Dance Festival

T:BA Day 8 | We Are Powerful People

Wondering why I haven’t spent more time at the Ace Hotel next to PICA. Here now writing. I realize numerous artists are staying here or nearby and this happens to be a hub for creative people, offering an aesthetic that is both welcoming and creative. I could have conducted interviews here just by waiting for prey. Live and learn: I need to live downtown.

Sometimes when you are a volunteer journalist, you just want to keep things simple and zero-budget. Face it: café writing and downtown parking will cost a fortune in a short time. I live in St. Johns and my bike sucks. Anyway. Less digression, more impression, you want.

Miguel Gutierrez is an intense character: unstoppable. The 80-minute show entitled And lose the name of action, was performed at the Hampton Opera Center. That theater has what seems to be a pivotal set up for this piece: seating surrounding the stage. That provides the necessary context of a holistic experience. We were required to hold hands with our neighbors at the start because we had to establish a connection. What unfolds is kind of a religious experience as joke.

There were six dancers with great variety, ethnically and physically. Three men and three women make the group: the women: one apparently about sixty years of age, and the other two about thirty years old, one Asian with an average build and one heavyset, what you would call “overweight” young blonde-blue eyed woman. The men: three of average build with Gutierrez being the most stout of them all, one man at least sixty years of age and he is African American and the others non-white but standard American mutt, I guess.

These facts come in to play both in the roles they play but also in the social context that I think Gutierrez likes to challenge. He is a sensitive man that seems to care about equity and freedom. Even contemporary dance is predominantly young and traditionally beautiful performers. By featuring elderly and overweight members of his group, known as The Powerful People, he is casting aside those limitations and devices. It is not obvious until you see it, but a large woman is no more or less beautiful than anyone else as she is completely giving herself to the dance.

The same goes for age. Indeed, each one is unique and all those factors play in to our impressions. Its only when we demand youthful energy, physical perfection, and virtuosity all at once do we lose our humanity. Shoot… I haven’t even begun to review the work!

With this large fabric orb hanging above the stage, it set this ominous tone. With video clips of a sophisticated contemporary man with a sterile white background providing a disjointed philosophical narrative, there was a god-like hand in the whole thing. And by jumping between choreographed sections, timely improvisations, and dialogues, the whole pace of the performance was an exploration of self, body, mind, and relationship.

Especially provoking was this platonic dialogue in the center where Gutierrez takes the Socratic reigns, leading his counterpart down an unexpected path, frustrating him—much like Socrates versus the Sophists—exclaiming, “you trust your senses so you’re an idiot” replied with “fuck you!” Actually by this time, the whole group has taken the scripted narrative, speaking in unison. Movement keeps up with the tension until they’re all bouncing around screaming, “Fuck you! Fuck you!” It’s really intense but hilarious. The whole thing is uncomfortable but you feel okay about laughing freely.

In fact, the whole thing is intense and hilarious—just like Gutierrez. I feel like in different times he could have been become an army General: his physique and handsome stately face would lend itself well to it. Perhaps, in ancient Greece, as that is a theme, he could have been exactly who he is: a homosexual warrior. In contemporary times, that person becomes a choreographer.

But its not like this thing is a joke or silly. Some of the choreography was amazing. I have realized there is a brilliant style happening in this frothy post-post-modern that takes tremendous skill from the dancer and sensitivity in choreography to create the appearance of clumsiness.

One reason I try to avoid detail or speculation on what is happening in my reviews—why I keep them short—is that you have to see it. You can’t just accept my description; it is not the described.

Then it was time for another longer, spiritually themed performance, from Nacera Belaza, with a 100-minute piece entitled Le Trait Solos & Le Temps Scelle. This particular showing had the lowest attendance I have seen this entire week; moreover it was far below other less attended events. I want to blame the attitude of Americans who cannot sit for more than one hour to see something without narrative. Maybe they can if the chairs are more comfortable. But this is a makeshift black box theater. So it was challenging, but beautiful.

If you recall my observations about HA! and Itai Erdal’s use of slowly fading spot lights, here is a performance that completely relied on that effect. And not completely, we’ll just say it was an important one.  There were numerous lighting configurations. It was essentially a collection of repetitive movements with ethereal, drone style music from Christophe Renaud.

Each piece within the whole is given the space and life it deserves by fading in and out slowly, both lighting and music, while the movement remains essentially static. That’s right: static movement. There are no props. It is all about the body in space.

The impression forever with me is this woman spinning with a crucifix configuration behind her; arms stretched in a cross, spinning, spinning, gracefully. Obviously you’re concerned for her dizziness, but she has no doubt rehearsed many times. Whatever it is that I love about it, I don’t exactly know. It was just beautiful and bleak, full of sadness, alone, and that is essentially the spiritual dilemma.

There are two performers in this whole thing. It includes apparently her sister, Dalila Belaza. I did not recognize a second performer until the second half, after the intermission. They are similar in appearance. Anyway, the second half explored a little more that area of relationship. It was similar to the first section—I guess I don’t have anything different to say about it and not much time to say it.

It was in the same building as the The Works, which began almost immediately. I am not reviewing these much because it’s everyone’s time to relax, drink, and eat. I thought that I could do these Face Time Interviews that I started at SXSW in 2012. But this isn’t the place; we’re all decompressing and want to catch up with friends, meet new people. And at this Works, it is much easier to do that. But I want to touch last night’s thing a bit.

The Boy Band Audition by Alexandro Segade is a brilliant party product. I mean that this guy can do weddings with this performance, like a for-hire karaoke DJ. It is perfect for a dance-heavy festival where professional dancers join the competition. In fact, the greatest competition was The Powerful People with half of that troop passing the audition.

Its funny, I tweeted at the start that if Miguel Gutierrez didn’t win, something was fucked up. But actually, he’s kind of fucked up. Like, he isn’t boy band material at all; he just wanted it really bad. I realized he’s way too crazy and intense to be the smooth Justin Timberlake type it takes. He’s even too crazy to be Scary Spice—know what I mean? But he won. Which proves: you got to want it. And on that note, I am sure that JT always wanted to be the Fred Astaire of our times. That he is—if not more. But Miguel is more innovative; he is the only Miguel Gutierrez of our times.


Sean Ongley

By Sean Ongley

Co-Founder of THRU Media. A background in non-profit, music, and radio preceded my ambitions here. Now, I aspire to produce new media and publish independent journalism at this site and beyond.

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