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This article was written on 10 Apr 2012, and is filed under Guest Writers.

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Reflections on an All Day Event

Okwui Okpokwasili. Photo: Ian Douglas.

By Aynsley Vandenbroucke

I tiptoe into the sanctuary at one-thirty, join fellow parishioners of art. In the silence, my mind feels loud.  The hour for each improvising performer invites me to slow down, see horizontally; theta waves float throughout the space, drawing out ideas and focus.

I’m pretty sure, and sad, that I’ve missed Ralph Lemon, conceiver of this day. Video images of his performance and others appear and disappear apparition-like on a side wall throughout the event.

The day feels dedicated to that most ephemeral (even in a field based on disappearance) place between creation and performance.  The performers may be disguised but, to me, in their commitment and rough-edged sharing, they are naked.  The day is generous. In this open place, we audience members and artists build a community together.  Separate performances echo one another across space and time.

Nari Ward has installed rolling, interactive sculptures throughout Danspace.  The work he has made to mark the end of Parallels, this Platform exploring the idea of black dance, is silver. It’s like he has wrapped delicate tinfoil on a ladder to the ceiling, dressed up an almost wheelbarrow, an almost wheelchair, an almost lawn chair.  James Hannaham wears a bear suit, headphones in ears.  He meanders through space.  Sings.  Lies on lawn chair.  Gets up.  Goes one direction.  Tries another.  Sits in wheelchair.  As he moves it forward, silver unravels from the wheels, flashy entrails spread out along the floor.

He accidentally spills water, pushes it into a pile that has become, in his invented world, the leftover don’t-know-what-to-do-with-it detritus pile.  Two hours later Omagbitse Omagbemi wipes her hands.  She found the water.

She builds a meticulous diagonal across the space, lines up objects.  Structure satisfies me and, I think, her. When she first entered the space with her head covered and I got chills, I wondered if she was the eleven-year-old I’d heard would perform.  Soon it is clear, even without seeing her face, that the fluid grounding and clarity in this dancer is no eleven- year- old.  She moves, curled in and small, until she is no longer small.

The space is expanding and condensing with the feeling of grown–ups at work, which, in this case, is really play. Smart, intuitive makers Occupy st. marks. Even when I leave briefly for lunch, I am aware of the performers still working in the church.  I am moved thinking about artists who create in hidden corners of this city every day.

Souleymane Badolo, radiating that magnetic smile, inviting us in… I’ve been waiting for this. (Actually, I’ve been dying to get up onstage.  It’s alright to eat lunch and know people are working but sometimes it’s even better to do the work yourself.) Solo gets people clapping, laughing.  He calls up the very special Dahlia, age 5, and dances with her.  He is this gem in a hoody. Something tugs on my mind.  It is the news, Trayvon Martin.

I lean forward to see Jim Findlay’s projections of words floating on the ceiling. They describe the invisible.  I lean back and they disappear.

Plastic tubing tied to her nipples and around her neck, face painted silver white, Okwui Okpokwasili lies on the lawn chair, figure of death.  Vocal warm ups start low in her pelvis and snake up.  This liberating of her voice gives me an unbearable urge to join in.  When she gets to the sound “Maa” a little child in the front row does.  Each time she makes the sound, his tiny voice echoes her, changing pitch as she does.  It becomes a duet across the space, resonant voice and tiny echo, together playing with that word that often comes first.  It is sublime, no warm-up.

Danspace Project speeds towards The End.  It vibrates, alive with increasing presence.

David Thomson. Photo: Ian Douglas.

David Thomson. Black high heels, black latex mask, gauzy white dress hiding nothing of his underneath naked body.  He faces Okwui, offers her a glass of water. He moves fluid and stalking, his face and mask pour sweat.  He pulls his skirt and bends over as James Brown sings, “let it all hang out.”

At seven-fifteen, I sneak out of the theater for another commitment. I feel literal pain that I’ll miss Ishmael Houston-Jones, father of this eight-week Platform. I do not want to leave this magically, mundanely, human, alive and vibrating space before I am done.

Words and performers, audiences (and platforms) come and go.

Isn’t that the truth.

The end.

 

Aynsley Vandenbroucke is a choreographer and co-founder/ co-curator of Mount Tremper Arts.   She is also obsessed with the art of teaching Introduction to Movement and Dance at Princeton University.

2 Comments

  1. [...] Performance Club: Reflections on An All Day Event [...]

  2. [...] the yearlong graduate level certificate program.  Her writing on dance has been published in The Performance Club, The Brooklyn Rail, and Movement Research Performance Journal. She graduated in 1999 from North [...]

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