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Archive for November, 2009

So of course there are a metric shit ton of things that I am missing while not living in New York and I’m pissed as hell about it. One of the things that I would definitely be seeing if I were there is “Metadance,” a new work by friends Deborah Black and Sasha Welsh. These two ladies are some of the hardest workers I know in the NYC contemporary dance world. Deborah produces her own work and performs adaptations of Deborah Hay scores, and is additionally an excellent performer in work by Peter Sciscioli and Karl Cronin, as well as a super director (she really pulled through for me as an assistant director on “Hares on the Mountain,” a piece I made for Tisch students for the LaMama Moves! Festival). Sasha is the director of experimental dance company Victory to Others. She also curates an incredible performance salon at her apartment under the moniker Ulla’s House; the relaxed environment makes it a great place to perform and watch, and I’ve liked everything I’ve seen there. I was privileged enough to sit in on a little showing of the work at its very beginning in July (I think it was maybe their second rehearsal together). While it would probably be nearly unrecognizable as the same work at this point, I did get a peek into the seeds of their process which is itself a super interesting study in reinvention and the daily work of creation. There are two opportunities to see the work coming up, and I suggest you take one or both:

AUNTS at RPPP in Bushwick – 59 Jefferson Street, #301, Friday, December 4th, 8pm – admission is a contribution to the open bar

Crossing Boundaries at Dixon Place in the Lower East Side – 161A Christie Street, Tuesday, December 8th, 7pm – $15/$12 (tickets may be purchased at the door or here: Buy Tickets: Crossing Boundaries)

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A few weekends ago, my friend Boris Hennion (also an ex.e.r.ce) took me to his friend Jean’s new restaurant in Saint Hippolyte du Fort, an old silk mill town in the mountains north of Montpellier. Jean is working to establish a progressive boarding school. In addition to his tireless work to set up the school from an administrative and human resources angle, he is renovating a gorgeous old building nestled between the mountains; among the more impressive features is a pool that he made himself. How is that possible? The premises are in various states of decrepitude and repair at this point, as I prefer all things, especially when photographing. To raise funds for the school, Jean has hired a superbly talented and fresh-mouthed chef, Yugo, and has set up a restaurant, Villa Figaret. Though I didn’t really experience the town, I did drive through it and I think I can say that Villa Figaret is the best dining experience in Saint Hippolyte, so if you are ever that way make a point of stopping in. I spent the weekend basically reliving my former life as a cater waiter in exchange for great food, plentiful if cheap wine, and some exceptional company.

I got a bit teary eyed when I saw this bell. Doesn't this look exactly like New England?

In the restaurant there was an exhibit of photographs from former Soviet bloc nations. Also many pumpkins.

Jean's parents owned a restaurant supplies factory, and therefore the restaurant has tons of nifty things, like this quasi-alchemical salad dresser

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For the past two weeks the ex.e.r.ce group (for so my program at CCN Montpellier is called) has been working with choreographer and CCN director Mathilde Monnier to mine the video documentation of dance legend Merce Cunningham for material that can be personally relevant to our work. We began by directly copying phrase material from video, a current favorite method of appropriation among some contemporary choreographers. It was thrilling to see both our failures – owing to our largely soft-body technique backgrounds and sketchy familiarity, for all but one, with the American modern dance tradition – and our successes – owing to our two weeks of Cunningham training with Foofwa d’Imobilité, diffusion of culture, and our brave spirits. I gave myself the assignment of learning all of the material danced by Lisa Fox in the 1978 piece Fractions I, a collaboration for video with Charles Atlas. I was interested in identifying how a single dancer interprets choreography made both specifically for her and for a group of her piers, and in how this interpretation adds variety to an often mythologized and monolithic understanding of the world of Cunningham. I also found Fox’s sullen understatement and delicate athleticism really compelling. She reminds me a bit of my friend Anna Whaley. Below is one of the solos that I learned – it begins with a shot of the now superfamous Karole Armitage as a bendy young thing in a pink uni.

 After working on direct appropriation, we have continued by analyzing the presence of the source video in staging the appropriated material, examining our own confrontations and critiques of the Cunningham body, etc. The fruits of this research will be performed at the CCN Montpellier on Thursday, December 3rd.  If you’re in the neighborhood, do drop by.

Exploration of archival material is certainly a hot topic in choreography and the arts in general. While the future keeps getting smaller (mark your calendars for 2012), the past keeps getting bigger, so in terms of numbers there’s just a whole lot more to explore behind us than in front. Add to this a recent rekindling of enthusiasm for the appropriation art of the 1960s and 70s – I personally couldn’t get enough of Sherrie Levine and Louise Lawler at the recent Pictures Generation exhibit curated by Doug Eklund at the Met this past summer.

Sherrie Levine's "Untitled (President: 4)" (1979)

Louise Lawler's "Pollock and Tureen" (1984)

Louise Lawler's "Pollock and Tureen" (1984)

If you’re curious about how restoration and adaptation of material from historical or external sources is playing out in current choreographic practice, check out “Studies Project: Reconstructions and Re-Imaginations,” a panel conversation moderated by  Randy Martin and hosted by Movement Research at PS 122. A variety of perspectives on adaptations ranging from traditional transmission of repertory to extra-legal appropriation of copyrighted material will be present. Richard Move will be there, hopefully dressed in Martha Graham style, comme ça:

Richard Move, as Graham, photographed by Josef Astor

My friend Deborah Black will be present to discuss her adaptations of solo scores by Deborah Hay. Lori Bellilove, artistic director of The Isadora Duncan Dance Company, will discuss her restorations of a repertory with a marked dearth of archival material, while Levi Gonzalez will provide perspective on appropriation from film and video as a contemporary choreographic practice. Pat Catterson, DD Dorvillier, Stacy Spence, and Jodi Sperling will also be on the panel.

Monday, November 23, 2009

 PS 122

150 1st Avenue at E 9th Street

New York, NY

7pm – 9pm

Admission: FREE

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