. Honestly, I don’t really care what Noë saw or what he thought about what he saw, and felt it contradictory to the participatory frame of the piece.

Perception is not just about the eyes and The Way You Look (at me) Tonight examines that by showing us different ways of looking and sensing each other. I think this dance has the potential for genuine learning. I even modified their “game” of peripheral fluctuation, where you keep people in your peripheral vision without directly looking at them, for one of my classes. It really got us talking about how much we are able to see, and how often we chose to not see. I can envision how this dance could be taught alongside texts that aim to explore cultural difference, rhetorical listening, and the politics of perception.  

90 minutes without an intermission is a lot to ask, but I was still happy to go home thinking about love.   

September 22nd, “King Tide”

Choreographed by Nina Haft & Company

It’s been a while, again.

On the recommendation of friends, I walked into the Joe Goode Annex.  Before any dancing started, I saw this:

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As I took my seat, I felt immersed by the visual and sonic representations of water.  The title, King Tide, refers to what happens when the moon and sun align to bring about what is more commonly known as high tide.  This theme of water was reflected in all aspects of the dance The three sections made references to water’s action:  “ebb & flow”; “almanac”; and “shrinking ground.”  Haft’s program notes referred to the crisis in our watersheds and climate change.  The brief dancer biographies describe not their dance credentials, but their connections to water.  Haft undertook extensive research (a 3 year process) to make King Tide, which was evident in what I saw on Thursday night.  

The first section, “ebb & flow,” was beautifully composed and performed.  The movement (and sound) expressed not only the ebb and flow of water, but also of time and breath.  It all seemed deliberately slow even when the movement quickened.  I found myself with time to consider how human bodies are also ebbing and flowing as the dancers breathed with their limbs, extending their reach out into the landscape.  For me, there was something very satisfying to slowing down; a different way of being with time.  For the second section, I was brought down to the perimeter of the stage with about ½ of the audience.  Sitting so close it was not hard to notice the strength between the two dancers in “almanac.” It was striking to track their orbits and how they responded to each other.  The last section, “shrinking ground” was aptly titled.  The faces, movements, and lighting all contributed to a sense of closing in, of being pushed back by some force.  The diversity of bodies on the stage added to the human realness of the piece. Sometimes when a piece gets worked on for a long time it looses its edge but this is not the case with King Tide.  There is a maturity of thought happening not only in the choreography, but also between the dancers.  I greatly value this kind of thinking through movement and the research that sits behind the piece.  I wonder what’s next for Haft.  Next time I won’t wait 3 years.