The Performance Club

APAP Dispatch No. 2: American Realnessing (I and II)

Logo of sorts for the Bureau for the Future of Choreography’s “Flowchart Project.” Photo: Siobhan Burke

By Siobhan Burke

I. Notes to self after Jeanine Durning’s inging:

When you are standing again at the kitchen counter, scraping the honey out of the jar, waiting for signs that the water has boiled, wondering who ate the honey (most likely it was actually just you), listening without knowing to the traffic a block or two or three away, thinking that you are not thinking, realizing (will the novelty ever wear off) that this, itself, is a thought—you are inging.

When you are plotting your route from A to B (and really, when are you not?)—you are inging.

When you are “doing” and “doing not-doing,” and reading about “doing” and “doing not-doing,” and deciding whether to cite your source or just link to the PDF, because proper nouns have a way of interrupting (maybe that’s why Jeanine turned the spines of the books away from us, the fortress of knowledge anonymous, anchoring her miraculous task of non-stop talking once she’d started, except for Beckett’s The Unnamable, which she propped up on the table, don’t worry I haven’t read it either)—you are inging.

When you are awaiting that incoming message, and that other incoming message; when you are reaching for the phone so that you can place the phone out of your reach: this, too, is inging.

When you look back and assess the adequacy thus far, you are inging. (Sometimes it would be OK to make a joke or two, says your older sibling, who’s got six years of inging on you.)

Before you angle your knees to the right to face the window instead of the wall—and after that, and, you guessed it, during—you are inging.

Jeanine Durning in her work “inging,” part of the American Realness festival at Abrons Art Center. Photo: Ian Douglas.

We tend to worship endings and beginnings, she insisted (while subsisting, exhausted, without the sip of water, because if she drank, “the circle would break,” and our well-earned trust would dissipate). But what about the middle, where “in front of a future self . . . you are standing in the middle of yourself . . . still standing even though you thought you were going to sit down . . . and I’m not really comfortable with a certain amount of opacity . . . what’s in the middle?”—with the infinite inging, the never not inging, the was, is, has been, always will be inging.


II. How inging is your dance?

In Jeanine’s words (assuming those words in the American Realness catalogue are hers): “inging is a dance of the mind, moving in the continuous present . . . All at once inside and outside, past and present, present and future . . . inging is a being doing and a doing being and becoming.”

I think that some dances are more inging than others. Tere O’Connor’s poem is one of the inging-est dances I’ve ever seen. What I mean is, when you watch it, you feel as if you’re in it; not outside looking in, but swimming around inside of what he has called an “agreed-upon hallucination.”

I’m reminded of something that someone (I think it was Bill Young) said at an “interrogation” (an open rehearsal, with unusually stimulating conversation) of poem. To the effect of, “It’s just happening, it’s happening, it’s happening, it’s happening and you’re not really thinking, or interpreting, you’re just happening with it.”

You’re in, and you don’t want to get out. Its continuous present is your continuous present. It takes some effort to extract yourself—like placing yourself on the sidelines, or breaking a trance—for long enough to write: “The low piano provokes the devotional flapping.” Or, “Forests, safaris in the sound. The shallow arabesques into the pedaling steps with the blossoming arms.” Or, “Heather always looks like she is smiling.” Or, “Natalie’s penetrating gaze, her pout.” Or, “Oisin comes under inspection. Other four, wringing out the space.”

Some dances are not quite as inging. Take, for example, Trajal Harrell’s Antigone Sr., which happened in the same place just 63 hours earlier. It’s not that it’s not inging at all (that’s impossible). Just that, while you’re inging over here, it’s busy inging over there, a catwalk in slow motion, filling out its epic proportions at a resplendently languid pace, like they might have done before the common era.

Rob Fordeyn, Stephen Thompson, Ondrej Vidlar in Trajal Harrell’s “Antigone Sr.” Photo: Ian Douglas.

“We are—taking our time,” croons the coy, tunicked couple (men or women?) who declare that they are everything, from Marc by Marc Jacobs to the Fiscal Cliff. Sometimes your ingings align, like when the lights go off—after the disclaimers, “this is meant for bigger stages,” and the harrowed Hit Me Baby, the “house anthem” as they call it—and the artist-diva chants into the heavy, heavy dark: “There’s an icon in the house, give me face in the house . . . The House of Thebes is in the house . . . The house is in the house.”  (The house, Jeanine might say, is in the middle of the house.) At moments like these, subsumed by the acoustics and the rhythms, you sink into the temporal collision of Harlem (1963), Judson Church, and Sophoclesand forget about your own.

“I am safe from life, I am already dead,” the Grecian voguers, sinewy branches of a splintered family tree, were chantinginginginging. And on the way out, amused by the overlapping circles where dance occupies the intersection between life and death, you wonder: does inging end when I do? Do we keep on inging even after we’re gone?


Siobhan Burke writes for The Brooklyn Rail, The New York Times and Dance Magazine, where she is an associate editor.




  1. Siobhan
    January 15, 2013

    Logistical addendum! American Realness continues through Sunday at the Abrons Arts Center. And here’s where you can get tickets and such.

  2. Name *
    January 15, 2013

    Dear Siobhan, this is a very pleasing read.

  3. Siobhan
    January 20, 2013

    Dear *, thank you. If you are in New York, I hope you get to see Jeanine Durning’s work (there are two more shows tomorrow, Sunday).

  4. Counter Critic
    February 16, 2013

    Loving, thinging, …

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