Daily Postings
dance : review
dance : interview

Wu Tsang & boychild

by Tess Altman

"It's about creating the conditions for a moment."

Wu Tsang and boychild are world-makers. While Wu primarily works as a filmmaker and boychild as a performer, collaboratively they move across genre and medium. Wu's film and boychild's movement seem to hold each other, and in turn hold space for their audience, to feel queerer worlds. As a fan of their caring and playful practice, I took a trip out to Fire Island Pines to visit their current studio—the beach. I traveled the Long Island Rail Road on a rainy Tuesday morning and then hopped on a ferry filled with fluffy, well-maintained dogs. I met Wu Tsang and boychild on a foggy beach post-thunderstorm and we played with a fat pug. Later, we returned to the BOFFO residency house to drink some tea and to discuss the importance of gathering, their ongoing collaborative practice, and their upcoming performance-on-the-sand for the BOFFO Performance Festival.

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dance : review

Paulina Olowska's Slavic Goddesses—A Wreath of Ceremonies

by Charity Coleman

A feminist paean from one Polish artist to another

What purpose does mythology serve for a people? Besides being picturesque, it has the capacity to invigorate a culture, honor life's rituals, and promote unity. Without myth, perhaps we'd be lost in a CVS doomscape, dying from too much sarcasm. In the days leading up to the January performance of artist Paulina Olowska's Slavic Goddesses—A Wreath of Ceremonies, turmoil blighted daily discourse. It was a relief to enter the black box of The Kitchen on a cold night and hear a voice reciting the words of acclaimed Polish artist Zofia Stryjeńska, drawing our attention to primeval deities: "Their hair in sadness becomes a weave of dry thorns and thistles. In gladness, on the contrary, they blossom into green leaves, colorful flower, and even fruit. And the fragrant wreath of a god's head is not worn, but it is a self-generated halo of their wondrous, dew-covered figure." The text, published in 1938, was read as an introduction to this work of dance theatre.

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dance : interview

Kim Brandt

by Lauren Bakst

Choreographer Kim Brandt strips away excess in her search for a “body of bodies.”

In October 2014, at Roulette in Brooklyn, I was a performer in an iteration of choreographer Kim Brandt’s Untitled, an ensemble work for a large group of dancers—sixteen in this particular performance—and constituted by one deceptively simple task: to use our bodies to construct a vertical pile, to hold that pile for as long as we could, then collectively dissolve. Within this succinct and emphatic gesture, Kim strips away certain choreographic excesses, enabling concerns inherent to the body and the group to rise to the surface. As she articulates in our conversation, Kim is searching for a “body of bodies” and begins by investigating “what the body inherently does,” rather than “what the body is capable of.” Approaching this inquiry through the apparatus of the group, Kim’s performances live in the intersection of body and form. The internal experience of the performers, which relies on sensation and kinesthetic awareness, yields an experience that is primarily optical for the viewer—a kind of image-in-transition. Drawn to the ways in which these performances are both movement and image at once, I sat down with Kim to hear more about how she is developing this singular body of work. 

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dance : interview

Miguel Gutierrez & Stacy Szymaszek

Syllable, step, and surplus.

In anticipation of The Poetry Project’s annual Spring Thing on May 9th, dancer, choreographer, writer, and featured performer Miguel Gutierrez sits down Stacy Szymaszek, poet and director of The Poetry Project, to talk about the function of the somatic in writing, the potency of action, excess, and Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A.

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dance : interview

Jonah Bokaer

by Madison Mainwaring

The choreographer on his early work with Merce Cunningham and collaborations with visual artists.

If you ever have the chance to attend one of Jonah Bokaer's performances, try arriving early in order to take a good look at the stage. Chances are that it will be filled with objects which could be called artworks in and of themselves, whether this takes the shape of 35mm cameras cast in chalk, large cubes suspended in nets overhead, or lines drawn in the grid of an athletic field. When dancers enter the stage they interact closely with these meticulously produced sets, in some cases losing themselves completely in the physical environment—their bodies wrapped up in large sheets of paper, or obscured under a deluge of ping-pong balls.

