Responses: Best Performances of 2006 by people who aren't my friends

by Chrysa Parkinson INCUBATOR, by Philipp Gehmacher, premiered 2006 performed by: Sabina Holzer, David Subal, Clara Cornil and Philipp Gehmacher Like having your brain licked by distant rabbits. A few times I thought "what is this? Laban with no legs?" because there's some sense of geometry/order that you can feel is known to the performers, organizes their dynamics and spatial sense, but it's not identifiable to me, and it's not organic or inevitable. I remember there was text and some music, but intermittent, and just another scenographic aspect -- definitive as an event in itself, illuminating, but not making the choreography turn a corner or peak, or peek, or pucker, or anything. The performers move through the changes as if they're happening in someone else's mind. The qualities of movement are very close on the body, intonations more than gestures that effect the space. The small movement looks overheard, but it's very clear. The larger movements in space have more to do with 'going over there' than with what happens on the way over there. Some other dancer is farther away from the one who went over there than they were before that one went over there. So the choreography is just very empty and very clear. I had so many possible interpretations at once that I felt like I was reading words from a novel, but the plot had been lifted off and just the characters and their actions were appearing out of sequence, temporarily free of consequence and left only with content. UMWELT, by Maguy Marin, premiered 2005 performed by the Maguy Marin company I saw this in Vienna at the Impulstanz Festival which is like watching something while you're being attacked by fleas because there are so many dance people in the audience that you can barely hear your own thoughts but I managed to watch it pretty cleanly. There's a constant wind from stage right to stage left. There's a single guitar chord that lasts the whole piece (I think it was at least an hour), and then moves just a bit at the end? something like that. There's shaky mylar panels that the performers move in and out of sync in front of. There's an endless of string of gestures and actions with objects that relate and repeat and feel messy in that you couldn't dramaturge them if you tried. It's relentlessly precise and inventive to the point where those qualities almost don't matter anymore and you're just watching and watching and watching. Things change very quickly but sort of not at all. Every once in a while a performer's personal style would interrupt me and I would think "Aha, French Dance" -- mostly because of a romantic looking resolution to a quotidian action, and then I would feel like a cultural asshole because they were so humble in face of the rigor demanded of them, why should I call them on the little bit of feeling for something that would occasionally sneak out? And my "calling" them is totally culturally determined anyway so whatever whatever, don't be an asshole. The choreography demands virtuosity but hides it backstage, and you know that's going on but don't really have time to think about it ‘til after. One day I would like to watch it from the back. That sounds weird. THE YES MEN Are brilliant political activist performers who do brilliant political activist Things, posing as representatives of corporations or governments and saying either what you know is really how Those People think but also can't believe They would ever admit, or saying what you wish was true but know isn't. And they do that on national tv and international tv and at conferences etc. I saw a presentation of their videos and a little talk/lecture by them in Ghent. I realized how often I think people are saying something I agree with because they are the sort of people I think I identify with, or because they use language I recognize as familiar and good. I realized how dangerous and absurd that is. I learned and grew and it was funny and it sharpened my eyes and ears. I feel more tender, and more ready to pay attention. DRUMMER WANTED by Richard Maxwell New York City Players: Ellen LeCompte and Peter Simpson This was kind of like Incubator, in that what's left out lets other things in. Things I need. It's not the lack of affect that interests me, that's an affect in itself by now. It's the choreography acting like a social structure, like a law, a convention with no identifiable result that eases my feeling of not understanding why things are the way they are. It doesn't matter why. Even when it's clear there's no Because that makes any sense, these behaviors/relationships/cruelties/empathies still exist and I can feel them. I saw this in Brussels, in a small space. My image is that the technicians at the Kaai Studios played with the drummer's band after the show but that may have been a fantasy about European and American suburbans reaching out to each other in a flurry of sympathy for the vacancy meaning has left in its mad dash to escape exploitation. I would love for meaning to come back when it feels safe and good, but meanwhile I'm happy that it stays in hiding. ALONE, LIFE WASTES ANDY HARDY Martin Arnold, 15 min. 1998 I saw this in a music festival about work based on loops. He takes little fractions of film action and slows, reverses and loops them, so the details of an action like a boy kissing his mother turns into a hugely detailed and complex love/hate/sex/food/sunday/monday car-crash of love/hate/sex/food/tuesday/wednesday amusement park disasters. Also I never realized how incredibly good an actor Andy Rooney was. I knew Judy Garland was good. The style they had to work with was so tight it's amazing how much feeling and clarity they got into the tiniest cracks of the action. THE DESERT PEOPLE David Lamelas, 1974 I still don't understand. It's so futile. What happened? A cow licked your brain. You probably won't watch it because of what I just said. It justifies futility. Several times since seeing it I've found it very clarifying and useful for my day in a tragic incomprehensible way? UNSEEN CINEMA - Early American and Avant-Garde Film 1894-1941 Curated by David Posner VIVA LA DANCE, THE AMATEUR AS AUTEUR, THE DEVIL'S PLAYTHING, INVERTED NARRATIVES, and more Each of these is a dvd. The dancing is amazing. Everybody cares so much. There's a lot of hand dances where you only see hands behaving like entire people and even crowds of hands behaving like crowds of people. There's Tilly Losch - the green eyed gold-digging dancer who married a posh brit. She is a brilliant dancer. There's a singing duck. There's a family documentary that spirals into the american dream like like like um like niagara falls backwards. There's bicycle porno, I mean polo. Dance was new, film was new. Meaning was still hanging around, pretty relaxed. Also, a lot of these are fragments, or experiments, and the performers are often still between radio and film, or stage and film so you see different kinds of performing than usual. It's weird and inspiring and a lot of it is good art, I think.
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Chrysa Parkinson, David Lamelas, David Posner, Maguy Marin, Martin Arnold, Philipp Gehmacher, Richard Maxwell, The Yes Men


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