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In Performance

In Performance: Big Dance Theater, Cage Shuffle (American Realness)

In Performance: Big Dance Theater, Cage Shuffle (American Realness)

Big Dance Theater
Cage Shuffle

Saturday, January 7, 4:00pm and 7:00pm
Sunday, January 8, 4:00pm and 7:00pm

American Realness
Abrons Arts Center, Studio G05
466 Grand Street

On each audience seat was a card with a simple explanation of what was about to unfold:

“The sequence of the stories is random.

The sequence of the dance is not.

The performer follows Cage’s original performance instructions:

‘Read stories aloud, with or without additional musical accompaniment, paced so that each story takes one minute. Read all stories in order or select a smaller number, using chance procedures or not.’ -John Cage”

The performance began simply as well: two people entered Abrons’ intimate studio space and flicked light switches on the wall. One, creator and performer Paul Lazar, started moving. The other, music composer and performer Lea Bertucci, sat on a stool off to the side. Bertucci soon called out a number, which cued Lazar to start reciting a corresponding story. This repeated several times. The stories, written by Cage, seemingly fed to Lazar through an in-ear device, were jokes or humorous anecdotes from Cage’s life, recited personably by Lazar as he moved. The choreography by Annie-B Parson was wonderfully specific, at times pedestrian, at times expressive. There were many moments when the text and movement were so in sync that it appeared it must have been planned. In one instance when Lazar spoke of waiting, he rapped the fingers of his hands together in the typical gesture of waiting. In another he spoke of a man sleeping and repeatedly closed his eyes. But at other moments the movement seemed directly counter to the text, or related in much more abstract ways, adding surprising dimension. It was great fun to see how the text and movement would line up, and Lazar continually found ways to use the two to support each other, an impressive feat knowing he was putting it together on the spot.

Another flick of the lights, and Bertucci moved from the stool to a sound table, live-mixing a score to accompany Lazar’s continued movement. The shift away from text allowed for increased focus on Lazar’s dance and also on Bertucci’s: both so focused on specific tasks, at times connecting with each other and the audience directly, at times in their own worlds, always mesmerizing.

To end, Lazar righted a chair that had been on its side from the start of the show, sat in it, and started talking. The music slowly lowered and he explained how this show, with its reliance on chance, required listening not just from the audience but also from the performers. This mutual listening was certainly felt throughout the 45-minute performance. Anticipation of what was to come next lay with the audience and with those on-stage, adding an immensely enjoyable electricity to the experience.

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Rachel Karp is a theater artist whose work challenges language, legislation, and the status quo. She has developed and directed original work through Mabou Mines, Ars Nova, Incubator Arts Project, Actors Theatre of Louisville, IRT Theater, Women Center Stage, Dixon Place, Theater for the New City, and SPACE on Ryder Farm. Rachel has also developed and directed new plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Flea Theater, Powerhouse Theater Festival, the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival, and Columbia University’s graduate and undergraduate schools. Rachel has associate and assistant directed productions by some of the top theater directors and ensembles working today including Les Waters, Lila Neugebauer, Young Jean Lee, Aaron Landsman, Mallory Catlett, Big Art Group, PearlDamour, The Mad Ones, and Woodshed Collective. Always wanting to be exposed to new work, Rachel has been a script reader for The Lark and the Bushwick Starr and has worked as a dramaturg at the Jewish Plays Project, a literary assistant at Second Stage, and a literary intern at Soho Rep. She is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, a former Resident Artist at Mabou Mines, a former Resident Director at The Flea, and a former Directing Intern at Actors Theatre of Louisville. BA, Columbia University; MFA, Carnegie Mellon University (expected 2019).

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