The smell of nail polish remover.
The smell of defeat, failure, giving in, remembering that if you don’t make yourself presentable you might as well starve to death. You’re doing this to yourself, you know.
The smell of the waiting room outside the small dance studios, concrete floors and tiled hallways. The push and pull of the white plastic seats and the difficulty of keeping your math books in your lap as you try to finish the homework in between jazz and hip hop, wondering if you’ll ever make senior competition, wondering if you’ll ever dance after high school.
That moment when in college, before knowing the privilege of a family who could afford dance classes, before realizing your parents never meant for your extra curricular to amount to anything, before the odd dispassionate responses from your dance professors, before you met the people you looked up to from the audience, when you decided you found that thing that made you feel like living.
You want to dance? Well fuck you. Art is a competition and you know damn well that you don’t have the strength. You wanted to look like him. You wanted to make sure you followed the path exactly as it was intended. You studied the material, you took the test, you got passing marks and now you want a reward. Well you don’t get one. That’s not how it works. You weren’t the object they were looking for. A discarded toy. A disposable fragile little thing. This was written before you ever decided to audition in college.
But there’s good news.
You don’t want to be that object in constant need of validation that it exists. A paint brush held by an indifferent authoritarian painter.
I can’t tell you what you should do. If you keep looking for directions you’ll find plenty of crowded well-worn paths.
Just keep going.
This is the fucking dance.
You are the fucking dancer.
Some commentators believe that hypomania actually has an evolutionary advantage.
As the darkness on the stage fades, one spot remains deeply shadowed as it forms Allison Jones’ body. The music begins as her body writhes. Each section of her body: neck, torso, pelvis, legs moves with separate yet continuous motion.
Scanner – Insulation Mix (after G.F. Handel’s Messiah)
People with hypomania are generally perceived as being energetic, euphoric, visionary, overflowing with new ideas, and sometimes over-confident and very charismatic, yet—unlike those with full-blown mania—are sufficiently capable of coherent thought and action to participate in everyday activities. Like mania, there seems to be a significant correlation between hypomania and creativity.
She looks out, acknowledging your presence. Then her gaze moves inward, her knees move toward each other in an awkward bend, her torso and pelvis reach for each other, in, individual, inherent, innate, inside, interior, internal, intimate, intrinsic, intuitive, inward.
People experiencing hypomania are often the “life of the party.”
They may talk to strangers easily, offer solutions to problems, and find pleasure in small activities. Such advantages may render them unwilling to submit to treatment, especially when disadvantages are minimal.
Only to burst out once again.
Pangaea – Neurons
This is not merely a dance entitled Hypomaniac, you are watching one: the performer and the choreographer. The dancer and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance and the dance.
Is this art or is this hypomania?
If you enjoy this dance, do you have a clinical disease to investigate?
Who brought all these party hats?
I don’t remember bringing all these party hats?
How did I even get to this party?
Why does this party feel like I’m writing a blog post?
The Current Sessions: Vol I, Issue I
August 8th, 2011
The Wild Project
New York, NY
Arturo Vidich, wearing a white blindfold, stands with his back to the audience. A column of white light shines down diagonally across the floor and lands on his back. From the door way emitting this light, Ishmael Houston-Jones’ shadow enters and he follows. Coming close to Arturo he begins a soft and leading duet of simple touches, pushing his body through shapes. From behind, Jeremy Pheiffer enters and takes over where Ishmael has left to watch in the distance. Arturo tumbles in Jeremy’s arms, at one point dropping his much larger body completely over Jeremy’s knee, floating in his controlled embraced.
Ishmael returns once the two have parted and begins a solo dance. It has been almost 25 years since the first performance but his body still moves with wonderful grace and intention. He grabs his crotch, feels his skin and speaks of masturbation, of self-pleasure. Felix Cruz and Niall Noel begin their own dance of pleasure. Although intention is skewed and it is difficult to see when the movement is beyond that of momentary improvisation, the boys cascade on and over each other often rubbing groins and backsides together. They don’t acknowledge each other’s presence except as bodies to touch and push and fall onto. Their only purpose is to continue touching.
