Jess Curtis/Gravity

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.   

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June 5th and 6th, “Walking Distance Festival”

 

Programs A & C

I saw four different dances, and here are my very gut reactions to each one.

Program A

Double Exposure, RAWDance

The best I’ve seen of them and some segments were quite interesting.  I’ll go see the larger work, but I am still not sold on them choreographically or as dancers.  Why do they only choreograph for themselves?  As N said, “They seem a little too self-congratulatory.”

Pupil Suite, Gallim Dance

I’m just going to say it: I was kind of offended (and shocked that N had the same response).  There as a part of the dance that crossed a line.  I’m sure I opened my mouth in surprise, or scrunched up my nose – did I really just see that?  It’s hard to describe, but the movement seemed to be mocking to a degree of maybe not being aware of its potential offensiveness.  Didn’t anyone tell them?  Am I being too sensitive? Overall, I liked their aesthetic and the first two sections were fantastic.  I’m a little confused.

Program C

Dwelling, GERALDCASINGDANCE

Some responses:

K: “that was the longest 30 minutes of my life”

N: “that was so disappointing”

Probably the most interesting part was when one of them quoted Heidegger.  The rest was an utter bore.

The Dance that Documents Itself, Jess Curtis/Gravity

I don’t mind naked bodies on stage, but I need it to mean something.  The rest did seem to get at larger issues of digital documentation, subjectivity, etc.  I appreciated the moment when Jess stepped out to address the current state of San Francisco’s economy and housing crisis.  He recognized that some things just can’t be “danced” and need speech; dance isn’t always the best way to communicate.  I was a little surprised that Christy Bollingbroke mentioned that this piece is a “set-up” for the ODC Theater programming for the next season.  I am curious to see how that plays out and what it means.