Bokaer sources his choreography in an architectural or sculptural framework. Whatever’s onstage is never extraneous to the dance; it is part of the dance, the movements and visuals merging together as one. The action responds to a contextual imperative with a sense of urgency and necessity, and the result is strikingly pure in tone, free of anything suggestive of the ornamental or scenic. In order to achieve this kind of immersive experience, Bokaer collaborates with an impressive roster of artists, including the likes of Daniel Arsham, Robert Wilson, Lee Ufan, and Anne Carson.

Roslyn Sulcas of The New York Times famously called Bokaer "contemporary dance's Renaissance man." Besides the frequent collaborative exchanges, his process involves the use of digitally programmed bodies, which are sometimes projected alongside the "live" dance onstage. This kind of work arguably places him at the forefront of the performance/technology nexus. Instead of founding a company, he's opened two non-profits in Brooklyn that serve as incubators for up-and-coming choreographers, initiatives that earned him a New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award in 2007. Look no further if you're interested in the emerging dance forms of the twenty-first century.

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Dance : Interview

Jen Rosenblit

by Lizzie Feidelson

Choreographer Jen Rosenblit interrogates the curiosity for difference inside a regime of the "natural."

In conversation, Jen Rosenblit is a liberal user of the double negative. “Not that that was not not a dance,” she said to me in passing over coffee on a chilly day in March, while we discussed her upcoming evening-length work, a Natural dance, premiering May 29 at The Kitchen.

Something about that circuitous "not, not" reminded me of Rosenblit's choreography, much of which revolves around the potential of a good pairing. In her previous work, she's toyed repeatedly with the provocative visual opposition of her own body posed with that of her longtime collaborator, Addys Gonzalez. The cast for a Natural dance, on the other hand, is much larger than a duet—it will include performers Justin Cabrillos, Hilary Clark, and Effie Bowen, in addition to Gonzalez—and its premise speaks of more expansive themes. The work is concerned with “ways of structuring bodies as they fall out of relation aesthetically and spiritually while still locating ways of being together.” If a Natural dance is anything like Rosenblit’s other pieces, the choreography will reflect her razor-like attention to detail, combined with a marked, cultivated lack of suaveness or sheen. I spoke with Rosenblit about her approach to thwarting her own tendencies, the challenges of ensemble work, and the logic of “the natural."

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Dance : Essay

Winter Kept Us Warm: on Melinda Ring's Forgetful Snow

by Olive McKeon

The historical, physical, and poetic forces that shape Ring's triptych, Forgetful Snow.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

-T.S. Elliot, The Waste Land

Melinda Ring’s triptych consisting of an evening length dance, Forgetful Snow, and two performance installations, The Landscape and (Memory of) Snow Machine, will premiere at the Kitchen May 8th through 17th, 2014. Following the New York performance, she will remount the work at The Box Gallery in Los Angeles in July. Having shown work-in-progress versions at AUNTS, Catch, and American Realness over the past year, the complete version will be performed by Talya Epstein, Maggie Jones, Molly Lieber, and Lorene Bouboushian. Additional performers—Luke George, Federico Hewson, and Macklin Kowal—will participate in the gallery installations.

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Dance : Interview

Brennan Gerard & Ryan Kelly

by Jenn Joy

Exploring and choreographing intimacy in Timelining, currently on view at The Kitchen NYC.

Entering the theatre at The Kitchen during Gerard & Kelly’s recent opening of Timelining is seductively disorienting. I hear the crush of chairs pulled down, risers falling apart, installers discussing how to proceed—loud, repetitive, destructive. Yet the remaining architecture appears precise, almost mute, against the chairs piled high on the darkened edge of the stage. I wait, listening. One dancer, Todd McQuade, climbs into the structure, reads a fragment from Richard Serra’s Verb List (1967-68) inscribed onto various segments of the risers and begins to dance. “To roll, to crease, to fold […] to force, of mapping, of context, of location, of time, of carbonization, to continue.” Each transitive phrase invites an elliptical series of movements, reading becomes dancing, becomes something else, more fragile, elegant, subversive. Another dancer, Devynn Emory, joins and the duets proliferate: McQuade with Emory, sound with architecture, sculpture with dance, Serra & Robert Morris with Gerard & Kelly. This opening performance infuses iconic minimalist works (Serra’s and Morris’s Box with the Sound of Its Own Making [1961]) with a more precarious corporeal weight, homage and critique, spare yet deeply emotional.

