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Is That All There Is – Adele Myers

August 12, 2009

Adele Myers‘ performance begins with Diana Deaver (link to excerpt on youtube) presented in a red 50’s style dress, hair brushed out and a blank face. The music begins with ‘Coin-Operated Boy’ by The Dresden Dolls
and I couldn’t help but see Deaver’s character as a doll herself. She seemed to fling herself around emotionless and, although controlled, aimlessly around the stage. Then came a brief theatrical segue of ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands,’ ending with Adele, in her own blue dress, unable to clap her hands no matter how hard she tried to force her hands together. The final section was danced to Peggy Lee’s ‘Is that all there is?’
as Adele and Diana took turns enjoying each other and then pushing away, throwing, or struggling to make their physical relationship work.

Credit: Arthur Fink Photography

Credit: Arthur Fink Photography

What struck me most about this performance was the line, “If that’s all there is, my friends, then we’ll just keep on dancing.’ Although tinged with self-aware desperation any sense of sarcasm is buried below the feelings of helplessness portrayed by the dancers. Both songs and dances tell a joke that is not funny but bring the audience into a greater depth of that feeling. It’s impossible to cut oneself off from something that is already trying to detach itself.

I didn’t feel completely taken by the dances, however. The first dance, performed to a song I had already heard several years ago, reminded me a bit of competition dancing where the words dictate the movement and the only thing that saved it was Diana’s blank face and total mastery of her movement. It lacked abstraction (unless of course it was about abortion or political strife in the middle east, in which case I just didn’t get it) and that left me wanting more, but it was mesmerizing to watch. The second peice was haunting in the sense that it made me delve into my own life. At times, I myself feel disappointed with life’s thrills and the only thrill that has kept me for so long is dancing. I would be shocked to find that Adele did not at least think of this notion when she was choreographing this piece, but I couldn’t imagine why she would revel in such depression when dancing and choreographing can be just the opposite.

On the other hand, I am sure the piece is much more than just about her personal strife. Maybe it is about the 50’s era gender norms and search for perfection and stability becoming completely irrelevant and misleading in today’s culture. How trying to capture that perfection will just lead to a greater disappointment or resigning oneself to love a programmed robot. Or maybe it is to show that no matter how happy one tries to become, life is a series of disappointing and unsatisfying thrills.

What did you think of the piece and the experience you had watching it?

What other artists/works have you seen that use satirical jazz and pop music/costumes and what do you think of them?

Where do you see pitfalls and where do you see genius?

Do you own a 50’s style dress and how do you feel when you wear it?

To read about her upcoming work check out her posts at the Bates Dance Festival blog.

Different Voices, August 7th, 2009
Schaeffer Theatre, Bates Dance Festival
Bates College, Lewiston, Maine

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Beanie permalink
    September 9, 2009 9:25 pm

    Good writin’, Dancesihaveseen -keep it up!

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