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Jennifer Lacey and Rebecca Warner in THE SET UP: I NYOMAN CATRA by Wally Cardona and Lacey, at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s River to River Festival, 120 Wall Street, 2014. Photo: Whitney Browne.

: a love letter to Jennifer Lacey


but of course it doesn/t

because of course it doesn’t


dear Jennifer—


you’ve been in my lap all week. Videos of varying qualities and lengths. It’s so cold here. I don’t know how anyone who is in frail health is actually managing. I find myself giving these little high-pitched screams when walking. I didn’t even know I could make sounds in that register.


In a week you will travel to Myanmar with Wally. I am picturing the way air moves through green and how time is on stone.


Now when I picture The Set Up it is all a jumble for me. The Armory and River to River and all those funny little interstitial office spaces (temporarily?) owned by LMCC: you and Wally and Rebecca and Silas and so many other dancers and musicians … here is something I wrote about it last year, for ARTFORUM:


The Set Up is both New York and other. This eight-part series began in 2012 at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s River to River Festival; a period of study with an international artist considered a master in his or her discipline initiates each chapter, and this third iteration launched with the classical Javanese dancer and scholar Heni Winahyuningsih. She was not present Saturday afternoon, in the dark red, wood-paneled room at the Armory, full of gorgeous spiky chandeliers and imposing portraitures that proclaim Western power. But her tradition everywhere ghosted the dance, most clearly in the curving blades of Cardona’s open palms, and then again in Riener’s ambiguously echoing limbs.


“After awhile the two princesses decide to fight,” a vocalist intoned, and Cardona and Riener had at it, in decidedly stylized fashion. Lacey whipped in and out, or sometimes sauntered, troubling their world, poking at it with her own spikey phrases.


The trouble maker is so many different things. Do you know those pieces of writing you read and then they stick with (to?) you in fragments? (At a performance the other night the ballet dancer took off her pointe shoes and little wisps of paper stuck to her feet; such frail protection.) Myriam Van Imschoot’s essay Rests in Pieces: On Scores, Notation and the Trace in Dance is one of those for me. I (probably mis-) quote it an embarrassing lot of the time. I can’t even really remember her point(s), just this notion of the mobile body archive, how dance does that. So of course The Set Up.

“I also fear the twee ( for me not you)”


you wrote to me recently in an email. yeah I guess I can see that (I mean you should fear it for me, someone should. But.) but. I don’t see that at all in your dancing.


“sweet or cute in a way that is silly or sentimental” is what the Merriam-Webster online says. (it’s worth it for the forceful male pronouncer:


also you said: “dont worry your pretty head about overviews!”

maybe you’ll regret having said that.


I think because of the precision in your dancing. Of course there is a deep silliness, at times, but it’s cut by something acidic, authoritative. Anarchic, maybe? Dunno. I hope MR will let me keep the font and formatting shifts as they are. Actually maybe they don’t add anything. Maybe they are twee. Maybe everything should justify left.

Anyway, what I love about these body archives are the different values on which they depend, different from the standard hierarchies we’re all spoon-fed. There are men downstairs in the basement pouring concrete and I can’t understand what they say when the speak English but  (and?) their own languages sound beautiful. I like the proposal you and w. (did you know I am also writing an essay about him? I think it will have to be another letter. Also also I am trying to fill out a grant application but it is making me want to die and I am told that my approach will probably not be seen as innovative [enough?]. #killme) seem to be making about repertory—how or whether you can own it, who owns what, anyway?

I also said, in that AF piece: Who owns a tradition, a technique? How can you translate it? Must you be on your knees to pay homage?

This is the generation (or is it the second generation) we are told, that doesn’t believe in masters, has done away with that idea. Hmmm. Nice try. Thankfully, and as usual, the facts on the ground tell a different story.

W. and I were just talking about this word “master,” how troublesome it is to some people, how others don’t even see it. Of course “mistress” didn’t come up.

I did see TOOL IS LOOT (all caps, yes? why all caps?) but I have to admit I don’t have a strong memory of it. Not the way I do about a lot of your work. I wonder why that is. Do I think of it as preparatory in some way? (or is that just historical rewriting) Was I just having an off audience member night? It’s probably obvious that I think of you as the island in all of this. I don’t see how we ever think we can transmit anything with any sense of fidelity. Of course I agree with Ezra Pound’s method of translation (not so much his social views). a rough translation could be the following:

I like the double (at least) entendre of the title. Doubling. I guess I see the ways in which one could interrogate the problematic nature of this series of cultural appropriations—I hate that sentence. Is there a center? Is everything mutable?

I remember hearing about you for years before I saw you dance. And always in these sort of hushed tones and because I am inclined to mulishness I was disposed to be resistant but then I saw you dance (when? In what?) and it was immediately clear that resistance was futile (uninteresting).

I guess I’ve seen only two of the set ups in full (unless the one I brought my students to adjacent to the lmcc offices was a third? I don’t think so) and I still am not entirely sure of the nature of transmission and I guess I do not on some level want to know it entirely. Or, rather, it seems beside the point, that kind of knowing. The world of the dancing is so complete, in what it shows and what it hides.

(also do you remember at ImPulsTanz when you asked me to be your nightly guest for one performance of Gattica and you gave me un petit cadeau [€100], that’s what you called it I loved that phrase I saved it and now I am writing a smutty sci-fi novel-ish and that is the title. Don’t remember what I spent the euros on. happy cameo.)


This sentence justifies right.

Actually I am not sure that I really believe your dancing is silly. (Again, the pronouncer! Again, male.) “having or showing a lack of common sense or judgment; absurd and foolish.” Hmmm. I mean, not anymore than anyone choosing to dance—actually, no, I don’t want to talk about that in this letter. Let’s just say not silly, the dancing. Something stranger, the best kind of stranger.


I could keep writing. Should I keep writing? I remember the dust in that empty LMCC office space on the ground floor, how desperately hot it was, the lines of sweat streaking you all. Moving to that little back space, as if to the inner temple. Layers upon layers of body-processed information and no one wanting to leave after. Sorry. There was an issue with playback. The lines of you and your lines slicing through the horizontal length of that windowed space and the passers by and the cell phones always now the cell phones (what are they trying to keep?).


I dunno, Jennifer. I think you are one of the great artists of our day. I guess if you want more let me know and I will add a P.S. or something. I have 123 words till I hit the limit.



clr. xlx.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 13:53

Brooklyn, nyc.



(Originally published in Movement Research Performance Journal #46)

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