Arts Review Festival

Love and Loneliness: Days 3-4 at T:BA:14

Day 3

Yesterday was a very intense lineup for me. Each piece seemed to dive deep into charged emotions and social/cultural notions, inviting serious reflection. I’m still left digesting and investigating….

I started out the evening at Imago Theatre for Tahni Holt’s Duet Love. I was intrigued by the description for this performance, questions about “how bodies perform gender”. Four dancers, two women and two men in constant states of dressing and undressing. The performance had some very powerful moments.

During a shift into costume change, a woman walks across the stage and sings an emotionally charged love song. In combination with the lighting and the music, Lynchian moments came and went, that strong undercurrent of unsettling tension and charged sexual energy throughout the performance, at times complimented with tenderness and vulnerability. There were controlled displays of movement with impressions of hidden meaning. The piece as a whole left me with a feeling of existential loneliness, which might seem strange. But somehow that seems appropriate. The whole thing seems strange.

Eisa Jocson, Death of a Pole Dancer

I headed over to Bodyvox next to catch Eisa Jocson. The first piece entitled Death of the Pole Dancer was in the smaller room with folks standing and sitting in a circle around the edges of the room. She came in like a professional and got to work. With focus and precision, she methodically put together the pole. With assistance from an audience member she set to hoisting it into position in the center of the room.

As she beings to shake and thrust the pole, Jocson seems lost to us. The separation between performer and voyeurs (no longer just an audience) distinct and disturbing. She is struggling. She is exhausting. Eventually the lights are bright and Jocson is motionless. A long silence breeds wandering eyes. The performance has bled into the crowd. After the uncomfortable silence cannot hold, the clapping begins. There is uncertainty in the ending. Someone behind me thinks this might be an experiment.

After a brief intermission we enter into the larger space where chairs surround a large center stage. The second piece, Macho Dancer starts off with Devil’s Dance by Metallica. Macho dancing is performed in night clubs in the Philippines by young men for men and women. This piece “works to challenge our perception of sexuality and questions gender as a tool for social mobility.” Heavy stuff. Emulating power and machismo with smoke and sweat, crucifix and guns, and an endurance which stuns. A deeply moving piece exploring the highly charged debate about gender, and its cultural and political issues.

I made it over to the WORKS for Critical Mascara’s A Post-Realness Drag Ball. I made it to the stage a little late, but there was still plenty of action going on. What a way to end such an emotionally exhausting evening! Its a fabulous display of fiercely creative energy and tons of glitter! Blood on the dance floor and balloons in the air. I think I made it home just after 2:00 a.m.

Critical Mascara at the WORKS
Critical Mascara at the WORKS

Day 4

I woke up early to bike over to Studio 2 for the first workshop of the festival. South African dancer and choreographer Mamela Nyamza started the class in a circle. We were asked to share our name with a simple movement to be memorized by the group. We went around a number of times repeating in the circular order our name and movement helping us all to remember. Then we took turns going back and forth with someone, doing their name and their movement, then copying the movement of someone else and saying their name. Then the person whose name was called would repeat with another person. And so on. In pairs we practiced quickly shifting emotions with repetitive movements and sounds.

The group split in half and stood in lines facing each other from across the room. One half closed their eyes and were asked to think of something emotionally charged. Mamela came over to the side where I was standing and in a whisper asked us to mimic every detail of the person in front of us. After quite awhile it was our turn. We shifted around in line so as to not be obvious who was mimicking who, and began our interpretation. Wow. What a way to connect. I would have loved the opportunity to see what others were doing. What were the folks experiencing who were watching their sincere expressions take a new life?

Mamela taught us a few rhythms from her South African Tribe. A dance to call the ancestors. Our feet stomping out the rhythm, rooting us to the earth. When we were in unison, the effect was wonderful. With empty cans, we learned another rhythm. Staying low to the ground and moving along the floor we used our cans to clang behind us, beneath or beside our legs and on the ground. I should say we attempted to learn. Some better than others. My clumsy hands just couldn’t quite get it.

I’ll be starting the day early tomorrow with another workshop and events in the evening.

Paula Helen

By Paula Helen

Gravitating toward spirituality and poetic narrative, Paula has recently allowed the passion of movement to connect with writing. Practicing Butoh directly, while studying all forms of contemporary dance through the process of cultural journalism, she has developed a new level of appreciation for all the performing arts.

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