Contemporary Choreography

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: 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: Angela Goh, Desert Body Creep (COIL)

Desert Body Creep Angela Goh COIL, Performance Space New York January 16-17 Desert Body Creep, choreographed and performed by Angela Goh with sound operation by Matt Cornell, is something of a post-anthropocene hallucination. As Goh literally moves through choreographies, sounds, and objects, the mundane becomes uncanny. Goh’s body turns until it becomes an object, which then comes back to life, becomes the earth, and regenerates itself. It’s a methodical yet dizzying evolution involving a giant gummy worm, a mint-hued crushed velvet tube, and shrinkwrap, underscored in cinematic turns by shredding guitar solos, pop music, and Goh’s own voice in haunting choral overtones. The result is a capitvating, unaffected disorientation posing questions of objectification inside the environment and t...

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: Variations on Themes from Lost and Found (American Realness)

Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez with Nick Hallett and Jennifer Monson presented by Danspace Project, Gibney Dance & American Realness 2018 January 9-13 A mysterious crash reverberated through the sanctuary of St. Mark’s Church, interrupting co-directors Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez as they stood up to introduce the performance. The two artists looked up to the balcony for the source of the sound. “John’s here,” said Gutierrez with a sly smile. John Bernd was a vital member of the New York downtown dance community in the 1980’s, creating work until his death from AIDS complications in 1988. Conceived by Houston-Jones, who danced in Bernd’s work (as did Jennifer Monson, who...

In Performance: Rudi van der Merwe, Trophée (Tanz im August)

Trophée Rudi van der Merwe Tanz im August, Vierfelderhof August 19-20 The performance space (in this case, a field at the outer edges of the Berlin city limits) becomes a site to be conquered in Rudi van der Merwe’s outdoor Trophée. At one end of the field stands a white picket fence, the audience gathered a short distance behind it. From the faraway trees at the other end of the field, three figures emerge. Their faces are blank, white; they lift their blue hoop skirts to move purposefully, with a regimented directness. Too distant to perceive the details of their actions, all we know for certain is that they are coming closer. Their slow approach instills a visceral unease (augmented by the ominous soundscape, performed live by Béatrice Graf). When we first arrived, the picket fence mere...