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Dance : Interview

Luciana Achugar

by Nikima Jagudajev

Resisting capitalism through pleasure.

Skilled at the art of conjuring anarchy, luciana achugar's most recent choreographic endeavor, OTRO TEATRO, is a detailed construction of unruly madness. Achugar revolts from the inside out, confronting capitalism’s obsession with consumption and immediate gratification by indulging in pleasure to an almost grotesque extent. OTRO TEATRO is generated from a forty-five-minute daily practice of giving into pleasure through the body. Through a process of melting the brain into flesh, skin, bones, marrow, and fluids, an acute awareness of bodily desires emerges. When removed from the studio and situated in the theater, this practice takes on a life of its own. It is an invitation for the audience to get lost in time, to join achugar in a rite of passage that leads to heightened senses while rejecting objectification. As Achugar says, “Pleasure is the ultimate resistance to capitalism.”

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Dance : Interview

Scott Lyall and Maria Hassabi

by Lauren Bakst

Choreographer Maria Hassabi and dramaturg Scott Lyall discuss the importance of space and boundaries in designing their newest dance work Premiere.

November 9, 2013: Maria Hassabi's Premiere is being performed at The Kitchen. The doors to the theater open and five dancers—Biba Bell, Hristoula Harakas, Robert Steijn, Andros Zins-Browne, and Maria herself—await the audience in a line. They each occupy a specific posture—standing, sitting, or lying down. I walk around them to take my seat on the opposite side of the space, so that their backs are towards me. I’ve never been in the Kitchen in this orientation before—the space feels huge, but the performers appear to be contained. Two walls of lights frame the space: it’s hot and getting hotter. Over the ninety minutes or so that follow, the dancers carefully and ever-so-slowly move through a series of both quotidian and difficult positions. This sculptural meditation is marked by an ebb and flow of anticipation. We expect change, transformation—and while things certainly do change, they also stay the same. The piece ends just as it began, only this time with a flipped image. The performers face us, as if to premiere themselves. Or isn't that what they've been doing all along? Their bodies quiver with the resonance of the dance. The doors on the other side of the space open, it's time for us to leave—the premiere is over. I left The Kitchen feeling curious not just about what I saw, but also about how it was made. Several weeks later, I had a chance to talk with Hassabi and dramturg Scott Lyall about just this.

Lauren Grace Bakst It’s been a few weeks since the premiere, and I know your work really lives in this moment of coming into contact with the audience. I’m curious for each of you: Maria, how has your experience of the piece changed since performing it at The Kitchen; and Scott, what changed for you as the dramaturg after seeing it with the full audience?

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Dance : Review

The Climax: Rebecca Patek and Miguel Gutierrez at American Realness

by Emily Hoffman

Emily Hoffman reviews works from performance artists Rebecca Patek and Miguel Gutierrez at the 2014 American Realness festival

When Ben Pryor inaugurated the American Realness festival in 2010, he created a platform for a kind of dance that wasn’t being seen in other APAP venues. He didn’t create a cultural moment in dance—but he had the presence of mind to name it, and to name it well.

In its fifth year, American Realness isn’t an upstart festival any longer; it gets strong press coverage and presenter attendance. It is recognizable, and so are many of the aesthetic gestures in the works; it is easier than it once was to identify an American Realness brand.

Rebecca Patek’s inter(a)nal f/ear and Miguel Gutierrez’s myendlesslove, both presented at this year’s American Realness, are illustrative of what can happen when a moment in performance starts to calcify into a style. This is not to say that the pieces lack merit. Only that they are strangely similar in structure, in spite of obvious differences in content and ostensible purpose. And this structural similarity suggests a kind of template, a ready-made shape that seems a danger in any experimental field.

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Dance : Interview

Jillian Peña

by Lauren Bakst

Jillian Peña on the fantasy of ballet, queer temporality, and doubling in her new performance Polly Pocket.

