michael j. morris


Double/Take
24 October, 2010, 11:36 am
Filed under: Dance, dance review | Tags: , , , , , ,

I posted the following on the “Dance in Columbus Online Community & Forum” discussion board:

I’m finally making some time to sit down with a cup of coffee and sketch out some of my ideas about “Double/Take” on Friday night.

Moving from the “outside”/large scope in, starting with something like the “circumstances of production,” I was impressed overall. I was impressed by Meghan and Karl’s initiative and commitment to producing independent work despite the density of their commitments elsewhere (other companies, OSU, etc.). I was impressed by the stamina necessary for a two-person evening-length show. I was impressed by this beautiful performance space (BalletMet) that I didn’t know existed in Columbus.

One of the largest themes that emerged for me throughout the evening has to do with the multiplicity of the body–its composite/bricolage condition–so excellently framed by the circumstances of this production. All dancers (bodies of dancers) emerge continuously from a rich nexus of praxis, a constellation of practices and participatory encounters with others. Our dancing lives are necessarily intersubjective, and our bodies become one of many sites at which we negotiate that densely intersubjective collaborative project. I’m thinking a lot here of The Body Eclectic: Evolving Practices in Dance Training edited by Melanie Bales and Rebecca Nettl-Fiol. Part of their project is the examination of dance practices as deconstructive and bricolaged; it is the bricolage that came to mind during “Double/Take.” But my sense here goes beyond the awareness of dancing bodies produced through the bricolage of training practices, and towards the participation of other individual subjects (who are always already themselves richly citational and intersubjectively constructed, carrying their own histories of what they have trained and by whom this training has taken place): I, for instance, haven’t just studied Butoh, yoga, ballet, modern, and danced with an series of unnamed choreographers. I have studied Butoh with Yoshito Ohno, Yuko Kaseki, and others; I have studied yoga with Scotta Brady, Edy McConnell, Bruce Bowditch, etc.; I have studied Vaganova ballet with Britta Wynne, modern with CoCo Loupe, Garland Goodwin Wilson, Cynthia Newland, Amy Roarke-McIntosh, Stephen Wynne (and a bunch of other folks); I have dance for Garland, Amy, Cynthia, Stephen, etc. etc. etc.—the point being that my dancing then becomes a citation of not only these practices and forms of moving, but the participation of these other individual subjects. Of course, there is a sense in which the performance of any dancing body is the articulation of a string of citations, synthesized before our eyes as a cohesive, individual form (which today seems to echo the writing process, the culling of sources and the synthesis/crafting of new ideas from those sources . . . and dancing bodies functioning similarly). But I left this concert with a strong feeling of this reality being demonstrated due to two conditions of this production: the array of choreographers involved, and the opportunity to observe just these two bodies as they moved their ways through that material. I was acutely aware not only of ways of moving that each body/dancer carried through the length of the program, but perhaps even more interestingly, the through-line of ways of moving that were shared by these two bodies/dancers throughout the program, to me an indicative effect of working together and working with these three additional choreographers, Susan Hadley, Bebe Miller, and Lisa Race.
That was the largest contemplation that lingered with me from the show.

I echo CoCo’s observation:
“continual refiltering and shifting of the lens between the sensation of being alone, in the company of someone and their beauty and weaknesses, and alone while delighting in the company of that someone and their beauty and weaknesses.” This swing between the complexity of relationships (how they start, how they are lived, how they end–including the relationships that were suggested/represented/acted in various works, the relationships between Meghan and Karl (there were many), the relationships between themselves and the choreographers (present in the space mainly through the program and the dancers’ bodies), and the relationship between them and us (which more often felt like just “us”), among others) and isolation, duets and solos, was a huge theme for me. These concerns were both formal (what are the spatial/temporal constraints of the solo/the duet) and emotional (how do I feel about what I am experiencing). I was faced with my own tendencies in choreographic construction, as well as my own baggage/hope/desire in the area of what it means to be with another person, both of which constituted significant journeys through the course of what was only about two hours.

