Jan 10, 2007

"The absurd can ... be terrifyingly real." [LINK]

Deborah Jowitt of the Village Voice reviews a "retrospectacle" featuring several pieces by dancer and choreographer Karl Anderson. What's often amusing about such texts is how little they have to do with "dance" as such:

With his head mostly protruding from the top of a shoulder-width, cuboid cage that's barred both vertically and horizontally, Anderson dances fitfully around, spouting data. He begins by telling us that there are 8.4 billion people alive today, but as his delivery speeds up, his facts become progressively weirder (27 percent of taxi drivers are cross dressers?) and politically charged in terms of racial discrimination and police behavior. The absurd can also be terrifyingly real. Anderson is politically engaged, but he fences with the evil forces rampant in society obliquely....
Anderson overestimates the earth's population by about 2 billion, which makes me doubt how "politically engaged" he really is, but no matter. Perhaps "strident" would be a better word.
The opening combines excerpts from Public Showing and Malemade. While actor-singer-songwriter Ron Mesa gives us a wacky, tough talk about security precautions, Theresa Duhon, atop a ladder, pours tiny plexiglass spheres into a tank beside her. From there, the balls run through tubing into a clear, plastic cube that costume designer Naoko Nagata is wearing on her head. When Nagata, breathing tube intact, is buried over her eyebrows, Duhon climbs down and releases the spheres through another tube into another tank. Make of it what you will, but just recalling the spectacle gives me -- claustrophobic and environmentally aware -- chills.

I think Anderson likes us not to be entirely certain where he stands. The lovers in the 2001 duet You and your Crack Baby need to get your shit together because we have a show veer from hostility to being very pleased with themselves and fake-charmed with each other. "We're so lovely!," Alethea Pace seems to say, swimming in air from her perch on Edgar Rodriguez's shoulder, while Alberto Denis's score ripples a pretty echo. But what about her turning Rodriguez into a settee? Or him scrubbing at her belly when she lies athwart his thighs? I think they had a baby at the end, and he ran off with it, and she went back to pulsing on the floor by herself (a bit too much of a mystery). Intercourse (2004), choreographed and performed by Anderson and Kate Weare, is a far deeper duet....

If you're doing it right, that is.

And what would such a performance be without some gratuitous nudity that elicits the "male gaze"? One piece, Words, features a solo by a woman, Linda Martini, that was originally danced by Anderson himself. The equally gratuitous comment on her weight is puzzling, but I take it to mean that the performance is less likely to inspire prurience.

This beautiful woman, now many pounds heavier than she was as a graduate from SUNY-Purchase's dance department, appears nude except for four pasted-on dollar bills. When Anderson assumed the occasional pin-up-girl pose, he may have been testing maleness. Martini doing the same moves counters a stripper image with a kind of girlish innocence....

Having Martini perform this solo does create some confusion as to Evan Gray's soundtrack, in which a voice that sounds like that of a young boy emotionally discusses his fears about heterosexual sex with a dark, electronically-slowed-down voice that might be his own rational self.... The issue of the "male gaze" surely resonates differently when a man performs the solo. But, no matter who dances Words, nakedness scarred by dollar bills seems to symbolize purity corrupted. At the end, Martini kneels in candlelight to read from a piece of paper, "love, equality, justice, virtue, harmony...." before she walks into a warm spotlight, strips off the last bill, and strides away.

...which may be taken as a happy ending.


UPDATE: Welcome, Dr. Sanity readers!

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