Respondent Report: New York and Her Feminine Dexterity
March 10, 2010
After seeing many of the performances during Ralph Lemon’s Platform I get Lost I was struck by how distinctive Ralph & Juliette’s presence feels on the vision of their platforms. Of course these are the two curators and their choices and guidance affect the artists and work that shows up at Danspace, but after spending so much time in the embrace of Ralph’s platform the shift is clear. To me, Ralph’s platform was shaped by the aesthetic interest of his process and the artists he chose, an idea, a thought, or a question (or many) about creative concerns. The idea bonded them in parallel pursuits. This concern with getting lost or rather to identify the cyclical nature of a contemporary view of New York’s artistic community; continually lost and finding.
In actuality, as an audience member at the performances, I didn’t feel a sense of being lost. Perhaps the artists got lost in their creative process, but what ended up on stage was what, they found, clear, powerful, assertive and identifiable works that supported their interests in getting somewhere. (I did find moments of Judith Sanchez-Ruiz’s solo And They Forgot to Love, held moments of getting lost, showing vulnerability in front of us, particularly when she wandered into moments of improv). Perhaps Maria Hassabi and Robert Steijn’s work in April, a continuation of Ralph’s platform, will retain the lost quality in the showing of the work. Yet to be seen.
But to respond to the task at hand and the work in view, Juliette Mapp’s platform has a distinctive maternal or perhaps feminine presence and rather than unifying the artists on an aesthetic idea, the platform is shaped by a place: New York. Coming to, leaving from, returning to, being physically here yet mentally elsewhere, or rather being somewhere else physically yet your heart remains tethered to New York, this woman-like city. Maybe as Juliette is a new mother or perhaps that all of the artists presenting work during the platform are women, save David Thompson, or that we all look to New York City to hold a certain female quality, I feel a certain hopeful yet realistic openness in the platform’s vision.
Men on Wall Street exert a tremendous amount of effort to own her, real estate is fought over, neglected, loved and it is the lowest on the economic totem pole that come to hold her and support her. I hear talk of New York as a mother, as a whore, as a sister, as a girlfriend, as an old woman forgotten and left to rot, as a baby girl we want to hold, we all love her, we all know she asks more of us, to redefine who we are, to constantly move. It is this movement that attracted me first to this city and the handsome catalogue corresponding to the platform illuminates that it was a similar draw for each of the artists. But these artists however young, Jen Rosenblit moved to NYC same time I did, or Elaine Summers whose life as been in and out of New York for many decades, all know her in a different time, yet exist knowing her again and again across time.
After the first weekend of Shelly Senter and David Thomson’s work I am eager to see more. Having re-read the entire catalogue three times and studied the photos closely I have such an informed view of these artists, I can’t wait to see how viewing their work will fill in the thoughts I already have.
Shelly and David, both former Bebe Miller and Trisha Brown dancers hold a kinetic history in their bodies. Both with a tremendous amount of experience in the NY dance community and in many other communities, dance and non-dance. Both showed compelling works that made my heart soar in support of the various ways I know my New York to be. I was particularly enthralled by Shelly’s use of set and open movement structures in her piece Grey Matter. Framed by two distinctive text scores her movement and those of her fellow performers fell out of their bodies, with little effort the space between the bodies folded into the space inside the bodies. I was struck by the open movement structures that Shelly used in sections of her work. I too have come to use these in my work. It was useful for me to see them at play, to see similar successes and problems that I face of allowing openness and freedom while finding a viewpoint and not wandering into boredom. Though she, or rather the male narrator, privileges boredom to precede phases of productivity. Loved this thought!
David Thomson’s work, 1959, an autobiographical melding of personal (his and the collaborating authors: Onomé Ekeh, Glenn Ligon, Clarinda Mac Low, and Pamela Sneed) with historical implications of events in 1959, is a work that examines authorship. Much like the physical textures in Shelly’s body, David’s movements are compelling falls, lifts, arms and legs reaching out into space, like tentacles sensing the room, the temperature, how to carve into the space and express what is found. It is amazing to learn that the other dancing part in his work was to be danced by Vicki Schick. With Omagbitse Omagbemi instead, the reading of the work is tremendously different, but this is the magic of this city and of our microcosm in the dance community. That we all can live such full and dynamic lifestyles along side each other and maintain that much dexterity that Vicki and Omagbitse can both participate in a work. This dexterity is supported by the various ways in which each of the artists in the catalogue engage their feminine and creative expressions. Each with a fervor and specific attention to their situation, there is not one path, but many and many paths for one person.
I deeply value seeing both Shelly and David move, it is a wonder. That only years of personal study of the body and of living in life can give. It was a gift.