My Messies

In the absence of the Bessie Awards this season, I’ve decided to use this forum to acknowledge those artists whose work made me think, and feel and marvel and rage and laugh during the 2008-2009 season. I invite you all to add your own to this list. IHJ

In roughly chronological order…

Luciana Achugar’s The Sublime Is Us @ Dance Theater Workshop’s Studio Series, October 2008.

(Eerie feminists, the audience is seated close to the mirrors and must watch some of the dance that happens behind them through those mirrors. Luciana is visibly pregnant and she and her women are stunning and fierce.)

Ann Liv Young’s: The Bagwell In Me @ The Kitchen October 2008.

(Angrily, frighteningly, and tackily taking on race and gender politics in a way that no one else is in the downtown (or uptown) performance world does.)

Kyle Abraham’s solo, Brick @ Dance Theater Workshop, December 2008.

(Had never seen his work before — inventive mover, intelligent artist; I want to see more.)

Layard Thompson’s Cup…puC…..K…..Ohhhh, Beauty, full, vessel @ Dance Theater Workshop, December 2008.

(There was cocoa, there was urine, there were a lot of cups and some nudity. Layard is a totally engaging trickster.)

Miguel Gutierrez’ Freedom Of Information @ The Barn (And Several Locations Across The Country viewable over the internet,) New Year’s Eve 2009.

(We trekked out to the Barn on what was one of the coldest nights of the winter. We stayed an hour watching Miguel move blindfolded around the space in this his 20th hour. He howled; he touched us; he peed in a jar. After dinner I wanted to go back but it was so cold. My dying computer was too slow to see the other locations.)

Singer songwriter Holcombe Waller’s Into The Dark Unknown: The Hope Chest @ Under the Radar Festival @ The Public Theater, January 2009.

(From Portland, Oregon his songs are sort of like a kinder, gentler Stephin Merritt. Totally smart and charming.)

The Irish theater troupe Pan Pan’s The Crumb Trail @ The Coil Festival @ PS 122, January 2009.

(Like an Irish Wooster Group of old.)

Yvonne Meier’s Stolen @ Danspace Project, February 2009.

(Yvonne and I have worked together in the past but I feel confident that I am not the only one who loves entering into the strange and beautiful and mischievous and nasty worlds she creates. Great to see her on stage again.)

Dynasty Handbag’s Escape From The Family Home @ Dixon Place, February 2009.

(Who is Dynasty Handbag? I don’t know, but whenever they appear onstage I leave happy.)

The National Theater of the United States of America’s Chautauqua @ PS 122, February 2009.

(Another caveat, there was a 30 second reinterpretation of a piece of mine in this ambitious, sprawling, witty, smart history lesson cum performance.)

The collaboration of Jodi Melnick and Burt Barr in Fanfare @ the Kitchen February 2009.

(Simply stunningly sublime!)

Okwui Okpokwasili’s Pent-up: a Revenge Dance @ PS 122, February 2009.

(Okwui has entranced us for years in, among others, the work of Richard Foreman and Ralph Lemon, (her interpretation of The Smiths’ Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want in Lemon’s Geography still haunts me years later.) It was great to see her perform in her own work and I look forward to seeing more.)

Keith Hennessy’s Zero Performance and Antibody @ Dance Theater Workshop, April 2009.

(Probably my favorite performance of the season. So smart, so raw, so sexy. I saw it the night he did a late night improv after the main show. Both pieces informed us of an artist and his art and how they are intrinsically linked to his life. The one crime of the Bessies hiatus is that this Bay Area artist who rarely performs here will not be given his due.)

Regina Rocke’s Passion for Jennifer McGinn @ Dance Theater Workshop’s Studio Series, March 2009 and in many other shows @ venues around town.

(Regina is like an art terrorist. Committing performance jihad against everything staid and complacent. Watch out!)

Monstah Black’s And The Sonic Leroy W/ Motion Sickness @ Dance Theater Workshop’s Studio Series, March 2009.

(Another younger artist of whom I was unaware and was pleasantly surprised by this expansive, messy, chocked-full of talent studio show. Monstah is a whirling cyclone of genius. This work could use some editing but I hope he doesn’t tone it down.)

Sarah Maxfield’s [ ] @ The Chocolate Factory, March 2009.

(Sarah’s the smart girl. In this affective duet the eccentric movement, intelligent text and clear direction was both mysterious and revealing.)

Big Art Group’s SOS @ The Kitchen, March 2009.

(OMG! There was so much to see and hear and my nervous system was over-loaded by the cast of plushies and consumerist talking heads live and on video and in live video feeds. As a critique of our “Buy, Buy, Buy” society it was far from preachy but rather dizzying and delightful.)

Christopher Williams’ The Golden Legend @ Dance Theater Workshop, March 2009.

(An incredibly ambitious project from one of our younger dance-makers. The lives of 16 male Catholic saints was told by a multi-generational gathering of our more exciting male dancers. Props also to the musicians and corps of men and women who danced the entre-acts in this 3-hour piece.)

Jack Ferver, Death Is Certain @ Danspace Project, April 2009.

(Jack, with Tony Orrico and Liz Santoro and guitarist/singer John McGrew perform pomo rituals of love, lust and death. Great looking cast with talent up the wazoo.)