Before conducting this interview, I went to one of Jillian Peña’s rehearsals to watch a run-through of her new work, Polly Pocket, which premieres at the American Realness festival this January. The title is inspired by the miniature self-contained dollhouses, which when closed, don’t look like much more than plastic pastel containers. But look inside one, and an entire domestic architecture—at once magical and mundane—is revealed. Peña’s Polly Pocket functions similarly. Though it is a pristine dance, requiring exactitude and virtuosity, within its inner workings are freaky Freudian twists that confront fundamental questions of self and other, self and self.

Peña’s work crosses both live performance and video. In her videos, you will often find images of herself multiplied, so that she can question, fight, flirt, and converse with the many differently desiring versions of herself. Polly Pocket brings this premise of the double-multiple-self to live performance with dancers Alexandra Albrecht, Andrew Champlin, and Kyli Klevin, and the result is both enthralling and mystifying.

Lauren Bakst For a while you were making dances in the form of videos. This is your second project working in live performance again—what triggered that return for you? What was your interest in going back to the live body?

Jillian Peña I mean, I question that decision every day, because it takes so much more time, money, and negotiation, because you’re using people. People are hard to deal with and working alone is so nice. But I also feel really inspired by people. I think I was a little bit sick of myself and I’m also interested in how things I was working on in the videos are actually real. They’re not just my fantasies alone in a room. Going back to performance is making sense of the videos in a way. I also had been doing some work in between that was trying to figure out whether or not I liked live performance. I was giving headphones to people to act out performances. Have you seen any of those?

LB No.

JP They were funny. I would cast audience members as the dancers and then they would push play on their headphones and it would give them instructions. With those I was interested in the language of ballet and how people would translate the directions in the same way. I also liked the instant confusion it would create. It didn’t go far enough, I just tried it.

LB What were the directions like? They were in reference to ballet?

JP Mostly. There were some other ones, like, Visualize something, and make a face about it. I don’t remember. I should look at them again. The first one I tried was at CPR (Center for Performance Research) and John Jasperse was one of the people who volunteered. It was priceless, because he’s such a funny and specific mover. They were good. I knew that there was something there.

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Dance : Portfolio

The Art Residency

by Rebecca Patek

The Art Residency was filmed this past summer during performance artist Rebecca Patek's weeklong residency at Earthdance.

The Art Residency was filmed this past summer during performance artist Rebecca Patek's weeklong residency at Earthdance.

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Dance : Essay

Rites of Spring

by Lauren Bakst

Two recent interpretations of The Rite of Spring challenge the audience in new ways.

This past October, two contemporary reimaginings of The Rite of Spring had their premieres—Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company & SITI Company’s A Rite at BAM, and Nora Chipaumire's rite riot at the French Institute-Alliance Française’s Le Skyroom, presented as a part of the Crossing the Line Festival. Choreographing The Rite of Spring is an enduring and ubiquitous trend in dance. What keeps drawing artists back to this particular work, and the particular riot it incited in the audience the night of its 1913 premiere? In the case of Bill T. Jones and Anne Bogart, the desire to recreate this iconic work was not their own, but rather was presented to them as a commission in light of the work's centennial. In a post-show discussion, Jones mentioned that he was initially resistant to the notion of creating yet another The Rite of Spring. As a black man, he felt angered by the primitivism that constituted Vaslav Njinsky's original choreography. While a critique of the work's colonialist premise was not visibly present in Jones and Bogart's A Rite, this was the point of departure for Chipaumire's rite riot, which can be seen as a tangential counterpoint to The Rite of Spring, rather than as a strict iteration.

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Dance : Interview


by Claudia La Rocco Rashaun Mitchell Silas Riener Davison Scandrett

In Quartet, multiple conversations become one. Claudia La Rocco, Rashaun Mitchell, Silas Riener & Davison Scandrett muse on the nature of performance during the process of creating Way In.

This week, Way In, a performance choreographed by Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener in collaboration with poet & critic Claudia La Rocco and lighting designer Davison Scandrett, will have its premiere at Danspace Project. Composed by La Rocco in collaboration with Mitchell, Riener and Scandrett, Quartet assembles language generated during the process of making Way In, interweaving multiple conversations into one stream of exchanges. Four individuated voices emerge, bringing to bear concerns with each artist's respective tools—language, the body, light—while revealing overlapping inquiries into the ambiguity of meaning, formal strategies, and relationships to technique.

