Wednesday, May 25
Patron Comment: It’s been a few days now, and it’s slowly starting to wear off.
I was blown away by Emio Greco’s Abandoned Orphan.
Alice de Muizon
It’s been a few days now, and it’s slowly starting to wear off.
I was blown away by Emio Greco’s Abandoned Orphan.
What’s left now is the imprint. Some shows dazzle you in the moment, but then you forget – there’s not enough there to really permanently attach to your memory. My friend Amelia asked me after the show what shows have had a major impact on me. Vim Vandekeybus’ In Spite of Wishing and Wanting, Anne Theresa’s Drumming, DV8’s Strangefish, MSS/JPP’s Natura Abolita, Donna Uchizono’s Butterflies from my Hand... These shows felt real to me and left a deep deep imprint on me. Only time will tell, but I think Abandoned Orphan has left an imprint as deep as those shows.
The wash of textures... The metallic screening of the set, the coarseness of the costumes, the momentum of shoulders, the sway of those red shoes, the brilliant score that was so amazing in dealing with the idea of VOLUME.
A world that needs no story, that leaves space for the performers to inhabit it truthfully, that admits that sometimes what we do as performers is ridiculous, that shows us that it’s powerful too, and that precision is more a state of mind than something you see, that ritual and humanity and art can combine to form some kind of hybrid experience – all that leaves an imprint on me. A whole universe unto itself.
Emio’s work reminded me that technique doesn’t have to obsess on legs and hips. Seems obvious I know, but why do I always forget? I don’t have to show you how high I can kick my leg, or what kind of fabulous turn-out I have – ok, or don’t have... – I don’t have to use the same criteria (ballet lines, turn-out, height of extensions...) when generating a technique that speaks to me. I took the master class and though I could barely walk for four days due to the CONSTANT charlie-horse in my calves, I felt re-infused, re-inspired. I remembered what dancing felt like when I first discovered it. To move. Shit, I don’t have to regurgitate some “newer” version of what I see as “impressive” technique. I feel stupid for falling into that trap over and over again, but hey I’m just being honest.
I loved the way the adjustments we try so hard to hide on stage were completely magnified – an awkward shift, a little move, a shake of the leg. We are human, our world is imperfect, we have to constantly re-adjust what we’re doing, on stage and otherwise. It’s a fact. It’s awkward and I love it.
In contract to those tiny moments, the use of momentum demonstrated by some of the most powerful movement sequences I’ve seen in a long time was invigorating to watch. To see humans moving with the entire full will of their bodies is epic. I feel lazy.
The dancers, gorgeous – each and every one - weren’t hidden in the idea of complete unison, they weren’t hidden in the idea of a blank faced modern dancer, they didn’t have some story line pasted onto them.
They were curious... about what was happening on stage and about what we were doing out in the audience.
Personally, I was having my world rocked.
Emio Greco|PC's Rimasto Orfano succeeds as basic dance, as challenge to the audience, and as conversation with other works of art. At the basic level, it is always good to be drawn in. Emio Greco|PC delivered dramatic pacing without narrative. The lighting directed attention, gave new perspectives, e.g. the split stage lighting and the backlit final approach of Sawami Fukuoka, and allowed hidden treats. (What's going on behind that back curtain?) The costumes worked well, especially in silhouette, and emphasized certain movements, e.g. rapid arm spinning and an Emio Greco arm wrap-around making his right hand appear as a separate entity on his left side. The music, thankfully not simple abstract electronica, drove the pacing and gave the audiences a few needed breaks along the way.
As for the actual dancing, this was good choreography danced well. There were many bursts of brilliance: a dervish whirl by Jordi Martin de Antonio, Fukuoka as a mannequin manipulated by Greco, and Suzan Tunca lay rigid on the floor with neck craned for ten minutes (self-consciously mimicked by Nicola Monaco) before leaping directly back into motion. The group dancing alternated between distantly tender (Greco and Monaco shadowing each other) and terrifying (Greco driving the dancers across stage with a maniacal head-shake).
