Tuesday, January 22, 2013

departures from the staid

Ian Svenonius


Some thoughts on artists and events by Ellen Chenoweth: 
Inspired by Kate’s writing and with a number of performances and experiences rattling around in my brain, I wanted to capture a few of them.

1. I’ve been noticing a welcome willingness to upset traditional formats.  Jack Ferver in a work titled Mon Ma Mes, taking place at the French Institute Alliance Fran├žaise in New York as part of APAP, opened the show by admitting that he had actually forgotten about this performance, was running late because he had been teching for another show, and was therefore going to open the evening with a Q&A session rather than dancing to allow himself some time to get into the mood.  It was deliciously unclear how much of this text delivery was real, and how much was just messing around with the audience, likewise later stories involving crushes. 

The writer Junot Diaz must be drinking from the same water.  A couple of months ago, I saw Diaz deliver an electric reading / performance / lecture at ARC’s Facing Race conference.  Diaz came onto the stage and announced that he was incredibly nervous, and was therefore going to take questions from the audience as a way of warming up and dealing with the nerves.  This straying from the traditional format sent a crackle of excitement through the assembled audience of 800 or so. 

2.  Ferver’s Q&A session was a stacked deck though. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

the magnificent seven

some reflections  on artists, curators, writers, and producers changing our cultural landscape

 1. Watching parts of “How to Lose a Mountain” Friday night inspired me to think about moments and people who enrich my thinking about art and artists. DC is a tricky place for innovative ideas. Unlike other cities where I have lived and visited recently – New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia -- it doesn’t have hubs for dancers and performers to come together and share ideas. So when I saw this work by Cassie Meador and her incredible cast, and listened to reflections by those who gathered, I was deeply moved.

Meador’s performers --- Matthew Cumbie, Sarah Levitt,  Paloma McGregor, Shula Strassfeld, and Zeke Leonard (who wasn’t present but who has already established a strong role in the production) -- are deeply committed, exhibiting a combination of strength and vulnerability that is captivating. They are individuals who possess a deep sense of dedication to one another. Meador incorporates their movement, thoughts, songs, into a multi-sensory experience: the cast’s words and movement merge and meld with the music and set. The showing took me through a journey of stories and images. Some of these are more tangible than others, but I savored those moments when there was an idea that was suggested rather than stated. At times I was not exactly sure where a person or scene was headed, but the material itself was so rich that there was a sense of excitement and curiosity generated by the interactions.

The staff of Dance Exchange gathered a diverse group of people to see and discuss the work and this discussion was similarly generative. Beautifully moderated by John Borstel, the conversation followed Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. There was a huge range of ideas and reflections on the showing, and the conversation kept exploring, going deeper and deeper into ideas about the work.