Rashaun Mitchell People make their meaning. They will always do that. So then the question is how much or little do you guide them.

Davison Scandrett I think for most lighting designers, drafting a plot is the stupidest part of what they do; they hate it. I hate it too but there’s a certain art to things being laid out correctly and making sense and looking good. So, I do immediately—and part of it is being a production manager, too—go to not just “How is this going to look technically?” but “How is it going to get circuited and how long is it going to take to hang?” That shit does have aesthetic beauty to me, even if I’m usually the only one who would ever know that. There’s something about it; if something is systematic and has its own internal intrinsic logic, then that logic tends to radiate out into whatever you’re creating.

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Dance : Review

On Inscrutability: William Forsythe's Sider

by Emily Hoffman

Emily Hoffman on the broken patterns in William Forsythe's Sider, a work that conjures and contends with Elizabethan tragedy.

In contemporary dance, a certain degree of inscrutability can be expected. It comes with the territory of a non-narrative art.

But there are moments when inscrutability can feel exciting, and there are those when it can feel repellant. One feels ejected from the dance; the cost of watching outstrips the possible rewards. My experience of watching William Forsythe’s Sider, for all its conceptual complexity and rigor, felt more like the latter.

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Dance : Interview

Neal Medlyn

by Rosa Goldensohn

Performance artist Neal Medlyn discusses the celebrity public persona, growing up Pentacostal, and his new performance King, running through October 26 at The Kitchen.

Performance artist Neal Medlyn’s King, running through October 26 at The Kitchen, is the seventh and final installment of an eight-year series of shows in which he performs as pop culture icons including Lionel Richie, Prince, Britney Spears and the Insane Clown Posse. This one focuses on Michael Jackson. The show, in which Medlyn covers hit songs and tells stories, is accompanied by an installation of relics of previous shows in the theater during the day. Medlyn also now raps under the name Champagne Jerry.

Rosa Goldensohn Is this series an exploration of the idea of celebrity or is it an expression of your own stuff?

Neil Medlyn It’s expressing my own stuff, which has always been about performance. I’m interested in performance-related things, a lot of them being the things that pop stars do. Like there’s a part in every big pop concert where they suddenly stop in the middle of a well-known song and people applaud. A few seconds later, they don’t start the song again, they just stay silent. Then the 20,000 people there realize that they’re literally all in the same room and then they start to cheer even louder.

Taylor Swift stops and stands there for a second and then when people realize, Oh wait, this is really happening! she starts acting like she can’t do it… like she’s sort of overwhelmed by the cheering, by all those people reacting to her en masse. She stopped doing it, actually, because people caught on after a while. That kind of stuff can only happen with celebrities, in a way. Those performance ideas are awesome, I think.

RG And I guess the question is whether the audience is seeing “the real you,” when you’re performing.

NM Right, that’s been a big thing in the series. I was gravitating toward all these stars that had this thing about, “No, but this isn’t who I really am,” or “No, that wasn’t who I am, now I’m this person.” Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus was super-explicit about that being her thing. With Britney Spears it became very clear that what was going on with her emotionally was different from what she was doing on stage. And Prince realized that this bad part of himself called Camille had been responsible for all these dirty, nasty songs.

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Dance : Interview

Mariana Valencia

by Effie Bowen

Mariana Valencia on her sculptural arrangements of bodies and objects, teenagers in parking lots, and Bushwick sunsets.

PHRESH is a word Mariana and I invented to talk about the things we like, things that are crisp, playful, and cool. My ADIDAS original high tops are PHRESH. Mariana’s collection of succulents on her windowsill are PHRESH. Like #hashtags, PHRESH carries embodied meaning, and defines itself the more often we use it. Referencing the conventionally spelled nineties term of the same name, PHRESH is fresh’s contemporary, queer sister. It is the objects we like to wear and the things we like to do. PHRESH is ours for the taking and the making.

