American Realness

In Performance: Jack Ferver, Everything is Imaginable (American Realness)

Everything Is ImaginableJack FerverAmerican Realness at New York Live ArtsJanuary 7-12, 2019 What makes a young gay boy, perceiving himself to be different, feel safe or whole? Who gives him inspiration, or permission, to be something he wants to be? In the first half of Everything Is Imaginable, Jack Ferver gives us a fantasia parade of such figures. One by one, his soloists—James Whiteside, Lloyd Knight, Garen Scribner, and Reid Bartelme, dancers coming from different performance traditions—take the stage, each presenting their childhood idol as a kind of character sketch: the emotive diva (Judy Garland), the elegant pioneer (Martha Graham), the charismatic athlete (Brian Boitano), and the fabulous beast (yes, that would be My Little Pony). In this sequence, the dancers’ virtuosity is a ...

In Performance: Juliana F. May, Folk Incest (American Realness)

Folk Incest Juliana F. May American Realness, Abrons Arts Center January 9-12, 2019 A single row of chairs lines the four walls of Abrons’ intimate G05 studio, all of them seemingly meant for the audience. Until Molly Poerstel enters from the hallway, takes an open seat, and, lit by a spotlight, struggles to speak. She has some pages in her hand, presumably a script she’s trying to say, but she just can’t get her mouth to form the words. She tries, over and over, for a remarkably long time, changing pitch and speed and tone, and eventually it becomes clear that she’s trying to say, “I hate when people talk about irony like that.” She struggles through a few more sentences until the lighting opens up to include four other women in the space with her. What...

In Performance: Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble, The Art of Luv (Part 6): Awesome Grotto! (American Realness)

The Art of Luv (Part 6): Awesome Grotto! Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble American Realness, Abrons Arts Center January 4-5, 2019 To step into Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble’s The Art of Luv (Part 6): Awesome Grotto! is to step into a different atmosphere. A soothing aural landscape merges with a striking visual one of an extremely large moon-like surface that takes up the entire height of Abrons’ Experimental Theater. The lights are dim and performers dressed in long white tunics are at a calm attention. Soon they speak quietly to the audience, asking if anyone would like to come down from their riser seats and onto the stage floor, which is covered in grass, for some special sounds. The many willing audience members descend and lie down, and the performers take them through a kind of meditat...

In Performance: SOFTLAMP.autonomies (American Realness)

SOFTLAMP.autonomies Ellen Furey and Malik Nashad Sharpe American Realness at University Settlement January 7-10, 2019 As the dancers Ellen Furey (based in Montreal) and Malik Nashad Sharpe (a New Yorker based in the UK) began yet another iteration of a looped unison sequence—which had already been and would continue to be repeated beyond anything close to an expected duration—I found myself thinking about smoke. Upon entering the performance space, we had been met with the sweet scent of incense, emanating in small white tendrils from the burning sticks held by Furey and Sharpe, who lay motionless on the floor clad in white athletic gear. The dancers’ extreme stillness made the meandering billows and emanations, subtle as they were, a natural focal point for the eye; at the time, the smoke...

In Performance: Claire Cunningham & Jess Curtis, The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight (American Realness)

The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight Claire Cunningham & Jess Curtis American Realness, Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center January 10-13, 2018 The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight is a collaborative, exploratory performance of a collaborative exploration into dance, disability, and sensation and the act of looking. Undertaken by San Francisco contemporary dance mainstay Jess Curtis and Scottish disabled artist Claire Cunningham, the piece unfolds as an attempt to understand each other, partly through conversation and partly through shared movement practice. Collaborative spirit runs through the work beyond the lead artists, as well. The performance is haunted by video of philosopher Dr. Alva Noë, who appears from time to time seemingly to connect the proceedings to a longer histo...

