February 25, 2015
A dance dialogue: Kaitlyn Gilliland and Will Rawls sit opposite each other and read lines from text messages. A projector screen facing them comes on and off at their command, bearing screenshots or emojis or their photographs. Their voices float in the room. Loud and clear, it seems a repertoire of several intimate months. Once, before Claudia La Rocco paired them, they were unknown to each other.
I sit there thinking: “I want to write in this place where distance becomes desire.”
The desire I see is the desire to read the mind of a dancing body. They are dancing through language. Watchers become listeners.
What would happen if dancers appear on stage like actors rehearsing a play—the deliberate off-handedness, a room inhabited as if without an audience. What would happen if words are passed from mouth to mouth, and while in motion they become poised and affectionate—the affection of knowing your partner first as a mind, then a body.
Listening to them I am overcome by despair. Are these friends or lovers or intimate strangers? Is intimacy collateral to dance?
All day I have been harboring a sentence in my mind. “Desire seemed to bring with it a pathos of distance and separation which it was futile to deny.” The story behind this sentence, in Waiting for the Barbarians, is of an old magistrate oiling the deformed legs and ankles of a partially blind young girl. She is a barbarian, and the magistrate works for the civilized Empire. I know – I think I know – what the magistrate fears. He is older, and cannot tell if what he feels for the girl is love, because when he is with her, he is ineffably irritable.
Desire bears distance as its shadow. How much affection is sufficient for “the best kind of fake” date, as Gilliland and Rawls call their dialogue? The desire and intimacy is embodied by Emojis, object-like characters used in electronic communication, or electronic figurines used in the Gilliland-Rawls exchange as emotional (even critical) emissaries—maybe virtual technology is the best kind of fake. (I hear Apple is introducing racially diverse Emojis. I am not entirely comforted by this news. All technology is “neither value-free nor ethnically neutral.”)
And the pathos I feel, a nervousness bordering on despair, is the fear that once the dialogue is staged, its intimacies fizzle into the ears of the amused audience, ungraspable.
Silas Riener’s costume fits closely, but it shields the potential of a bare body. It is a cold night in a room warmed by the audience’s heat. Light falls with increasing severity. Soon the lights would recede, the sound of landing feet and hurried breath gone. And in the eye of the onlooker a body arching and twisting and stretching disappears. Sometimes my eye would twitch in recollection of the near-impossible ways Riener had put his body to use. At the moment of recollection, I would feel that in a stage set in my mind a blinding light has been cast. There shadows dissemble.
This is the trick of a dancing body. It never really disappears.
The dancing body of Adrian Danchig-Waring isn’t here. He has been paired with Riener, and they have spent time together at the Baryshnikov Arts Center and Bard’s Fisher Center for the Arts. Danchig-Waring has danced several ballets choreographed by Balanchine. I am told Riener has learnt some parts of Balanchine’s Agon, and the performance was informed by it.
In 1959 Edwin Denby wrote a response to Agon: “The subject is shown…by an amusing identity in the action, which is classic dancing shifted into a ‘character’ style by a shift of accentuation. The shift appears, for example, in the timing of transitions between steps or within steps, the sweep of an arm position, in the walk, in the funniness of feats or prowess. The general effect is an amusing deformation of classic shapes due to an unclassic drive or attack; and the drive itself looks like a basic way of moving one recognizes. The ‘basic gesture’ of Agon has a frank, fast thrust like the action of Olympic athletes, and it also has the loose-fingered goofy reach like the grace of our local teenagers.” (1)
This is what I see.
I learn about the death of a friend’s father today, while I write about an unclassic comeback of Agon, and Danchig-Waring’s evocative absence. The connection of these uncanny threads intrigues me. Death is an absence, but a mourner mourns both the death of a loved one and his survival, his disappearance and his living-on. Riener performs something that resembles a Balanchine piece, joined by the ghostly presence of his collaborator Danchig-Waring—an erasure from, and inscription in the repertoire. (2)
– Emmanuel Iduma, in response to Dance Dialogues: Kaitlyn Gilliland & Will Rawls, Silas Riener & Adrian Danchig-Waring (2/19-2/21).