Blog #5 by Jenn Joy. Final posting by Platform 2010 dramaturg-in-residence.
November 5, 2010
Panel discussion for Para-dice (Stage 1) with Patricia Hoffbauer, George Emilio Sanchez, André Lepecki, Randy Martin, and May Joseph (Wednesday, 27 October 2010)
Para-dice (Stage 1), Patricia Hoffbauer (2010)
The Adventure Performs The Adventure? (2010)
What is the choreographic role of the critical audience member?
What is the critical role of the choreographic audience member?
What is the critical choreographic role of the audience member?
I have to keep rereading the paper I have been handed because I cannot remember which of these questions I am supposed to answer. Or what the differences between these questions might be. Asked to form two concentric circles in the center of the sanctuary, we leave our seats and stand facing each other. We are instructed to discuss: What is the choreographic role of the critical audience member? I speak with one person and then shift to the next, to the next, to the next. The answers vary in interest, indifference, curiosity: it is about taking up and holding space, it is about witnessing, it is about showing up, I don’t know I just came with my friend. And yet, as I continue to reflect on this question, it seems to me that the critical choreographic role resides in each audience member’s ability to exit. To walk out of the sanctuary through the double closed doors and gates, beyond the insularity of this beautiful space to the street and somehow to imagine difficulties and joy in these other spaces as well. For me it is a dramaturgy of exit.
One of conditions that Trajal Harrel’s platform certain difficulties, certain joy questioned through its situating of performances in St. Mark’s Church that would not easily fit within the architecture or production protocols was the distance between the interiority and exterior, between the quite literal sanctuary of the church and events outside. What does it mean for Pâquerette to be performed the same week that a candidate in Delaware is speaking out against masturbation? What does it mean that DD Dorvillier’s opening statement proclaims an affinity with the strikers in Paris? Or that as May Joseph reminds us during the Wednesday night panel, that Peter Stuyvesant, the last director assigned by the Dutch East India company to New Amsterdam working at the same time that the Dutch were landing in Brazil, is buried here in the same place that Patricia Hoffbauer performs Para-dice (Stage 1). Or as André Lepecki and Randy Martin remind us while discussing Hoffbauer’s work: we are at war yet there are no visible bodies.
These historical and contemporary convergences constantly interrupt the performances and conversations initiated in certain difficulties, certain joy arguing for a thinking about the labor of dance-making, dance-watching, dancing as critical practices. We are invited to participate in dance as pedagogy and as politics, if we desire.
And so it seems important that the final performance stages a kind of paradise or Para-dice (Stage 1). And perhaps unlike utopia, a placeless place, paradise imagines a momentary situation, a taking place. And yet, as Lepecki explains during the Wednesday evening panel, the word in Portuguese also contains a pejorative meaning related to stillness or an inability to go anywhere or produce anything.
Para-dice (Stage 1) opens as Jodi Melnick gets up from the audience claims she is a close friend of the choreographers and then reads notes they have prepared for her. She talks about the show we are about to sit through and asks how we will think about the gap between performance—audience—meaning. She returns to her seat. The performers enter separately carrying suitcases and cords and a table that create disparate spaces on the stage—tiled floor, kitchen table, lecture podium, and piles of scattered cords disconnected from any source.
When describing the work during the panel discussion, Hoffbauer explains that Para-dice (Stage 1) began with movement in the studio. Paradise initiated by dancing that combines an inflected version of Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A, coordinates from an opt-quoted, oft-viewed video of Merce Cunningham’s company on youtube, and the sexier partnerings of something approaching samba. All of this dancing happens against the backdrop of a collage of grainy black and white images taken from films by Glauber Rocha (edited by Peter Richards). The work is narrated or perhaps interrupted by Hoffbauer’s lecture spoken sometimes from behind the music stand podium and at other moments while dancing or with her mouth bound by a cord.
She speaks in sentences that become fragments: Cinema Nova…Godard…Truffault…Entranced Earth…allegory of the encounter…teach me to…physicality as theory… Audrey Hepburn not Audre Lorde…Whose point of view?…Forgetting… Is this just about dance?
Para-dice (Stage 1) is a performance that is difficult to watch; there is always too much to see and whatever you are looking at is soon interrupted by a different mode. As I watch the video, Hoffbauer and Peggy Gould perform Trio A in translucent raincoats amplifying the sound of their hands slapping plastic, creating an opaque shifting surface for the projection; history transposed on moving form. Randy Martin speaks of these moments as a kind of “delamination” of image, but also as a conceptual and perhaps political force that undoes the legibility and legitimacy of each of the separate elements.
It is an intentionally convoluted dramaturgy as the duets between Hoffbauer and Gould confuse what is happening between George Emilio Sanchez and Elisa Osborne. Sanchez and Osborne strip off pants suits, coats and wigs and walk to the edge of the audience in bathing suits and then she begins to shave his legs. From the podium Hoffbauer states: If narrative is power is it any wonder whose narratives are visible?… questions don’t beg, people do. And as if in response Sanchez interrupts: see me feel me touch me eat me chew me…
So it is not only about convoluting the multiple and conflicting narratives and histories imaged on stage, but also calling attention to how these narratives have been (and continue to be) consumed and by whom and to what end. Mining not only the images, but also the strategies of political artists working in Brazil, there is a cannibalistic tendency at work, a contemporary use of antropofagia.
If part of the curatorial force of the platform was to think about choreography as sculpture, as object relations, and as language, Para-dice (Stage 1) offers the most aggressive and messy assemblage and this is its power. Or rather the labor happening on stage is less about assembling and closer to dissembling. Speaking at the panel, Martin virtuosically cited a history of Western dance pointing to its collusion with sovereign power and with military imperative as the regimentation of steps. Against this particular history of Western dance, Para-dice (Stage 1) begins to acknowledge these kinds of affiliations and “double economies.” Giving voice to the muted ballerina (or samba dancer) who labors not only on stage but also off stage and outside the back door. These multiple and interrupted forms of dancing counter-pose passion, theory, erotics, history, foreignness, physicality so that we are certainly confused and productively so.