Mariana’s installation and dance work is undeniably PHRESH and, like the term itself, her pieces resurrect embodied histories and codes while inscribing vibrant new happenings in the church attics, galleries, and theaters they occupy. Her work—while full of objects and colors and bodies—functions as a visual palette cleanser, deliberately constructed to create room for our digestion of its multifarious elements. Her work is a gateway to an unknown world that is controlled yet wild, one in which every shape, movement, sound, and object is equally understandable and mysterious.

Mariana and I conversed on her roof where we discussed #milk, #parkinglots, and #longbodies.

Mariana Valencia The name of the dance is Milk—well the name of it is M.I.A.M.I., but it's an acronym. I secretly want this dance to be called Miami but I wanted it to be a whole sentence so we decided Milk is a Mother’s Idea was the best acronym.

Effie Bowen How did your process with this dance begin?

MV We were thinking about parking lots as a place to be.

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Dance : Interview

Milka Djordjevich

by Marissa Perel

The dancer on repetition, transformation, and abstracting everyday movement.

Milka Djordjevich has always been somewhat of a shooting star to me. Our paths have crossed many times over the years, with overlapping circles of friends, collaborators, and colleagues. I witnessed her finesse as a curator at the Movement Research Spring Festival 2008: Somewhere Out There, when I made a brief visit as a guest teacher and artist. I remember that over a dinner during the festival, Milka turned to her then fellow curator, Chris Peck, and started a conversation with him about how dance and music could be composed at the same time by both the choreographer and composer. That conversation was the seed for what became An Evening with Djordjevich and Peck at The Chocolate Factory Theater in 2009. Hearing of the continuing success of their project, as their collaboration took them to the Whitney Biennial in 2010, Milka stayed on my radar.

It wasn’t until January of 2012 that we met again, this time at the Movement Research office. She was there, along with Lydia Bell, to hand off the annual cycle of the co-editorial position of Critical Correspondence to me. At the meeting we briefly discussed her move to California, and I exchanged some reflections with her on the experience of living and making work in other cities and communities. It seemed like this was what we were fated to do, to work in tandem without ever seeing of one another exactly what brought us to New York in the first place—being artists and performers.

I was ecstatic that finally, in 2013, five years since meeting Milka and knowing, albeit remotely, of her conceptual and relentless work, I was going to get to see her perform. I felt extra lucky that I would see her perform a solo. Kinetic Makeover, which premiered at the Chocolate Factory Theater this April, was a trance-inducing, morphing, highly-driven performance that left me stunned. I immediately felt the need to ask her questions, artist-to-artist, and probe further into her choreographic process. How was she able to carry out one gesture past the point of exhaustion until it became something else? What does it mean when a dance is made to become a collection of images? How can a body be an object, but not be objectified? We sat down together for a lengthy discussion of her relationship to her body, her previous dance training, and the evolution of repetition toward a greater consciousness of and possibility for performance.

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Dance : Interview

Lauri Stallings

by Andrew Alexander

Lauri Stallings discusses her dance company gloATL and why it's crucial to export contemporary art from Atlanta.

If you live in Atlanta, chances are you've encountered the work of Lauri Stallings. There aren't many contemporary choreographers, or many cities, one could say this about—a testament to the complicated, synergistic, multi-platform relationship that Stallings has with Atlanta.

Stallings first began choreographing work late in her career as a dancer with Ballet BC and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. After a three-year stint as choreographer-in-residence at the Atlanta Ballet, Stallings remained in Atlanta where she founded the company gloATL in 2009. Through the company's numerous public performances, Stallings has sought to engage the city in all of its aspects—its most central, trafficked and familiar places as well as its tucked away, odd, and hidden pockets. Whether in a busy shopping mall, an empty public pool, the High Museum's central plaza, or an odd drainage gulley of Piedmont Park, Stallings' work utilizes an intriguing gestural and visual language that encompasses everything from the erotic and the absurd to the grotesque and the unabashedly beautiful, drawing in an ever-widening circle of viewers, participants, and collaborators.

Andrew Alexander How does new work begin for you? I imagine it's somewhat different each time, but is there some way to generalize?

