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In Performance: Alexandra Bachzetsis, Private: Wear a mask when you talk to me (Tanz im August)

Private: Wear a mask when you talk to me
Alexandra Bachzetsis
Tanz im August, HAU 2
August 11-13

As the audience takes their seats, choreographer Alexandra Bachzetsis applies makeup at a small mirror; an unsurprising image, but this mirror is affixed to a camera tripod, occupying the place where a lens would normally be. This detail suggests that it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to craft your self-image without being influenced by what you yourself have seen. Bachzetsis’s solo performance is very much concerned with images of gender and sexual identity, and particularly how the media that we consume and the activities that we engage in every day train us to perform—and read the performance of—these identities. She moves through sequences of movements and poses that refer to athletics, pornography, yoga, old-school pinups, catalog models, Michael Jackson, Trisha Brown, and more, embodying and questioning images of “masculine” and “feminine,” normative and queer. As she does so, she adds and removes layers of clothing that sometimes harmonize, sometimes create a dissonance with her physicality. The clothes occasionally emit little sounds of their own, as if in protest, as Bachzetsis moves within them: the rustling of an oversized Everlast suit, the squeaking of workout sneakers hitting the floor, louder squawks from the manipulation of a tight latex dress. The discomfort, perhaps even the silliness, of donning these identities is made audible.

Bachzetsis meets our gaze throughout, steady and cool. She is constantly checking in with us, but not in search of our approval; her eyes are simply asking us to consider what we are seeing. From moment to moment, are our received images being recapitulated or ruptured? Do we recognize anything of ourselves in these embodiments (or their awkward, squeaky failures)? The dancer’s body itself becomes both lens and mirror.

Photo: Blommers & Schumm

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Philip Wesley Gates is a director, performance maker, and writer/scholar currently based in Pittsburgh. Deploying queer, choreographic, and participatory strategies, their work proposes alternative possibilities and modes of relation. They hold an MFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University.

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