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The Appealing Vulnerability of Daniel Adame

When I moved to Houston, I had to learn about the plants. I understood nothing of the humid sub-tropical environment or the strange soil. After several failed attempts in the dense clay of my patio garden, I turned to Equisetum hyemale, or “horsetail” reeds, which seem now to be thriving.

I like watching things grow, and these reeds spread in a curious manner. The primary plants send their roots traveling until a barrier is encountered, and then they send up a new shoot at this outpost. It’s as if they are assessing just how much room they have to play with before deciding how to expend energy. They don’t spread out, really, but rather they fill-in by working backwards from the boundaries.

 

I thought about the horsetail reeds while I was watching Daniel Adame dance last week in a program simply titled Dance Oriented Spectacles. His body and mind have a similar way of assessing the available territory, with caution and with confidence, before establishing an off-shoot of the primary material. And like the plants, his presence represents both a subtle intervention and the embodiment of tranquility. He is a natural dancer in the truest sense of the word.

He is also one of the most intriguing performing artists in Houston. I’ve seen him several times in the work of Jennifer Wood, artistic director of Suchu Dance, the foremost contemporary ensemble in this city. For his appearance last Saturday night at The Artery, he presented his own dances and those of fellow choreographer/dancer Ashley Horn, along with video pieces by Keith Reynolds. Dancer Shanon Adams, versatile and highly expressive, interpreted Adame and Horn’s dances and appeared also in Reynolds’ Kuchar Brothers-like videos Dancehater 1 and Dancehater 2.

One of many vivid scenes from Keith Reynolds' Dancehater I

Adame’s biography states that “he began climbing magnolia and oak trees when he was very young” in New Orleans, which is not surprising to learn after watching his choreography. He has also a background in martial arts and a BFA in sculpture from the University of Houston. There is something in his face, or maybe more specifically in his eyes, that reminds me of Buster Keaton. Underneath the strength and assuredness of his choreography is a palpable lack of guard. I notice that he never “plays” to the audience. The work is introspective and diligent, well-organized and cryptic. It gives an impression of a remembered, rather than an explicit, narrative. It is post-postmodern, referencing everything from release technique to capoeira to B-Boy. Adame is a temporal paradox, he looks simultaneously both young and old.

All of the dances from both choreographers were duets. Adame’s Touchbase was presented in strict A-B-A form, with the outer sections almost entirely in unison. I found this satisfying, since it actually let me forget about the form because it was so obvious. Adame and Adams wore garish, 1980s-looking nylon running suits in purple and white. Certain phrases contained only a discplined walking. The stage, set in The Artery’s strangely faded stone ampitheatre (the grounds, in a residential neighborhood, are decorated primarily with poured concrete, glass and mirrors) is kind of trapezoidal and includes a large live tree bursting out of one corner.  

Adams’ Robotica featured Adame and the choreographer in more subdued black-and-white costumes, with the movement mostly in opposition to each other. Adams’ soundscore (nobody refers to these efforts as “music” any more) contained snippets of spoken text, such as, “…and turn to these dolls for love and affection, and sex.” There was a long slow-motion section and some play with mirrors which seemed lifted from The Artery landscape.

Daniel Adame and another impressive male dancer named KDN offered the finale, Ventilation Sleeve, to a score by Austin laptop composer Caglioso. Here again was a skillful use of repetition, and some weirdly intimate moments, such as a passage where the two men press only the middle finger of one hand to the other’s middle finger. KDN has an inherent elasticity, as if he were a living cartoon. They catch each other’s falls, very slowly embrace, demonstrate the latest stage of their swagger. 

A sign at the entrance stated, “all money goes to the performers” and only a donation was suggested.The Artery is an “alternative” venue on the edge of Houston’s museum district, towards the medical area, and the sort of place that is rapidly disappearing in most American cities. I fear writing about it, since even in Houston it is a kind of best-kept secret. Tom Goss is having a CD-release party there on Sunday, however, if you happen to be in town.

 

Comments

  1. Oh Tedd,
    It’s hard reading your exquisitely astute work; it shines a harsh focus on the great gap still pulsing from your move from Cambridge.

  2. Thank you for a beautiful write up. :)

  3. Kathy Hassinger says:

    You always make me want to see what you saw. Great writing. Thanks, Kathy

  4. Stunning story, Ted. It’s the gentile tactile force from the dancing mind of an extravagant.

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