Two Perspectives on Platform 2015, part I
May 26, 2015
Danspace Project invited several artists and practitioners from our community to participate as Respondents in a series of written reflections on Platform 2015: Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets. This series shares a wide range of perspectives on the Platform’s events; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of Danspace Project staff or curator Claudia La Rocco. For more background on the Platform, read La Rocco’s curatorial statement here. Below, Yvonne Rainer and Emmanuel Iduma share thoughts on the second of Platform 2015′s “Dance Dialogues.” Share your comments on our Facebook page!
Danspace Platform, February 19, 2015 by Yvonne Rainer
I’m glad Claudia La Rocco mentioned “research” and “failure” in her introductory remarks, because this first program in the Platform series included a large portion of both, first and foremost the technical failure of the inadequately amplified voices compounded by the poor enunciation and breakneck speed of delivery by the two performers, Kaitlyn Gilliland and Will Rawls in their “#loveyoumeanit, part 1.” Sorry to say, I caught less than half of their flirtatious, quick-witted exchanges.
Seated on opposite sides of a small table and reading from scripts, the two charmers at first seemed like the outcome of an on-line dating service. Had Claudia “set them up” with more in mind than a choreographic collaboration? Had they been too busy to meet in the flesh, thus enabling them to fantasize a love or sex relationship risk-free in the remove of cyberspace? The suggestive and at times frivolous dialogue was formalized by frequent use of the term “hash tag.” Since I don’t twitter or tweet (but can only whimper plaintively from my octogenarian heights), much of the neologizing sailed over my head. Nevertheless, I could appreciate the play-acting aspect of the proceedings, which transformed them into ironic, cranky characters — she no-nonsense arch, he glib. Eventually Gilliland states “We should talk about race and gender and love.” Anyone waiting for serious dialogue on these matters would have been disappointed. It never went further than that, as far as I could tell.
In the second half of part 1 they leave the table and Gilliland offers words — like doughnut, 5-year process, big stretch, eye contact, riding the 1 train, etc. — which Rawls interprets or demonstrates in wide-ranging movements. Returning to their scripts, I heard from her “…slightly racist” and his response, “Do you feel racist?” Again, the theme was not explored, charged as it seemed in the context of this interracial pairing.
Next came Silas Riener and Adrian Danchig-Waring’s research, beginning with an upstage projection, mostly in long shot, of the two of them working on Agon. The rest of the space was taken up with a long solo by Riener, first costumed in a somewhat baggy all-in-one, later stripped away to reveal a sexy, geometrically patterned tube, the top part of which ended below his hairy chest, the bottom in very short shorts, what my generation used to call “hot pants” many years ago. His movements were reasonably interesting, reminiscent of his work with Cunningham in the use of balletic, fully extended legs (though Cunningham might have formalized the contrapuntal shaping of arms to a much greater degree) combined with his own quirky steps, falls, and twists. The problem was that without the presence of his live partner, who I understand was, for whatever reason, unable to be present, Riener’s solo was much too long and thus became a kind of narcissistic indulgence. (Admittedly, I have limited patience with virtuosic, show-offy solos except in the circus.)
The program ended with #loveyoumeanit, part 2. Rawls sat apart and watched, perhaps coached, Gilliland in a series of en pointe variations that could have originated in a Pointe Class 101. At the end she called for a projection of a cartoon figure that signaled “thumbs up”, which elicited one of the infrequent laughs from the spectators. They then returned to their scripts. Prefaced with a projected title “Scenes From a Marriage, 5th Scene – the Illiterates,” Rawls and Gilliland seemed to be reading a section of the Bergman script. She wandered off and continued the dialogue from the upstairs balcony while he listed the names of saints. Somewhere in there I heard my name and that of Edwin Denby. (Should I be flattered at being included in this mysterious citing?) Rawls too ended up in the balcony. As the lights faded to black, I heard him ask, “Have you ever danced the Black Swan?” A New Age relationship, a new kind of romanticism, made fragile by technology, with a poignant ending.
The whole evening, if it could be called a failure, was certainly an honorable one. To paraphrase Jimmy Waring, “There are high class failures and low class failures.” This was certainly of the high class variety. I look forward to future such failures in the series.
 James Waring: “There is low class boredom and high class boredom.” I should add that I was more mystified than bored.
Excerpts from “Dance Emoji” by Emmanuel Iduma
…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?
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.
…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.
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.