Present Place

Present Place

Buzzing – hugs and hi’s – eeeeee! “It’s happening! And, there’s a special surprise for Levi at the end. Hope you brought tissues.”  Lily Bo Shapiro and Randy Reyes start us and the Spring Festival off in “The Present Place: An Improvisation for Lasting Action” at Judson Church. It’s the final Monday night of the season and the scores are based on the festival’s curatorial statement. Alex Escalante’s small humans are all in! The smaller one’s “ha ha” sets a tone of delight, with honest and genuine interest in the unfolding improvisational scores. She laughs and Randy smiles. We’re all here…now. IMG_5516Anna Adams Stark and Marguerite Hemmings enter like scouts. Stopping behind a seated audience member to assess the environs. Marguerite dances at/with composer Julia Santoli taking us out of the postmodern void and into a momentary expository dialogue of dancer and musician. The little sisters on the floor are snuggling as Marguerite’s head rests into Anna’s lap. Justin Cabrillos slices through the space in a skipping run and I wonder about how each performer gauges their joining, the tone of entering, the on-stage/off-stage energy shift as Anna Carapetyan and Ayano Elson arrive into the space. Julia’s soundscape has taken on a cooing quality and I start to ponder the framing ideas of healing and self care, and how those intersect with ‘being versus doing.’ Justin keeps a tone of play. A light skip and a bit of a casual seeking out of engagement. The energy signatures feel preciously wrought, the lines of connection are gentle. Should I respond to “hand written notes” with hand written notes? Who could decipher my scribbles, glimpses at an unfinished thought – descriptives or correlatives or fancies. What is the resting state for each artist inside the light? Sarah Maxfield is sitting cross-legged and surveying the space with her eyes. Beer caps pop and jingle behind us. BASHIR DAVIID NAIM buries their head in her lap, spreads their legs in her face. Bold choices, sonic thrum, physical contact in the lap of the audience. Being. Doing. Performing. Researching. Experimenting. Seeking or Holding Space. Many other efforts. Sarah pulls out a tit and wags her feet. I watch big sister wander through a forest of legs to find her dad and baby sis.  No artifice. No construction. Simple directive. Find dad. Michael Mahalchick and Marissa Perel find each other.


Curators Aretha Aoki, Elliott Jenetopulos, Eleanor Smith and Tara Aisha Willis wander in and watch as, eventually, Michael and Marissa separate. I watch their watching. Onstage witness. They thank Levi Gonzalez for years of support and down the stairs file Juliette Mapp, Donna Uchizono, luciana achugar, Kayvon Pourazar and Natalie Green. They wrap him in a blanket and each of them dance for him and then the entire group dances with him. Friends. Red eyes. Some sobs. In service of an artist who as been in service to so much art and to so many artists. In the margins of this evening there has been a constant hum of us, attending and attending. Being present to the unfolding. Levi has been such a pervasive presence. What will his absence feel like. What is a safe space? One where pain is open? Loss. How deeply will this cut to our community be? Will Levi’s departure leave a wound or a scar? The dances were so lovely and the tears were so true. A toast. A toast.

Maura Donohue

  • Eleanor Smith

    I started crying all over again when I read this. Thank you Maura for your beautiful words.

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