Lauri Stallings There's something that I sort of allow to happen. I guess the best word would be 'intuition.' Surprisingly, it's a mindful one: It's mental. I'm not saying I'm always aware of it, but it is something that happens. I never know when, but it is prior to getting in the studio, the literal process of generating material as a choreographer. The consistent thing is: I'm always surprised at what comes to me first. That's what can't be generalized. But intuition is the one thing I don't second-guess, and I think that comes from my parents. They kept telling us over and over again, "All you have are your instincts." I'm very grateful they kept telling me that.

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Dance : Interview

Marissa Perel

by iele paloumpis

The artist talks about her recent performance Night Ballast which explores the power that can come from vulnerability.

"Now, there’s a Full moon. I’m opening boxes. In one box are notes from my old studio... Questions, “Is this a play? Am I a counterpart to an as yet undetermined main character?” “How is a text a body?” How is an object an event?" —excerpt from Perel’s performance text

I sat down with Marissa Perel to discuss the process of her performance, Night Ballast, which was presented as part of Food For Thought at Danspace Project on April 12, 2013. The evening was curated by Stacy Szymaszek, Director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project, and in this instance, represented an overlap of the D/d/owntown worlds of dance and poetry.

Marissa and i have been engaging in an ongoing conversation about body politics in relationship to dance, wellness, and gender identity. In the face of my own health challenges, newly navigating the world with invisible disabilities, and bringing these complex dynamics into my own choreographic work, i connected to Perel’s ongoing struggles with chronic pain and performance making, and how these things which seem somewhat contradictory can coalesce and lead to new forms.

In this conversation, we talk about the choreographic process in her living room, the use of sculptural objects to mediate and heighten perceptions of stillness and everyday movement, and the reading of her personal narrative as part of the dance. We arrive at an open, moving conversation on “fierce vulnerability,” and the power of emotional content and choreographic subtlety.

Iele Paloumpis In my memory of how the performance started, the way Justin [Cabrillos] entered with a brightly colored rug and stick, stood out to me. It was something about the stick, how pale the wood was, that looked like it was naturally a part of the space of St. Mark’s. When I saw him lean the stick against one of columns, it made me think of you, of your body, leaning. And the rug was this lone source of comfort. The movement was very still, but at the same time it felt very personal to the dancers themselves. It was quiet, internal, reflective, subtle. Were the performers improvising, or was the movement choreographed?

Marissa Perel It was a combination of set choreography and improvisation. Tess [Dworman]’s movement on the rug comes from a series of Authentic Movement sessions on the rug on my living room floor. We then weaved certain phrases together from those sessions. When Tess was walking with the wooden stick, and would lean on the stick to pivot her body, it’s a stance I take with my cane in everyday life that becomes a gesture.

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Dance : Interview

Virtuosic Ass

by Lauren Bakst

Gillian Walsh discusses her dance series Grinding and Equations, the art of ass tyranny, and the mystery of the "Monica Lewinsky moment".

In Gillian Walsh's series of dance works, Grinding and Equations, the fetishized body meets choreography in its most calculated, relentless form. Here are two asses—two asses that are part of two bodies—sometimes performed by Gillian Walsh and Robert Maynard, sometimes by Gillian and a pre-recorded video of herself, and sometimes by Gillian and a completely new and un-rehearsed performer. Each cheek of each ass twitches in accordance with a regulated time structure.

One. One two. Two three. Four two three one.

This kind of detail requires a particular kind of attention, a gaze that mainstream culture does not prepare you for. By locating this rigorous exactitude in the ass, Gillian makes the processes by which our bodies become fetishized hyper-visible. We experience Gillian's intellectual deconstruction of fetishism through her embodiment of the process. In Gillian's world, the idea, the body, the action, and the dance are distilled to a singular experience in which they can all coexist. It is at once subtle and virtuosic. It is detached but it cares about you. It is post-modern and pop-culture. It is a score that Gillian mostly fails but also sometimes executes perfectly, usually with the help of a cyborgian double-self who accompanies her via computer screen. And when she does execute, after we have all been watching the tireless work of trying to "get something right," that magical thing happens—the moment when a body exceeds its persistent failure and achieves fleeting perfection—a thing that is sometimes, although very rarely, possible in dance. I imagine the kind of excitement and nervous anticipation that filled spectators when Nijinsky would leap across the stage in Le Spectre de la Rose. It manifests through a suspension of belief that seems to hold time in the air. In Gillian's work, we just don't see it coming, and that is precisely what makes it so subversive and so very satisfying.

