Last weekend, I saw some very challenging new dance that left me with a lot of questions and no easy answers.
Last Friday night, I went to see DANCEMAKERS most recent offering, an evening of contemporary dance/performance art consisting of two pieces: IN TOUCH - 1976 & RECENT FUTURE.
DANCEMAKERS is working on a creation model where two curators offer space, time, and supports to a group of resident artists, who evolve work over a two year period.
The work is processed based, seeking to address the questions: What is dance? Why are we dancing?
The first piece, by Dana Michel, was a solo, 1976.
A headless creature emerges, yellow legged, swaddled in fur, with spectator shoes. Foot and leg movement deconstruct street tap and from the fur embryo, in a black, blow up chair a creature emerges. This performer morphs a few times: the squirming shape-shifts suggesting an uneasy alliance with her own body and the decision to be watched. It is not a comfortable performance, but it is compelling.
In RECENT FUTURE , Zoja Smutney and her collaborator Gunter Kravis perform on a stage divided by long swaths of transparent plastic. The two performers, striped shirts on the top (is this prison?) textured, reptile skin, black mesh hose decorating the legs, are present on stage, as are we, to watch and interact with the performers, and the space. The performance is an elaborate game of 'Simon says" between a man and a woman in an ambiguous relationship, rife with issues of power, and presentation. At one point, he asks her to "perform narcissism".
Both pieces explore the sometimes uncomfortable, and oft-times unholy alliance between the audience and the performer. Do we, the spectators, function as a kind of mirror to the performer? Or, when I want to look away, is it because the performance has held up a mirror to my own zones of discomfort? When a show makes me uncomfortable, is it because of the work, or because of me, because the work is making me think about things I'd rather avoid thinking about? Or, when a show makes me uncomfortable, is it the performers' projecting what they can't, or don't want, or haven't gotten around to processing before displaying, onto the audience; "Hey, I'm not sure how I feel about being exposed physically and psychically out here, or if this is exposure is germane to the work, or even what it means in this context, you figure it out."
This was DANCEMAKERS' first iteration of the process based focus of the resident artists' production model. The work I saw emerge last week was thought-provoking and challenging, if somewhat slippery and yet unformed.
DANCEMAKERS continues this weekend with a larger cast reconstruction of 1976. If you'd like some cool, challenging food for thought about what it means to watch and be watched, while you feed your performance-viewing habit, check this out.
DANCEMAKERS continues until January 31ST at 8:00 PM at Centre for Creation, 9 Trinity St., 3rd floor, in the Distillery. Tickets are $22 and $29 at the door.