Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Book Me Baby/APAP Road Trip

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I can’t really call myself a Dancehunter and stay all hauled up in my fake gothic (currently held up by mold spores) suburban home. Every now and then I have to actually leave the house, and get this, LEAVE TEXAS.

Curious about all the fuss over the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference (APAP), I finally broke down, cashed in a free flight, got a press pass, and shipped myself of to NYC to catch up with the last decade of dance. When I lived in DC, I was much more in touch with the NY scene. DiverseWorks, SPA, and Dance Salad, do their best to bring NY to us, but that is a drop of dance in a very large size bucket.

APAP unites over 3,500 performing arts professional to wheel, deal, check out new talent, and book their seasons. This is the grand marketplace for the arts. Artists show their wares via showcases happening all over the city for three days. Houston’s famed hip hop Dance Company, FLY, has been going for years now and lands an average of twenty weeks of touring. Music, dance, and theater showcases are non-stop from Saturday though Monday. I was there to see dance, however, I did make a sacrifice or two to hear Oliver Saks keynote and listen to my favorite classical music rock star, Christopher Riley. (His new Radiohead CD is coming out soon.)

Showcases allow one to sample many choreographers’ work without the investment of a full evening. If it’s bad, you only have to watch 15 minutes, which is good. If it’s good, it’s just 15 minutes, and that’s bad. What’s missing is the full evening experience. After one day of showcases, I was left with a mad hunger to see an evening length fully produced work, so I headed off to Dance Theater Workshop to see the Australian wonder, Roz Warby, in Swift. Warby is currently on her way to Houston to dance in Deborah Hay’s The Adaptation Project at DiverseWorks.

I clocked in over twenty hours of dance watching. I wonder if they have awards for such a feat? Next year I hope to break my record. Perhaps I will have people sponsor me next year hour for hour. I sipped cheap rose wine and ate too many stale Xmas cookies, both of which may have clouded my already clouded judgment. I also admit to skipping out on Sunday morning to spend time with my three-year old nephew, Billy. We have so much in common--tendencies towards bossiness and mood issues.

I want to confess that I do not like things like lists of the “ten best.” I equally despise anything called a “trend.” As soon as I see something identified as a trend I immediately throw it out, unless it’s a child or husband. Those trends I keep. Now that I have gotten that out of the way, please proceed to my “lists” and “trends” section.

List # 1: Work I would like to see hit the Texas Shores

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Photo by Julie Lemberger

Donna Uchizono Company
Uchizono is no stranger to Houston. DiverseWorks brought her a few years back and her breathtaking work, Butterflies From My Hand, was seen last May in Houston as part of SPA’s Direct from DTW. At the Dancespace Artists Board showcase Uchizono showed an excerpt of her newest work, Hug, inspired by watching an Indian spiritual guide, Ammachi, hug 5,000 people. She claims to be interested in ‘awkward elegance.” I’d say it’s heavy on the “elegance.” The awkward part comes through more in the startling originality of her choreography. Uchizono’s terrifically exciting partnering work looks as if one dancer is using the other as the ground. The supporting dancer becomes the shifting terrain. Hug premieres at Danspace Project in NYC this June and will arrive in Houston I February of 2006 just in time for Valentine’s Day.

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Photo by Eric McNatt

Miguel Gutierrez & The Powerful People
First off, let’s talk about the name. I like it. Dancers have been too polite with names. Isn’t about time for a little aggressive edge in the naming biz? The Dancehunter thinks yes. Gutierrez showed an excerpt from Retrospective Exhibitionist which begins with him doing a voice over of his own voice at a choreographers Q & A. You will just have to trust me on this, it was hysterically funny. Gutierrez goes on to strike precarious balances accompanied by some 1950ish dance on TV. If you managed to see the TV, the juxtaposition was sweet. Next, he lies down on the ground and performs neat little moves showing great restraint. Finally, he turns on some post punk Interpol and flies about the room in an amazing feat of physical finesse. It looks to me like he is mainlining air. I enjoyed the ragged edges of his work, the authentic sense of time, and his effortless looking dancing. Gutierrez honed his chops doing time with Joe Goode in San Francisco and won a Bessie for his work with John Jasperse Company. In 2002 he performed Enter the Seen for 15 people at time in his Brooklyn loft-my kind of dance. Retrospective Exhibitionist premieres at DTW in the fall/winter of 2005. Houston loves powerful people. Gutierrez will be in Houston at DiverseWorks in 05/06.

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Photo credit:

DD Dorvillier and Jennifer Monson

DD Dorvillier and Jennifer Monson showed an excerpt of RMW, commissioned by Movement Research’s Sexual I.D. series in 1993. This “love ya hate ya” pas de man/woman gender bender was just what I needed after watching those 20 hours of dance. Monson and Dorvillier managed humor, tenderness, and some fantastic kissing, all in the space of 15 minutes. Monson already did Houston last year. We miss her already.

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Photo by Liz Magic Laser

ASzURe & Artists
Aszure Barton, a young upstart from Canada no less, showed some snappy dances just glimmering with that “dance party” feel. She advised us to hoot and holler during her dances. I feel strongly she belongs in Texas. With the exception of the gun thing, Texans and Canadians are identical--we both love our country. Her dances reminded me of the Rodeo, all buck and brash--very fun. She won the 2003 Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s National Choreographic Competition and has a performance at the Joyce SoHo Theater in April. She’s way too confidant to be Canadian. Texas would love her.

