Sunday, December 30, 2012

the mutable influences of life

Visiting Philadelphia to see the exquisite Dancing Around the Bride exhibit brought into focus not only the rich possibilities of artistic interactions, but also the ways that DC suffers from a lack of informed writing about current ideas in dance and performance.

The day after my Philadelphia trip I read Sarah Kaufman’s article about the film Anna Karenina. Ignoring for a moment her didactic tone--the way she situates herself as a critic who advises companies and choreographers on how to behave and create—I was struck by her confusion about current dance-makers. She describes the film’s choreographer, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, as an “experimental choreographer.” She cites his use of arms and hands in the film’s ball scene as unique and innovative. If she were familiar with his 2005 performance with Akram Khan called zero degrees, she would know that this vocabulary--viewable in the first 30 seconds of this excerpt--is part of an aesthetic approach he has honed for years.  

Does Kaufman use “experimental” to imply he is working on the fringes, using new or different ideas? If this is the case, she exposes how unaware she is of current trends in dance and its interdisciplinary influences.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

yoga and performance art

Kelly Bond and Melissa Krodman in "Colony" at the Capital Fringe Festival

Each Saturday when I roll down my yoga mat and begin a practice with a teacher in DC I do not know where I will end up. Of course there are familiar poses/asanas and certain patterns that link my movement and breath, but I also enter into unexplored territory. I savor a sense of discovery when I notice places in my muscles--and my mind--that are resistant and tight. Every week there's different information and some days the practice ends with a feeling of exhaustion, other days exhilaration. Daily shifts in the way I feel and how my body responds make the journey indeterminate, its outcome uncertain.

Recently I've been enjoying practicing next to a friend who shares my interest in performance and the arts, particularly relational aesthetics. Our conversation this morning touched upon ways in which visual artists and theatrical performers are tapping into similar trends: a current interest in immersive theater coincides with a resurgence of events in museums and galleries that make interaction a vital component in the realization of an artist’s creation. 

This blog post brings together some of these ideas…

“Breaking the fourth wall, and involving audience in a piece of theatre, has subsequently been used in ways that have different social poignancy to The Shining, and sometimes in ways that do not push against dominant values. Some shows have now achieved commercial success in New York by capitalizing upon the excitement of participation as a selling point. Yet even while it has become more common to position the audience as something other than passive spectators, choreographers have nevertheless continued to find critical tractions in different ways of engaging an audience. This has included working with the social values that are relevant to local contexts beyond the East Village scene.” 

Reading these sentences by Doran George--shortly after seeing Deborah Jowitt’s review of Dionysus in 69 and attending a symposium on immersive theatre in Washington DC--triggers my interest in "social poignancy."

The more I see approaches to performance that reconfigure artist/audience relations–David Zambrano’s Soul Project, Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, National Theatre of Scotland’s Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart–the more questions emerge. Does the incorporation of audiences into performances acknowledge the ways in which we interact with our technologies today, meaning frequently engaged, constantly available? Or does it speak to a desire for connection and intimacy in a time when screens are a primary source of communication and interaction?