Jeremy returns with a large wooden plank and a pocket full of coins. As he faces away, the light creating an obscured façade, he tosses each into the air and cracks them beyond the light. A man stands with a microphone lit offstage and reads a seemingly unending list of deaths and how they occurred. At first they are suicides, then accidental overdoses, diseases, old age and finally when a boy meets another man for sex, heavily suggesting a death by AIDS we are told that as he calls his friend for a ride from a phone booth, a blood vessel in his brain explodes. Upon hearing this, the lights flash on, a loud crash is heard and all of the boys careen onstage, chasing each other around the room at full speed and with violent athleticism.
They pause in a formation facing the upstage diagonal corner. The reader begins again to speak this time of himself. He talks of boys and sex and happiness as the formation moves slowly across the stage. These boys touch each other, sometimes suggestively sexual, sometimes suggestively romantically, but always with an air of detachment. Although they look at and approach each other there is a constant lack of interest or expectation of anything the other boys are doing.
At one point, a line of light creates a strip along the edge of the stage. Niall and Enrico D. Wey stand at either end and begin walking slowly toward each other. They look at each other with mild interest and Niall has a glint of distant sadness in his eyes. As they walk they pause at each other than begin walking past as if deciding to move on, only to turn around and begin the walk again. This encounter becomes faster and faster until they are running full speed at and away from each other, Niall inadvertently kicking my feet and bag as I sit just off stage in his path. They finish with a struggle up against the wall, each trying to pin the other and press their bodies together.
Later Jeremy returns to chase Felix with his wooden plank, coming close to smacking and injuring him several times. He passes the plank to Joey Cannizzaro who lands on a mattress which Niall has brought on stage. He slams the wood on the springs again and again sending the loud smacks out into the air. Each strike as hard as the last, he finally falls over in exhaustion. The mattress is used again as Joey sits casually at one end while Niall pushes Jacob Slominski onto his back into the mattress. Niall helps Jacob stand back up and repeats the process for a seemingly eternal cycle. The final use of the mattress comes as the blindfolded Arturo enters again while Jeremy follows with a goat folded around his neck. Arturo sits on the mattress and the goat is handed to him as the smell of barn and the realization that the goat is dead fills the room.
Arturo takes the goat and begins to hold it close to him as he tumbles on the mattress, he flops the goat’s head around and pushes himself on it. It becomes clear that he is making love to the lifeless goat. It might seem that this love making, which lasts longer than most would find comfortable, was some sort of avant-garde tool to shock the audience. However, with the common theme of sex, death and a hinting of AIDS, it would be difficult to find a better way to convey this troubling concept without such a disturbing image. The goat is a very beautiful soft creature. It is cute and innocent and if it had been alive, this dance would have conjured images of a young simple love. But the goat is dead. It is lifeless and the man is too blind to see it. The young simple love is actually deadly play. One can not help but feel transported to the bedside of a young couple having sex, one with HIV and the other without, they don’t know it and it must be viewed with terrifying proximity and in silent disbelief. The duet ends as a sheet is pulled over the couple. They don’t move for the rest of the piece and everyone knows that the noxious barn smell is filling the lungs of the sheeted man.
The final moments include the cast coming out into the light and staring off into distance. They look as though seeing themselves in the mirror and feeling their lymph nodes. They seem to be checking for swelling, the sign of an infection. Jeremy comes again, this time grabbing each boy in turn and wrestling them until they are still on the floor. Niall stands closest to me, feeling the node under his arm pit as the last boy standing. Jeremy walks slowly to his final victim as the darkness takes the entire scene away before it can be fully realized.
For someone who has just moved to New York City and as a newcomer to the dance community here, it is difficult to really grasp its history. The generation before my own found itself reeling from an unknown virus killing many people who contributed greatly to dance among all of the other many art forms. This was also the generation where homosexuality wasn’t remotely as acceptable as it is now. The gay community was neither defined nor understood and the mysterious virus infiltrated where it only caused greater confusion. Although HIV and AIDS are still very much prevalent it is much more understood and less deadly after medicines were created to fight it. The dance community and all of the arts will never know what has been lost not only in lives but in contributions to the art. A whole community was dwindled down and my generation will never truly know what that was like or have that knowledge in our conscience in the way that the creators of this piece do. Even the dancers who performed this work recently cannot do it justice. The original piece was performed by dancers who were there and who were speaking about their current experience. The new dancers can only perform and hope that what was said could still be heard. As I watched Niall at the end I wanted to snap my fingers and have him look at me just so I could know that he was here and he was himself. The performers were speaking about such intimate subjects but they were not speaking about themselves and in this sense the entire dance had a strange layer of distancing and I couldn’t reach a place where I felt truly affected.
