In The Awkward Age
October 22, 2014
“I overheard Wanda on a sunny day in Washington Square Park in 1980. A pretty brown teenage girl wearing a sweater. Sitting on a bench recounting a story to another young girl, similarly dressed. I was seated next to them concealing a tape recorder.
I taped Wanda’s lightly voiced confession, about beating and robbing a drunk homeless man. A kind of recreation. A man she knew and who knew her well enough to know her name.
Later, I would often dance in a studio here and there, listening, moving to Wanda’s recorded story. A kind of recreation. (It was either that music or it was Phillip Glass or Chopin.)
In 1982 Cynthia Hedstrom invited me to perform at Danspace. I invited Chris Hyams-Hart and Dan Froot to play their saxophones, lying on their backs in the middle of the wood-floor sacred space. The musicians stayed in place I did not. I improvised between the prone saxophones in the dark mostly to the right of the space, that’s what Cynthia remembers. I don’t remember improvising in mostly the right of the space. I do remember the dark. I remember never falling. I remember imagining that I was a girl who had an anxious life. And how danger caves into dignity. I wore a green skirt. Throughout this simple construct Wanda’s taped voice, obscured by saxophones and elevated space, echoed up into the church’s ceiling. Her first performance.
In later versions of Wanda in the Awkward Age I began to fall. The sound also changed. (I borrowed “The Awkward Age” from Henry James.)
Recently at Danspace, I invited Volcy-Marie Pelleitier and Carlos Arevalo to accompany Wanda in the Awkward Age with a Berlioz song, cello and voice. A song about how passion can destroy. Only that music. While I only partly improvised in a pool of light, pretending I was in Carol Mullins’ backyard, wearing a different but similar green skirt. The musicians stayed in place I did not. I had lost the recording of Wanda’s festive description of her robbery and crime long ago.“
-Ralph Lemon, 1999