Contrary to what this post title implies, today, I’ll be looking back on this past month-and-a-half’s artistic encounters. Deeply personal moments, chance interactions, educational opportunities. March/April has brought some rich experience. Here are my thoughts:
I Am a New Yorker For Dance
(Ok, so maybe not ME specifically yet) The Dance/NYC symposium in Mid-March was a day of dancers, makers, educators, patrons, supporters, general NYC performance art public coming together to talk about important issues in the field today. What really blew my mind was the amount of fellow volunteers that crowded each room to make the day unfold. I stood in on a panel about dance education in NYC Public Schools and thought about how incredibly important access to the arts is for young people to develop basic life-living skills.
Eiko Otake is known early in her career for her work alongside her collaborator and life partner as “Eiko + Koma.” What many people may not know about her is the tie she has to educating undergraduate students through “delicious movement workshops.” I had the incredible honor of meeting Eiko and working with her as she began to unfold her plans for a site specific performance at The Pillow this summer. What’s more is that her attitude, her spirit, her being is so infectious. She lives her truth. Her manifestos are worth a read.
On Your Marks… Get set…
BAKE. Over the past month, my room mates and I got hooked. The Great British Baking Show is actually one of the better “reality” shows out there for two reasons: 1) Incredible food… actual culinary artistry at its finest, and 2) the cheesy, yet also genuine down-to-earthness of the contestants. Highly recommended.
For the first time in my life, I participated in a major marathon… or at least half of one. The NYC Half took the many thousands of us up the east perimeter of Central Park, back down the west, down 7th Ave into times square, across 42nd street to the westside waterfront, then all the way down the west side highway into the financial district. Highlights included the plethora of bands on the sidelines, random strangers with signs, willing volunteers with water and gatorade every 2 miles or so, and getting to run alongside my pal and soulsista. What’s more, actually, was the opportunity to see Manhattan from the top of the Empire State Building afterwords – a bird’s eye view of the running tour several thousand strangers and I had embarked on only hours before.
Show and Tell
After a week of residence at Jacob’s Pillow, artists have the opportunity to show what they’ve been working on in a private showing for staff, donors, volunteers, and local college students. We had a marathon of artists present work over the past several weeks including:
- Netta Yerushalmy: excerpts of her current project, Paramodernities, based on her research and study of classic modern dance work – Graham, Cunningham, and movement vocabulary from the iconic Rite of Spring.
- dendy/donovan projects: development of the work he’ll present at the Pillow during this summer’s festival entitled Elvis Everywhere. Mark Dendy takes the idea of celebrity and dissects it – interesting in today’s political climate.
- Camille A. Brown & Dancers: gestural, real, relatable movement came alive in her excerpts of Ink, a work looking at gender, race, and our generation in a very down-to-earth manner.
- David Dorfman Dance: Aroundtown is a work unlike any other work I’ve seen. David puts audience and performer into an emotional wavelength that is almost indescribable. Resilience, community, love, joy, sadness, melancholy, exhaustion, tender, sweetness… I cried and yet was able to keep an excitement, a sliver of a smile. I still think about this showing. It’s one of those things that sticks with you.
- Dance Heginbotham: John Heginbotham’s troupe of quirky dancers, props, text, design and projection elements combine to tell the mini stories of Maira Kalman in the Principles of Uncertainty. We are introduced to many “things” throughout the course of the performance. I’m curious to see where this piece goes between now and its presentation during the final week of the festival this year.
After our presidential administration’s efforts to cut funding for the arts and humanities, Massachusetts responded in resistance on the streets of Boston in Arts Matter Day. We came together for presentations at the Paramount Center, shortly followed by a march to the state house, where the several hundred attendees made appointments to speak to local representatives about the importance of the arts to not only their personal story, but to the greater good of this state. I was reminded to speak up, speak out, surround myself with like-minded people, but more importantly, speak my truth to those who may think differently.
pilobolus at the egg
The company known for their shadow dance show, and for their bendy bodies in a variety of advertisements (for some reason the only one that comes to mind is a car commercial of sorts) came to Albany, NY. Dancers performed a range of work from one of the earliest pieces the company made back in the 80’s to a gorgeously impressive trio danced on a rather small platform. These movers can do things many bodies can’t. I was interested in the humor mixed with acrobatics mixed with “concert dance.” Such a treat.
doug varone & dancers at BAM harvey
The physical, musical, and very human collection of dancers performed three works in a gorgeous, exposed theatre space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I’ve been wanting to see this company live for quite some time now, and to finally do so in such an incredible space was breathtaking, inspiring, and motivating. Doug’s work is so heavily process based, conceptual, researched. I was most moved by Possession – the oldest work on the program. My dream is to connect with this company on a deeper level as a dancer, artist, administrator. Another company that will appear at the Pillow this summer. I’m pumped.
Movement at MoMa
Can dance be performed in the form of an exhibition? Anne Teresa DeKeersMaeker sought to answer this question with her performance exhibit at the MoMa. For one week, during the full span of museum hours, Anne Teresa and her dancers were dancing. Alongside a morphing number of spectators – who subsequently became part of the performance – as well as live musicians, dancers moved, drew with chalk, and interacted in a multipurpose space. Fortunately for onlookers, the space was viewable from not only the ground level, but also the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floor balcony walkways. The thrill of this performance was the choose-your-adventure vibe. I wasn’t drawn so much to the movement as much as I was drawn to the experience, the idea, the durational aspect of the performance.
Okwui Okpokwasilli is a force to be reckoned with. At over six feet tall and with an enticing and purposeful voice and sense of self, Okwui commands the room, even when she’s not performing. Jacob’s Pillow’s partnership with MASS MoCA brought Okwui into Nick Cave’s vast exhibit entitled “Until.” An evening in three parts, the sold-out crowd first encountered the mover coming at us from the back of the tunnel-like warehouse room. She was the center of everything; a light source radiated from her body creating a halo effect. It was like witnessing the essence of someone’s being, their soul, the part that leaves one’s physical body at death. She led us through the very sensory experience of a “forest” of shapeshifting metal wind-catching devices in a gigantic room, into a tiny room with projections on each wall. We are left alone with other members of the audience to listen to a cryptic narrative in conjunction with a stark and erratic series of images constantly moving and shifting all around us. It was claustrophobic, overwhelming, and almost nauseating – such a stark difference from the first image we were given. Finally, the group was led to another room containing a wall of glittery confetti. The substance danced with the help of fans, creating trippy waves of blue, green, silver. Okwui’s body poked and prodded out from behind the sea of shimmering substance. I don’t know how else to describe my experience other than: all encompassing, other-worldly, sensory, and so incredibly intriguing.
I danced, I performed, for the first time in a year. Dear Bones, was an adventure alongside three amazing people and artists. I felt so comfortable in the work, in the gallery space that we transformed into a performance platform… and we got a review! Moral of the story is: if you want something and it’s not readily available, put in the work, and make it yourself.
In a brief encounter with a visiting scholar at work, we conversed about the future, about where life’s path will take each of us when we depart from this place. When I helped her unload her luggage at the bus stop and said my goodbye, she hugged me honestly, looked me in the eyes and said, “I hope you continue to find the magic in your life, Lexie.” Urmi smiled, and floated away like a spirit woman – angelic and utterly pure.