I am not fully sure if it was because of this new generation that this was how I felt. Even during the relaying of how the list of people died, it felt as though the depictions of death were more interesting or morbid than real. In the monologues, the speaker was both self-conscious but with a mythical touch. He spoke of the men he wanted to be or of the man he had become as an almost theatrical depiction. And although the goat dance was shocking and illuminating it still did not talk of itself in a real way. I have seen HIV depicted else where but mostly in the same theatrics. Whether it is Rent or Angels in America HIV has felt like a character and less like a disease. Perhaps these examples are theater and therefor should not be criticized for not feeling ‘real,’ but maybe these depictions are so common because it is much easier to discuss these topics from a distance and with layers of mysticism then to take off the outer layer and feel the true reality underneath. The creators of THEM did not set out to make a dance about HIV or homosexuality but the common thread of violence, death, seclusion, confusion, and love all combine within this piece and discussing one can’t help give insite into the others.
How did you react to the goat duet?
Were you disturbed by the violence through out the piece?
Have you seen other dances that depict or nod to HIV or AIDS?
Did you ever yearn for the sting of wet towels in the boy’s locker room?
October 28th, 2010
New York, NY
A soft light opens and Carly Berret walks casually forward and to the floor. She sits and gazes up into a perceptible sunlight. A soft song fills the atmosphere and she moves calmly yet deliberately. Three more dancers begin moving just off stage as she exits stage left. They all face across the room and move in unison, with arms or legs shifting directions all with an air of simplicity. They gradually move across the floor shifting in and out of unison as each one turns to face backward or go on to a separate phrase. The sound of airplanes comes careening from above and fades away. Their outfits are pale, brown, grey and blue, with shorts and straps, relaxed and overly large. They evoke images of young children of earlier decades and pilots when flying was adventurous. The movement becomes quicker and they take turns covering the space, finding each other and moving along. Until finally settling with the darkened room.
Did you feel a calm and perceptible atmosphere?
Were you drawn in to the sounds of planes overhead?
Did you see the dancers as children or as images of something else?
Are you awake?
October 22nd, 2010
New York, NY
A lone woman casually walks from stage right to the center of the floor. Wearing black, she clasps her hands behind her back, and slowly bends forward until her long hair, pulled into a pony tail, falls gracefully down her back. One at a time the rest of the dancers walk over, place themselves close to each other and repeat the movement. Each flash of falling hair seemingly drops on its own accord as Nicholas Shaneyfelt’s fingers nimbly dance across the piano keys to Mad Rush composed by Philip Glass.
Mad Rush – Philip Glass (Performed by Aleck Karis)
Later the dancers in little black dresses walk as a crowd going in various directions and constantly cut each other off. But among the walking figures, here and there, a dancer steps out and begins her short phrase, obscured every so often by the pedestrians, only to join them and become lost once more in the streams of bodies.
The dance continues with short segments of duos and trios but imperceptibly comes back once more to the walking mass. A familiar series of solo dance phrases emerges. Although it is difficult to really grasp in its entirety, there is the feeling that this exact moment has happened before in the dance. Before knowing for sure, the moment has already passed. As the music slows again, the dancers end their dancing in a discernibly similar formation as the beginning. Only this time, the torso begins bent over and the dancers rise one at a time to leave the stage walking backward. The last woman curls herself straight, looks at the audience and walks regressively to where she began as Nicholas strikes the last key.
Did you feel a sense of Déjà Vu while watching this dance?
Have you seen other dances which make use of a large number of dancers?
Do you see potential in these emerging choreographers?
How beautiful is Philip Glass’ music?