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Bill Young and Dancers
Fearless, high flying, daredevil moves with tables, benches and dancers atop tables and benches, characterize this hyper-charged excerpt from Rein, Bellow, Young’s collaboration with choreographer Colleen Thomas. At times it looks as though the dancers have entered some kind of vortex that spins them out of control. They even choreograph for the benches. It’s simply gorgeous to watch, although I had a few fears for the dancers (it’s the mom thing). You can catch Bill Young and Dancers next at the NYU Tisch Summer Festival in May and June.

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Photo by Kelly Gottesman

Bridgman/Packer Dance
Just when I thought dance with video projections was dead in the water, Bridgman and Packer find a novel film/dance combo with their new work, Under the Skin. In one section the dance resembled a moving version of the surreal parlor game, “Exquisite Corpse.” For those that don’t hang around playing surreal parlor games, it’s where one person draws one part of the body and folds it over showing just a line for the next artist to contribute, You get some rather odd human forms, which is exactly what happened as Packer’s legs were projected on Bridgman’s body. I was happy to see Bridgman and Packer still at work. Under the Skin premieres as part of the 92nd on 42nd Festival at the Duke Theater this March.

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Photo by Stan Barouh

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
Lerman leaves politics for science these days in her new work, Ferocious Beauty: Genome. Not that this is really possible. According to the blurb on her website, “The project will foster a long-term partnership among a national group of scientists, bio-ethicists, researchers, clergy and artists who will bring their best thinking to bear on the promise and threat of a new biological age.” It’s nice to see Lerman staying true to tough subjects. She claims she’s done with dancers talking on stage and plans to project scientific text. Lerman enjoyed her Houston visits and would like to return to our friendly city. Houston dancers are still using her Critical Response format and continue to work with text based on her techniques.

List #2: Works that left me with that “interesting, I want to see more” feeling

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Photo by Tim Summers

Jennifer Monson
Monson last flew through town last spring on her Ducks and Geese Tour as part of BIRDBRAINDANCE. She is distilling her years of following birds, and one year, whales, into an indoor version. I’ve been a Monson groupie for a year now. My interview with her will appear in the summer issue of Contact Quarterly. Flight of Mind, is slated for fall of 2005 at DTW. Monson delivered a tasted of the piece at The Danspace Project at the weary hour of 11pm. After seeing a snippet of the work I am even more curious to see how the birds end up indoors.

Andre Gingras/Korzo Productions
Gingras calls his work, The Lindenmeyer System, a “farcical, black comedy with topical political undertones.” In the filmed interview he spoke about making the audience uncomfortable. If you can’t wait for that experience no need to worry, Sixto Wagon is bringing Gingras’s highly acclaimed work, The Sweet Flesh Room, to DiverseWorks on March 24, 25, 26 at 8pm. So I will, after all, get to see more. Can I suggest you Houstonians make reservations by calling DiverseWorks at 713-335-3445

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Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Brian Brooks Moving Company
Brooks offered an excerpt of his newest opus, Piñata. He was attracted to the mix of candy and violence and doesn’t that say it all. I think about all the birthday party piñata wars I have suffered through. Finally, a dance to ease my post piñata stress syndrome. Costumes by Roxana Ramseur and movement with a goofy edge made for a delightful taste of this new work. Piñata premieres at Symphony Space this April.

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Shawn McConneloug and her Orchestra
McConneloug, from the frozen twin-cities tundra, dredges up girl pirates for her new work, She Captains. Inspired by swashbuckling Hollywood “B” movies and the true story of she-pirate Grace O’Malley, this looks like one fun ride. For all you pirate lovers, McConneloug is on the hunt for commissioning partners. Her last work was called Stand on your Man. It sounds good to me.

Jeanine Durning
Durning’s Out of the Kennel, into a home drew from the legendary Harry Houdini’s notes. Durning has that “fresh, up and coming” feel to her work. Plus, she is just lovely to watch. An interest in the writings of escape artists fuels Durning’s sensitive duet. Durning’s work, Half URGE, made The New York Times lists of top ten dance events for 2003. Her new work premieres in the fall of 2005 at DTW.


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Boston's Monkey House in Wigs-Stay tuned for an interview with at least on of the Monkeys on their innovative ways of luring audiences to modern dance.

Photo by Ingrid Werthmann
Pictured clockwise from left: Nicole Harris, Amelia O'Dowd, Karen
Krolak, Beth McGuire

• Wigs
• Men in skirts
• Uber fast movement
• Falling on parts of the body that would make an orthopedic surgeon cringe
• Skirts over pants
• Slips
• Kissing on stage

Keep in mind for every performance I was seeing, I was missing many. I spent most of Friday going to meetings on the dance crisis (lack of money, audiences, recognition) in the US. A separate post will come out of my notes. This is not a conference for the decision challenged. I missed out on the entire “off the radar” theater festival and Savion Glover’s performance. That’s how it goes. Over all, I was reminded of the vitality of the arts under any political or economic climate. Not a bad way to spend a weekend. A trip to the spectacular new MOMA, and a quick shopping trip to H &M for the boys, was just icing on a rather freezing cake.

To learn more about APAP visit