Gillian and I sat down to discuss her choreographic process in August, and over the past six months we have remained in dialogue, shaping the conversation that is published here today. As Gillian says of her work, "I'm still researching . . . trying to resist the pressure to jump to arrive somewhere or create a product. Never believe in arrival." And so this conversation follows suit—we didn't want it to arrive, but nevertheless, here it is.

LAUREN BAKST So Ass Tyranny, is this the section where you and Robert are on the floor?

GILLIAN WALSH Yeah. Ass Tyranny is choreography for butt cheeks—or really any four flesh parts. It’s been performed mostly by Robert Maynard and myself but recently I’ve also been performing with other people, performing teaching Ass Tyranny to other people, and performing ass tyranny duets with myself. Was the performance at Dixon Place the only thing you saw?

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Dance : Interview

Brian Rogers

by Aynsley Vandenbroucke


Brian Rogers talks about reprising his performance piece Hot Box, the challenges of performing, and his compulsion to keep creating.

I meet Brian at The Chocolate Factory (the performance space he and his wife Sheila Lewandowski founded and run in Long Island City) before we go for drinks. Sheila’s in there counting change for a neighboring business. She’s got on a warm wooly sweater and a cough. Brian’s looking at the computer. He’s sporting a new beard, hasn’t shaved since September which may have something to do with having made a new performance, traveled to four countries, presented six shows by other people, and participated in an artist residency in Seattle and his first gallery exhibition in Brooklyn, all in the last few months. The beard is cute. And I’m glad to get to see my friend for a few hours. We walk to Domaine and talk about many things, not all printed here. I start with the upcoming January 12–15 reprise performances (at The Chocolate Factory co-presented with PS122 as part of the COIL Festival of his performance, Hot Box). Press materials describe Hot Box as loud, dark, messy and inspired by films like Apocalypse Now, but we discuss the through line of quiet found within the piece. Brian’s work as a director straddles dance, theater, film, installation, computer programming, and music making. I find his work immersive and meditative, original and sophisticated. His mind is just as wonderful. I’m interested to hear what he’s thinking about right now.

Aynsley Vandenbroucke We can totally digress, but I have a few questions to start with. How do you feel about redoing Hot Box a couple of months after the premiere?

Brian Rogers On the level of performing in it, I’m dreading it completely. Largely because normally when I make something, I can, after a while, think about what it was and for my own benefit decide whether it worked or didn’t. And I haven’t been able to do that with this piece because I’m in it. I made the thing and put it out there. And what I want to do is work on it more but I don’t know how. I’m happy to have the piece out there again, to have more people to see it.

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Dance : Review

Private Gods

by Emily Hoffman

Emily Hoffman reviews the latest installment of Sarah Michelson’s Devotion series.

Devotion Study #3 has the quality of a vision. It begins when Nicole Mannarino, braced on the arms of two security guards, runs through the air into the MoMA atrium, and it ends 30 minutes later when Sarah Michelson, all in white, jogs out after her dancer who’s disappeared just as swiftly as she entered, followed by her suited retinue.

What the two conjure in the interim is something very close to the soul of dance. In the first of her Devotion pieces, Michelson drew her movement vocabulary from Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp, titans of 20th century American dance and in Michelson’s own artistic formation. In Devotion Study #3, she employs a more plain-spoken register. The referent here is a social dance of the sort you might see in a 1970s dance hall: feet swivelling from side to side, hips popping. But it is a ghost of a reference, a trace of desire for a setting, a partner. The movement is made sharp and hard in Michelson’s choreography: Mannarino’s legs are locked and her arms are pulled behind her back as she swivels. She drops into the occasional deep lunge and sometimes kicks high and forceful. It is exacting work, fast and sequential, not at all fluid. It is a choreography about effort, and it is charged with all the desire of becoming. It is hard work, and it is also joy: the joy comes from the effort. It is in every way a virtuosic performance.

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