Perceptions Contemporary Dance Festival
September 18th, 2010
Manhattan Movement & Arts Center
New York, NY
Note: Pictures are from dress rehearsal without makeup and costumes.
Paul Singh stands in a spot light facing close to the audience on stage right. A man’s voice speaks casually, ‘gasp.’ His shaved head lurches back, arms crossing forward, a loud sharp inhalation emits into the space. This is followed by an ‘evil chuckle.’ Paul changes suit immediately, and the space seems to transform with him. With nonchalance, the voice continues providing more commands and Paul accepts them with believable deliverance. Soon, three more dancers consecutively add on, in assorted costumes, and join him in his responses.
Billy, Wait! – Paul Singh & Others
The voice changes course to various observations about unknown characters as the strange people on stage begin to dance. Jessica Martineau’s bloody bandages clash with Courtney Drasner’s gagged mouth, flopping handcuffs and a shirt pronouncing ‘Don’t Ask.’ Anne Merrick’s makeup is awkwardly smeared and Paul constantly trails a cloud of dust. Although the characters are dressed differently, they are often in unison bringing the dancers into a strange yet fitting little group.
Even though the voices begin to overlap in a seemingly nonsensical way, the bits of information, convoluted as they are, begin to feel as though coming from within the dancers themselves. Who is Billy? No one in particular but rather a conglomeration of the many emotions the dancers are feeling in this stage of their lives. There is a real sense of ‘this moment in time’ as the piece unfolds. The voice is commanding the dancers and they respond in the moment and later it shouts and the dancers immediately stop what they are doing. So when the voice begins to talk about ‘the many moments it will take you to come back,’ ‘I want you to stay lost,’ ‘don’t be so obvious’ and many more, it is as though the dancers are talking to themselves and to the audience and at times trying desperately to confuse both so as not to give too much of themselves away. This piece is not overtly about anything, but there is a real subconscious underlying atmospheric presence of a choreographer and dancers speaking about their current lives and their pursuit toward honest artistic expression.
Have you seen other dances that use text in this way?
Did you relate to any of the vocal suggestions?
Do you know of other works that seem self-reflexive?
What was it that Billy always said?
DanceNOW [NYC] Festival 2010
September 11th, 2010
Dance Theater Workshop
New York, NY
Denise Posnak steps from down stage left toward center stage wearing yellow from head to toe. Anne Sexton’s gravely aged voice rasps from overhead with her well known poem, Her Kind.
Her Kind – Anne Sexton (text)
Basked in yellow light, her face and hands now glinting canary, Denise begins her dance. Standing, wobbling on one foot, she struggles to gain her balance. One wonders for only a short time of her technical ability. She finds her footing and now, fully grounded on her left leg, she circles her right foot in a long strikingly clear rond de jambe. Her toes reach for the space just inches from her physical length. She is strong yet awkward and unable to fully engage in her strength, a constant battle to find her root.
The Ambition Bird – Anne Sexton (text)
Her struggles begin to reach for the air with jumps and leaps and although she leaves the ground her breath is an audible gasp. She is not enjoying her flight but trying desperately to keep up with her own body. Then again, a calm attempt at another grounding. She is neither sufficiently able to engage with the air nor find a stable connection with the earth. Instead, she is trapped somewhere in between freedom and security.
Music Swims Back To Me – Anne Sexton (text)
As the dance comes to a close, Denise exhibits more and more of the bird she resembles. Her torso and head bobs up and down like the iconic top-hatted stork whose red watery insides control its drinking and later her hands flutter like small wings. Perhaps she is The Ambition Bird that Anne speaks of, keeping her up at night and which no hot cocoa can quell. A woman struggling against her societal role, rejected for rejecting, trapped in asylum, yet basked in a yellow light of ambition and listening to the swimming music, hoping desperately to come out above it all.
Have you seen other dances about the role of women?
Do you read poems by Anne Sexton or similar poets?
Have you felt this sense of desperation and hope based on your gender?
Does drinking hot cocoa help you fall asleep?
Audio was found here.
DanceNOW [NYC] Festival 2010
September 11th, 2010
Dance Theater Workshop
New York, NY