Dancing on the Railby Vanessa Manko
Some may find the enigmatic, sometimes academic, and wholly indecipherable titles of downtown dance works annoying. I’ll admit I fall into this category at times, but there is another part of me that always finds such titles intriguing, regardless of what kind of dance they label—postmodern and conceptual works, pure dance, or narrative works.
As I perused the dance performances to include in March’s Dancing on the Rail column, it struck me that all the works here have obscure titles, as do several other performances previously listed in these dance pages. Traditionally, a title is supposed to offer some clue or reference to a work’s meaning or larger themes, whether literally or abstractly. But in the post-postmodern world, titles, classifications, and labels aren’t necessary, even frowned upon, and sometimes of little or no reference to a work at all. Yet as a viewer, I know I still grasp for meaning in a dance performance’s title, even when a work, and thus its title, is meant to be conceptual. For instance, this month has me asking, what could possibly happen in a work titled they will use the highways? While it sounds like a parody of a Dave Eggers novel, it’s got me wondering. Equally confounding is Paige Martin’s Consciousness-related Effects in Random Physical Systems. Suitable for naming a physics conference, but a dance performance? Well, why not? Another title here is eTTa aTTa oTo—a curious moniker for sure. Piñata is simple enough. The Show Must Go On is even more accessible. Is it meant to be an ironic title? Probably.
Whether one is new to dance performance or has been viewing dance for decades, I suppose what these untraditional, complex, conceptual titles reveal is that the world of dance calls for adventurous, open-minded audience members. With that—and daunting titles aside—I encourage you to attend the following March performances and decipher the multifarious meanings for yourself.
Paige Martin/Caitlin Cook, March 10 and 11
Curated by Sarah Michelson, The Kitchen’s dance series offers new, fresh, experimental works. Paige Martin’s Consciousness-related Effects in Random Physical Systems is an abstract work that looks at the connections between physicality and the construction of identity. Performed by an all-male cast of trained and untrained dancers, the work also grapples with hegemony and explores the dizzying confluence of “masculinity, power, certainty, and sexuality.” Caitlin Cook’s eTTa aTTa oTo, equally conceptual, marries the human voice and video projection with movement in this solo performance. The video images have been designed to mirror and resonate with the movement; the viewer will surely be challenged by trying to distinguish between the projected images and the live moving body.
March 10 and 11, 8 p.m.
The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street.
Tickets: $12. www.thekitchen.org
Jérôme Bel, The Show Must Go On, March 24–26
In his U.S. and New York debut, Bel looks at media that increasingly shapes, influences, and affects daily life and our awareness and perceptions in modern society. Acting as a DJ, Bel creates soundtracks for each dancer as they perform to nostalgic pop songs by David Bowie, Lionel Richie, and Queen, the movement guided by Bel’s sardonic twists. Audience members are part of the work too. Go see this to find out how.
March 24–26, 7:30 p.m.
Dance Theater Workshop (DTW), 219 West 19th Street.
Tickets: $20. www.dtw.org
Adrienne Truscott, they will use the highways,
March 31–April 3
Adrienne Truscott is perhaps most well known for her Wau Wau Sisters act with co-performer Tanya Gange, in which the two dancers combine a bit of acrobatics, trapeze, pop song, and dance into an irreverent and bawdy vaudeville performance. But Truscott is also a member of LAVA, the all-female trapeze and acrobatics dance company, and she is now branching out on her own. Tentatively titled they will use the highways, her new work is inspired by a road trip on the New Jersey Turnpike during which the ideas for this work were hammered out. they will use the highways draws on very subjective material—images, ideas, and phrases that have affected Truscott in ways both good and bad.
March 31–April 3, Thursday–Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday at 5 p.m. P.S. 122, 150 First Avenue on the corner of East 9th Street. Tickets: $15. www.ps122.org
Brian Brooks Moving Company, Piñata, March 31, April 1 and 2
The absurdity of the game of piñata, with its mix of sadism and fun, is not lost on Brooklyn-based choreographer Brian Brooks, whose new work, Piñata, will premiere at Symphony Space this month. In 1996 Brooks, a former STREB dancer and cofounder of the Williamsburg Art Nexus, formed his own company, the Brian Brooks Moving Company. The company’s earlier works, Pink and Acre, are dance ruminations on the colors pink and green, respectively. For Piñata Brooks begins with a white pallet. Mirroring the culmination of a game of piñata, the piece will literally burst into color, with confetti and dancers spiraling around the stage. Brooks’s movement vocabulary is repetitive in nature, building on a movement phrase and extending it into variations. Brooks’s works also aim to connect dance with multimedia—video, animation, art, and sound. Piñata will draw on such media to make a fun statement about its oxymoronic theme: violent fun.
March 31, April 1 and 2, 8 p.m.
Symphony Space, Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater, 2537 Broadway. Tickets: $21; seniors and students, $18.
VANESSA MANKO was the former Dance Editor for the Brooklyn Rail.