This piece was not easy; the audience had to work to keep up. We were engaged by the dancers without being abused. Late in the dance, Greco batted a hanging light away from him, swinging it away from the stage, and several dancers nearly invaded the front row at points. More disturbing were the searching looks by the dancers, switching between the audience, each other, and the hanging light, and the emotional trauma of Greco's movement (Regina Hackett's use of "carnage" is apt). This show rewarded multiple viewings. Emio Greco|PC's "dramaturgy of the body" held together but shed any story I tried to stick on it. I guess this is why dancers dance, rather than writing and talking about dance. . .
I cannot speak to the relationship of Rimasto Orfano to other works of art in detail, but many allusions came to mind watching the show. Greco's early moves, with his foot scraping over the floor, were reminiscent of automatic writing. Most characters from David Lynch movies would have fit in on stage. The air-raid sirens and Barbara Meneses Gutierrez and Martin de Antonio walk forward on stiff legs, head between their knees, called mind art's early 20th century engagement with fascism. Who knows if Emio Greco|PC were even thinking about any of this? More locally, this show made me re-consider the John Jasperse piece at OTB in February. Looking back on that show, I still see it as a failure, but I understand better what Jasperse is trying to accomplish after Emio Greco|PC's work.
What could be improved in this show? Did we need the spoken words at all? Could it be done with live music? Aside from Greco himself, the other dancers seemed tired after Friday's outstanding show. (A notable exception is Meneses Gutierrez , whose excellent dancing on Saturday evening was a highlight.) The audience reaction on Sunday was subdued compared to Friday and Saturday, perhaps reflecting the dancers' fatigue. Overall, however, this show was one of the best I've ever seen, and I feel very grateful to the whole company and OTB for putting it on.
Friday, May 20
Patron Comment: Thoughts on Rimasto Orfano, Some Days After the Viewing:
You know those few and precious moments you’re able to view an artist’s work free of preconceived notions or barrage of critique made useless from its vehemence and/or sheer oppressive quantity?
This was my blissful state on Saturday night when my mom, up from Portland, and I wandered over to OtB to see Emio Greco/PC’s performance. It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to see a modern dance piece with my mother. If one is able to gauge the twinkle-meter in her eyes appropriately, additional dialogue is rendered completely unnecessary. One look from her can either mean “This is it, they’ve got it” or “Can you believe this mind-boggling shit?” Hence, I didn’t have to put my feelings about the performance into words. We were both ecstatic and sealed the sentiment with a verbal promise to take note of all future Emio Greco/PC collaborations.
Looking back with the usually-somewhat-ludicrous notion (believe me I feel like I should be wearing a clown suit) of hooking emotional experience with cerebral analysis, there are a handful of points that have rooted themselves in my recollection of the performance regarding what made this show so tight, so exceptional:
The dancers understand music. This is most evident by their use of the silence. One can always detect a phony musician by their disregard of a rest, by their collapse of energy in a silence. These dancers threaded energy through silence as effortlessly as a seal sliding through water. Even their audible breath was placed in flawless composition.
Emio Greco and PC’s concept of theatricality is bold and confident enough to create a deeply emotional piece without typical narrative footholds. From what I noticed, much of this was due to the fascinating choreography: uncomfortably comic physical distances between performers, painful shaking in the body heightened by an excellent choice of fabric, pairings of mad whirling activity with falling to the floor smacking down like a stack of rigid lumber. The madhouse comparison is fairly obvious, but one doesn’t have to be a raving loony to feel these things. The horror did not reach me from dark fantasies of creepy asylums a la Wilkie Collins, but from the dark corners of that thing sitting in my very own skull.
Technical skill! Technical skill! Good god.