Susan Hadley’s “Hello, Night,” read as extremely representational for me, and that representation ran the gamut of the seen and the unseen in relationship (one in this case that read fairly hetero, married/committed, etc.). It moved from tender to playful to hysterical to tumultuous to despondent in eddies all over the stage; it was not a linear journey for me, but the way we [might] cycle through each of these experiences in our attempt to be with another person. Representational dance can sometimes be distancing for me, but sitting as closely as I was (second row, near to the dancing bodies, which I prefer), I was struck by the fact that even if this was representational (and even narrative in that it was telling the story of a relationship that is not Karl and Meghan’s), it was also kinesthetically mimetic, and mimicry, whatever its source, is still felt/experienced by/as the mimetic body. This became another theme throughout several works for me: it was both “not them” and completely inescapably “them.” In Hadley’s piece, the relationship represented was not Karl and Meghan, but the labor of the bodies, the kinesthesia of tender/playful/hysterical/tumultuous/despondent bodies were being practiced as themselves (I think). This gave me an “in” to the representationality of it.
I had been offered a disclaimer before the show that there were themes of heteronormativity in this production. This piece may have been a part of that disclaimer, however, in examining the narrative content (to the degree that I might delve into some mild interpretation), I would say that there was a subversive element to the normativity that was portrayed. Throughout the piece I felt as if I was being shown aspects and facets of relationship (love?) that we are not always shown. I felt a pervasive sense of the question, “Why am I still with you? Why am I still in this?” (which could be as much “my stuff” as anything else), but having that question continually come up destabilized the potential idealization of heteonormative relationships, and that was another way that I felt invited into the work.

Durham’s solo “Ten minutes of your life you’ll never get back” was delightfully absurd in what read as its enthusiastic address of the question, “Why can’t I ______?” Framed in text (a series of statements involving the word “minute,” like the title), I was left pondering while watching: what is worth doing? how long has this been going on? how long is this piece/how much time does she have? The piece itself functioned as a string of disconnected events (to be considered as connected still, a consideration fostered by the through-line performer, the setting, the sequencing, etc.) asking continually “how are these elements related?” Sometimes I made connections, and sometimes my experience resided more in the disjunction, the discontinuity. Sometimes I found relationships between the text and the movement, sometimes I was asked to deal with the abrupt shift from spoken word to Meghan’s beautiful, articulate dancing. I also felt that there was a kind of critical commentary/question of “what will you spend your time watching? when has the performance crossed over your line of what is dance/art/etc.” There was exquisite concert-style (for lack of a better succinct signifier) dance, more vernacular “club dancing” jogging and shouting and (what looked like) lap dancing through the audience, sitting and eating a hamburger and fries, and just laying stationary on the stage, all next to one another, all framed as a way in which we (Meghan and the audience) were spending our lives, minute by minute.

Bebe Miller’s “Hands Down my Favorite Ever, Really, Now Go” was truly rewarding in the way that I often find Miller’s work to be: my inability to pin it down. Usually this is my experience of her work on the large scale, my reading of the piece as a whole as it develops. This was true/present in my experience of this duet, but also more precisely in specific actions of partnering. I felt constantly that nothing went (physically, gravitationally) where I expected it to go. The bodies felt as if they were in a constant state of redirection (which, to me, has profound phenomenological implications), as if constantly asking, “It feels like we’ll go here, but what if we went here?” And sometimes, “What if we had gone here?” Miller framed the piece (via program notes) as part of her current creative research into developing a ‘process’ archive of her previous collaborative work. The piece then took on a tone of memory and re-membering, history and revision, consideration and reconsideration.
The text/dialogue of the piece (written by Talvin Wilks) was poignant, and yet another moment in the concert of recognizing that this piece was both “them” and “not them”–they were saying these things, and in saying them participating in what was being said as their inescapable “selves;” however, the conversation they were having was not “really” between Meghan and Karl. It was referential, not only to the piece Verge for which the text was originally created, but also referencing those types of conversation (“I have to leave,” “I want you to stay,” “Come closer,” etc.) and how we live in them.