Aki Sasamoto & Arturo VidichDomestic Partner @ The Chocolate Factory April 2009.

(Aki and Arturo co-starred in Yvonne Meier’s Stolen earlier. In this performance they present two separate solos simultaneously. These included a traveling outhouse, chef knife shoes used for cutting and squeezing grapefruits, a brilliant opening dance by Arturo and a sad monologue about crying in an airport toilet stall by Aki.)

Mal Pelo’s Maria Muñoz’ Bach @ Catalan Days @ Baryshnikov Arts Center, May 2009.

(Maria’s interpretations of Glenn Gould’s selections from The Well-Tempered Clavier was pure dance at it’s best. The 50-minute solo, with only brief pauses for some video was a tender tour de force.)

Christine Elmo’s Your Unison Uses Unicorns @ Dance Theater Workshop’s Studio Series, June 2009.

(I predict that Christine will soon be MAJOR. She invents, appropriates and recombines movement like no one else. Her female dancers make her dances and tasks their own. I’m always surprised by what she does in each new piece.)

Sarah Michelson’s Dover Beach @ The Kitchen, June 2009.

(In some ways this piece disturbed me more than any other in the season. Something about the barely pubescent girls performing Michelson’s abstractly sexualized twist on ballet. Then there was that caged room that took up half of the performing space where I could scarcely distinguish who was there and what they were doing. Then there was that man/horse. And the fabulous Greg Zucolo. Intriguing set by Sarah and Parker Lutz. And that final pas de deux with Greg and Allegra Herman; it left me unsettled.)

Catch’s WHY WON’T YOU LET ME BE GREAT!!! @ PS 122, July 2009.

(Catch, curated By Jeff Larson & Andrew Dinwiddie, is (along with Sarah Maxfield’s Throw and the Aunts series) a refreshing take on performance variety shows. This rendition was a group show inspired by Kanye West’s album 808s & Heartbreak. They gave each song to a downtown dance and/or performance legend. The evening was definitely varied and Kanye showed opening night.)

The Wau Wau Sisters’ The Last Supper, @ PS 122, August 2009.

(Adrienne Truscott and Tanya Gagne are the heiresses-apparent to the 1990s duo DANCENOISE. They dress identically, sing tacky country songs, do real acrobatics, and they get naked and doused with liquids. page monitor . In a wacky yet refined way.)

Favorite revival:

Trisha Brown’s 1979 Glacial Decoy @ BAM, April 2009.

(I remember seeing this in the early 80s. And although it is like nothing I would ever make myself I feel that it influenced me and a whole generation of dance makers. It was great seeing it again; it reminded me why Trisha is a treasure.)

A sublime moment:
The duet of Vicky Shick and Eva Karczag near the beginning of Shick’s Glimpse @ Danspace Project, April 2009.

(The rest the piece was full of gentle subtleties that were engaging. Wonderful seeing Diane Madden, the young Christine Elmo and the two Hungarians. But the this opening duet by two dancers who embody so much body wisdom was a revelation to behold.)

Favorite performances:

I had the bad luck to miss the many performances of Lewis Forever and of Neal Medlyn’s own work last year. However I did manage to experience and be transfixed by…

Neal Medlyn in WHY WON’T YOU LET ME BE GREAT!!! Neal’s embodiment of Kanye West’s Pinochio Story haunted me for days after.

Isabel Lewis In Ann Liv Young’s: The Bagwell In Me – dildo raped while being videoed singing karaoke in brown-face…she’s a trooper. And that dance with the saws stole the show for me.

In the 2007-2008 season Nora Chipaumire captivated me in her wrenching Chimurenga (struggle, cry, revolution) @ Dance Theater Workshop, This year she shone in Urban Bush Women’s Collaboration With Senegalese All-Male Dance Troupe Jant-Bi In Les Écailles De La Mémoire, @ BAM, November 2008

Thirteen-Year-Old Allegra Herman In Sarah Michelson’ Dover Beach, I felt guilty and disturbed watching her partner the amazing Greg Zucolo, but she more than matched him.

Mikeah Ernest Jennings in Big Art Group’s SOS and In Young Jean Lee’s problematic (for me) The Shipment. He may be the hardest working man downtown but he makes it look so easy.

Liz Santoro in the work of Jack Ferver, Sam Kim, Trajal Harrell and her own work at Dixon Place. Perhaps she’s the hardest working woman downtown.

Lighting designer, Joe Levasseur for Christopher Williams, Jodi Melnick, Beth Gill, Tami Stronach and others

Lighting designer Kathy Kaufmann, for Yvonne Meier’s Stolen and other works at Danspace Project.

The buzz from people I really trust was extremely positive about the following; I reget missing them.

Faye Driscoll’s 837 Venice Blvd @ Here Art Center, November 2008

Dean Moss & Yoon Jin Kim’s Kisaeng becomes you @ Dance Theater Workshop, February 2009

Who are your choices for 2008-2009?

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  • Just got this clarification for WHY WON’T YOU LET ME BE GREAT!!!
    WHY WON’T YOU LET ME BE GREAT!!! was conceived by brenden kennedy, then collaborated on with Neal Medlyn, who brought it to catch to co-produce it. it really was his baby, and he’s the reason kanye was there!

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