Some days later, these are the points that lead me to marvel as I recollect. The performance as a whole was as tight as tight can be. If you missed Emio Greco/PC this time around, see their next piece. Whatever it might be, it will certainly be remarkable.
Thursday, May 19
Nate's morning reflections
It's the next morning (almost afternoon) and last night's performance has stuck with me. It reminded me of the first time I saw Meredith Monk. Not so much the actual movement (although some of the deliberate everyday movements heightened just enough to take on real weight share a similar lineage) as in the mood that I left in. Rimasto Orfano is a finely constructed, serious piece of choreography. The dancers stride, rush, and swirl around the stage, and then suddenly, bracingly fall to the floor like ironing boards. Meticulous structures shape the tenderness and animosity of the piece but still retain looseness. I loved the most unhinged moments in this show. The fluid, dreamy sensuality (but not reverie) in certain passages that would abruptly change into explosive movement, coming to the edge of the stage, nearly into the front row. The abrasive and incidental sound punctured the quiet that most of the piece was performed in. It really was a soundscape with moments of jagged noise that would recede as fast as they appeared. I wanted to find a narrative thread at the beginning of the show, but it doesn't need it. Who needs a legible story when you have the beauty and randomness of human connection?
Regina Hackett and Nate Lippens converse about Rimasto Orfano
Regina Hackett and Nate Lippens
Nate: "Ladies, gentlemen,Emilo Greco is dead," was how the piece began. So it was an amazing afterlife.
Regina: Yes, slow start. Death was announced, but unnecessarily. The whispery cool, high fashion fabric lining the stage, the blips of music, the lights pitched low on the wall and the woman slinking around in a see-through dress seemed to be aping some kind of fashion decadence from the '80s. Remember heroin chic?
Nate: Vaguely. The best way to remember heroin is vaguely.
Regina: I remember the photo spreads in Vogue. That's what I was thinking in the beginning, but then the dancing started and wiped that smug smile off my face.
Nate: Started slow for me too. The woman in the blonde wig reminded me of David Lynch meets Butoh. But then as soon as movement started, the cool distance that she introduced disappeared and I was really swept up into the
Regina: Amazing dancers. Not glamourous at all but elegant in a coarse and convincing way. I was thinking about Northern European painting like Matthias Grunewald, the Christ on the way to Calvary, and all the ghouls around him. This piece lacked a central narrative (no Christ, no Cross), but the ghouls were there invested in unearthly, horrorifying grace. I was also thinking of Marat/Sade. We have a dance be set in the loony bin. Marat as the first dancer, following Charolette in a blonde wig talking about death, and then Sade, the sensual existentialist who's given up on the body and wants his to disappear. The other dancers in a brilliant freak show. "We're all normal and we want our freedom."
Nate: For some reason, part way through, I started to think of Derek Jarman, maybe because of the tall woman who looked like Tilda Swinton. She was so powerfully androgynous and like Jarman's films seemed so death haunted. And the sound. At times so bombastic. The dancers rose to the occasion of it, with the sweat being flung off them as they moved. The sound dropped out and left just their breathing.
Regina: It wasn't improvised at all. Each gesture was choreographed, and the movements synchronized. Each dancer had a specific role, but they moved in and out of each other's orbits. The woman who starts the piece I think functions as a narrator, but there is no narration, so she seemed tacked on and unnecessary.
Nate: I could have been thrown directly into the dance, too.
Regina: Maybe too long? Am I shallow?
Nate: I felt some of it could have been compressed because it is so powerful that it ends up being emotionally draining. Maybe emotionally draining is the point.
Regina: The OTB audience. There's always a few relentlessly cheerful souls who insist on seeing humor, no matter what kind of carnage is on stage. They were in the audience, but faintly. I heard only a few inappropriate giggles.
Nate: The giggles added to the madhouse effect.
Regina: A madhouse set to music and danced brilliantly. Who says art can't redeem our fatally flawed lives?
Nate: It was some of the most powerfully challenging dance I've seen.
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