Rogers’ solo (ish) “Just knot enough” was an expansion of a work I saw Karl present in “Ten Tiny Dances” last year. The piece was successful for me then, and was even more so in this expanded iteration. This piece was the highlight of my evening. It was theatre (to the degree that I understand what theatre is, which is on some level predicated on simulation/make-believe), and uniquely successfully so (I am typically a little put off by the simulated quality of theatre; I feel manipulated by it. With Karl’s solo, I wanted to be manipulated, because I wanted to know where this journey would take me). Again, perhaps most poignantly so, the question of both “him” and “not him” came up. This piece (as explained by a monologue at the end of the piece) was not about Karl, and yet it was (for me) still completely him, and to that degree still very much about him. It was not “about” his life, his actual relationship situations. The “break-up” elements in the piece were staged, acted. But even though they were not necessarily grounded in actual events, they were (to me) inescapably grounded in actual experiences. Their success and legibility came from the knowledgable place from which they arose (somewhere between “Even though this isn’t real, I know what this fees like,” and “Even though this isn’t real, you know what this feels like.”). Similar to Meghan’s solo, there were moments in which I had difficulty navigating the disjunction between the theatrical/spoken text and the dancing (most specifically the “concert dance” style dance, as opposed to the sexy dancing with/for the beer on the floor, which felt completely integrated into what was happening). These disjunctions weren’t bad, just jarring between worlds for me, the abrupt shift between one part of life (the part of life spent in studios and on stages practicing/performing particular modes of bodily being) and another (the part in which we deal with life-stuff: breakups, presentations, relationships, etc.). The disjunction, in hindsight, feels startlingly accurate to life . . .
Having Matt Slaybaugh’s monologue at the end of the piece presented an interesting predicament: he spoke of this piece not being about Karl or himself, not being about anything, but not being about nothing either; and breakups are difficult (I think was the word he used). There was a sense in which, if I had taken the piece to be autobiographical (which I didn’t), I don’t think I would have been persuaded otherwise by this speech . . . or maybe I’m realizing that this was my experience. Again, I don’t think Karl was making a piece that was either a reflection of or commentary on his life/relationships/etc., but it read to me as autobiographical to the degree that this piece was the process of Karl’s choice making around this theme of breakups; it was for me (among other things, because my readings were multiple) a piece “about” Karl creating a piece that considers “breakups.” It read as an immense personal investment, and that was what was seductive and rewarding about it: I felt as if I went on a personal journey (even if it was one that is not intimate to Karl’s actual living).

I appreciated the subtle and overt ways that both Meghan and Karl’s solos challenged the tropes of theatrical presentation: what is dance, what is not dance, what is the “distance” between the performer(s) and the audience, etc. I appreciate when concert dance, while operating within (some of) the traditional modes of theatre also disrupts some of the assumptions, structures, etc.

The final piece, “Thaw” by Lisa Race, was a great moment for appreciating both Meghan and Karl as extremely high caliber dancers. The movement vocabulary was demanding, and their execution of it was demonstrative of their skill and proficiency. This was the reward of the piece. It was not my favorite of the evening. It felt a little long, the narrative (what read as a simple “boy meets girl” story) which, however resonant it may have been with both Hadley and Miller’s thematic decisions was not enough to hold my attention, and I had some questions about the brightly colored shirts. This piece also raised the issue of abrupt disjunction between what I’ll call “dancey-dance” and more sentimental narrative moments; as a viewer I sometimes didn’t know how to get into/out-of/between coy smiles/trading notes and spectacular, rigorous dancing. I had moments of interest in the repetition phrase material and its manipulation through canon and unison, but these ideas also might have been explored more succinctly. Still, the demands of the choreography gave me the opportunity to appreciate the performers’ skills anew, and that was rewarding.

Overall, this was an extremely successful concert, locally generated and produced, profoundly collaborative, and a model (not to mention a high standard) for others making work in the area.

There is SO MUCH MORE to be said about this production, but my time/brain has run out.
I look forward to hearing other perspectives/thoughts/ideas.

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