Keith Hennessy

I’ve Been Watching

First Performances of 2018.  

Another slow start. I have yet to process all the dance from 2017. I saw a lot and wrote a little less. I did an interview, had a conversation, and invited a guest writer. I had fun.

My first show of 2018 was back in January. I caught Fresh Festival Performance Weekend #2 at the Joe Good Annex with choreography by Gerald Casel and Keith Hennessy; Sara Shelton Mann; Rachael Dichter and Allie Hankins. It’s interesting to look back – what do I remember? What lingers? Here are two lingering memories:

In” A Dance in a Theatre” Keith Hennessy kept all his clothes on!

Loved the refrain at the end of “FramesFrames/The Revolving Door II” by Mann. It was a satisfying repeating of song and movement that brought some of the audience on the stage – I couldn’t help but smile.

I also snuck in A.C.T.’s production of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party. I loved all of it – the acting, storytelling, the humor. I didn’t mind being out past my bedtime. 

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December 16th, “future friend/ships”

 

By Keith Hennessy and Jassem Hindi, with lighting designer Dennis Döscher

Last post of 2016 

I arrived at Counterpulse early and picked up the December issue of indance. On the last page was an article penned by Hennessy and Hindi about future friend/ships.  They started with this quote:

“Irony is about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. Irony is about humor and serious play. It is also a rhetorical strategy and a political method.

– Donna Haraway, First test space monkey

In their article, Hennessy and Hindi identify their research practice as “ironical” and aim for the dance to “host otherness.” As hosts, Hennessey and Hindi welcomed us on stage before we took our seats and the lights dimmed. As we walked around the stage, we were asked to look at the photos (“a partial tarot deck”) scattered around and sample food they offered on trays. This opening did resonate with the theme of hospitality that they claim “is the name of [their] game.” Later in the piece, they also invited the audience to view the tarot cards again as Hennessey and Hindi passed them through the audience. It left like we were in someone’s living room (the fabric curtain and costumes added to this effect).Another thread that became clear from the “performance/installation/science fiction salon” was the idea of Arab Futurism. A quick google search didn’t reveal much on this emerging genre (?) in contemporary art.

With all this mind, my response attempts to sort out what all this might mean in the context of what occurred (and what I noticed) on stage. In order to do so, I found myself reading through the performance zine and digging into literature about irony.

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When my friend sat down next to me, I turned to her and said, “this is a dance about language.” Reflecting back, I still think this claim captures this piece as whole for me. It is easy to point out the tangible textual elements of the performance such as the use of spoken word and its written manifesto. This piece is also about making, tinkering, and fashioning. In addition to the text, Hennessy and Hindi “made” sound and props, which seemed to fit with their directive to imagine and transform the future. The future made visible in “future friend/ships” is not yet sorted out – the tarot deck isn’t complete, the drones didn’t really work that well, and the dance movement unrefined. When Hennessy and Hindi danced their bodies moved as if they forgotten how to “dance.” They tried out steps (I noticed grande jeté en tournants and temps levé sauté), arms dangled, and bodies dropped to the floor. This movement suggested a kind of scratching-your-head-thinking, which for me is the work of language, which can be thought as a form of making or even invention. All of this might serve to remind us that making the future requires some forgetting, a forgetting that stretches out and strives for possibility.

The ironic nature of “future friend/ships” eludes me, and I wonder if the logic of irony – its movement of strategic reversal can be danced. Hennessy and Hindi might answer yes. I, however, am still wondering, which seems an appropriate way to conclude 2016.

April 19th, “Sarah (the smuggler)”

Choreographed by Sara Shelton Mann in collaboration with Keith Hennessy

What if I don’t get it?

I haven’t seen it yet, but I read a little bit about the background on this piece.  I must admit to some hesitation.  Does it matter if I know the history or Mann’s story? 

After seeing the piece, here are my reflections:

Moving history – Moving self

A beautiful exercise in present-ness

Archive/Study/Repeating Differently

Energy – energetic

Great words

I didn’t get the whole of the piece, but I came away with something. Sometimes dance makers/collaborators make dance for themselves or small “select audiences” (take a look at Hennessy’s interview).  I get that as a process, and yet I don’t get it.  I wonder how many in the audience had seen or worked with Mann before?

January 25th, “Bear/Skin”

Choreographed by Keith Hennessy

“It’s ok to sit in front”

I didn’t know that Hennessy’s previous show included urinating on the stage. So, we sat in front.  On cushions.  I sat next to Guillermo Gómez-Peña; it seemed the place to be.

The best part of this dance was the speech at the beginning.  The rest was oddly interesting as a study on The Rite of Spring and the act/action of sacrifice.  It was at times strikingly personal and at other times strangely unrefined.  Space blankets!  I didn’t “get” the piece in its totality, but I don’t think that was the point.  I was happy to be left with questions:

Why do we keep returning to the The Rite of Spring ? Sacrifice? The unknown (and hence a filling in or creating in).   Why do we want to fill in the gaps?  What does it matter to recover a lost dance?  What does this kind of repetition say about dance, culture, history?