In Performance: Marissa Perel, (Do Not) Despair Solo (American Realness)

(Do Not) Despair Solo Marissa Perel American Realness, Abrons Art Center January 13-16, 2018 I wonder if it was an oversight or a stroke of curatorial brilliance. None of Abrons Art Center’s theaters are particularly accessible to people with physical disabilities, but the Underground Theater, host to Marissa Perel’s (Do Not) Despair Solo, is particularly inaccessible. When Perel (pronounced Peril, and used as a nominative) first appears in the space, they explain that they would not attend a performance in this space were they not performing it; then their collaborator Elliott Cennetoglu, in the first of many acts of service work, carries them downstairs from the theater door to the stage. (Do Not) Despair Solo introduces itself as a lecture performance, and also as an attempt to communic...

In Performance: Adrienne Truscott, THIS (American Realness)

THIS Adrienne Truscott American Realness, Abrons Arts Center January 14-16, 2018 The story of Adrienne Truscott’s solo titled THIS, as overheard in the lobby: in 2016, Truscott was commissioned by New York Live Arts to make a new comedy piece with an international group of feminist women comedians. To make a long story short, things didn’t go according to plan: by 2017, a key curator was gone, funding had been significantly reduced, and Donald Trump was president. Truscott could no longer make the piece she wanted to make, but artists need to get paid. So, instead of making that, she made… THIS. THIS is a total disaster—on purpose, and in a good way. If the show’s genesis, and maybe also the country as a whole, is “literally on fire,” then so the show is too. It is good therapy for a traum...

In Performance: Mariana Valencia, ALBUM (American Realness)

ALBUM Mariana Valencia American Realness, Abrons Arts Center Underground Theatre January 11-15 Mariana Valencia spends the majority of ALBUM staring directly at the audience. Her near affectless gaze conjures a tone of observational objectivity which deftly frames the central questions of her personal dance-music-text ethnography: who writes history, and thus decides who makes it into the records, and who is erased? What qualities make a work of art worthy of, say, a Nobel prize, and how do those standards define cultural paradigms of genius? ALBUM proposes an alternative to the norm in the form of Valencia’s own life, driven in part by her Latinx and queer identities. ALBUM asks what might happen if the marginalized rewrote the standards in their own image. While Valencia’s life is the co...

In Performance: Simone Aughterlony & Jen Rosenblit (American Realness)

"This is a kind of (dis)assembly, a kind of cohabitation, and a kind of care. This, too, fits in the room."

In Performance: Nora Chipaumire, #PUNK (American Realness)

Punk is a noun, punk is an adjective. Punk is torn white t-shirts, distorted power cords, and angry adolescent growls into a mic. But in Nora Chipaumire’s latest piece presented as part of American Realness, punk is, first and foremost, a verb.

In Performance: Neal Medlyn, I HEART PINA (American Realness)

I <3 PINA Neal Medlyn American Realness, Abrons Arts Center January 11-16 “I feel weird about Pina Bausch and I feel weird about dance and I feel weird about romance and I feel weird about being a fan. I’m mainly interested in two things from Pina Bausch’s work: fandom and romance.” So starts the program note to Neal Medlyn’s I <3 PINA, words that are also projected during the performance. Behind almost the entirety of the performance is a constant, slow scroll of words, a fascinating wealth of context to Medlyn’s latest creation. Much of Medlyn’s work has dealt with celebrity, and I <3 PINA, focusing on the legendary dancer, of course does, too. As Medlyn writes, it certainly deals with fandom and romance, but to put it another way, it also deals with legacy and deep loneliness, ...

In Performance: Michelle Ellsworth, The Rehearsal Artist (American Realness Festival)

The Rehearsal Artist Michelle Ellsworth American Realness, The Invisible Dog Jan 9 – 11, 2017 Michelle Ellsworth’s Rehearsal Artist is a 35-minute experience for less than a dozen people at a time. There are clear directions at the beginning of the experience. Everything else that follows is utterly surprising, unnerving, and profoundly revealing. Describing this work any further would be a disservice to the elusive universe Ellsworth has created. Instead, I offer some of my personal thoughts and questions coming out of the piece. Sitting in the audience I found myself obsessing over other people being able to see me. I wondered why the performers never looked scared. I found myself steeped in my own complicity. I had to admit that I labor consistently without ever asking why. My lac...