Beverly Blossom: The Incomplete Lament of an Old Dancer.
The programs for Beverly Blossom’s performance at Baruch College (September), were handed out in wrinkled, crumpled wads. It was a sign of things to come; Blossom’s un-ironed costumes could’ve been from an old, dusty chest. No longer blessed with the twenty-something body she had while performing with Alwin Nikolais and studying with Mary Wigman in the 50’s, this 79-year-old performer has had two hip replacements and the lines on her face tell a story. In a performance where nothing is “perfect,” everything (crinkled program and all) is in fact, just that. Blossom is not afraid to be vulnerable, and is unashamed of whatever we might find under the microscope of the stage. It all boils down to a few clichés, and here they are… Blossom says, introducing the evening. She confesses that her program is abounding with shtick,” as she calls it. Besame Mucho, a slapstick performance, opens with two false starts—the music is cued before Blossom is ready. Blossom is dressed in suit, top hat and coattails on one half and elaborate flowing gown on the other, and flirts her way through this solo. In Stylish Girl, a farce about a fashionista, Cynthia Pipkin-Doylle enthusiastically bobs up and down, while 12 inches of exotic egret quills, attached to a remarkable hat, bounce with her in a beautifully ridiculous display. Blossom colors her work with such clichéd routines, elaborate costumes, props and over-used musical favorites by Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Ravel. Old tricks work. They are tried and true, and Blossom seizes on our familiarity with them, as an opportunity to go deeper. She lets the tricks work themselves out as though saying to us, “You know the shpeal.” In this way, she can say what’s really on her mind.
The Incomplete Lament of an Old Dancer is Blossom’s response to, and a way for her to manage, the death of her sister. Blossom has a powerful presence here and it’s mesmerizing just to watch her stand and scratch her elbow. Often, her hands articulate what she is saying, adding layers of tenderness, frailty and nuance as they swim in the lighting designed by Ruth Grauert.
In a post-performance discussion, Blossom explains that before she died, her sister began to give things to people. She gave Blossom a cello and in Swan Song she dances with the cello, and, as if speaking to her sister she says, “You are beautiful, you are bold.” But Blossom avoids being overly precious. She plucks the cello to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and this reminds us not to take her all that seriously. In this way, Blossom teeters on the ever-so-thin line that separates humor from sorrow, and leaves her audience on the verge of either laughing or crying.
Nicole Pope is a dancer and writer living in Brooklyn.
Thinking with the Body: Dance and Performance at the 13th Gwangju BiennaleBy Emily May
MARCH 2021 | Dance
This years Gwangju Biennale, set to take place in Gwangju, South Korea in April, includes the work of two celebrated choreographers, Trajal Harrell and Cecilia Bengolea. Through interviews with these dance artists and the biennales curators, Emily May explores the history of Gwangju; the organizing theme of Intelligence and the Expanded Mind; and the prominence of performance in the program.
Chris Burden: Cross CommunicationBy Cal McKeever
APRIL 2023 | ArtSeen
How do you preserve a work whose medium is rooted in ephemerality? How does a work retain its performance-ness (as opposed to the video-ness, photograph-ness, object-ness, etc. of standard documentation) fifty years down the road? These questions are on full display in Chris Burden: Cross Communication, an exhibition featuring documentation of twenty-two performances from 197180, without presuming to contain the answers.
Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last loveBy Leah Triplett Harrington
APRIL 2023 | ArtSeen
Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love presents thirty-five years of the artists work, which often veers into collage, installation, and performance in an exhibition that is as much a cumulative self-portrait as it is something of a mid-career retrospective.
Steffani Jemison’s A Rock, A River, A StreetBy Tara Aisha Willis
MARCH 2023 | Art Books
Reading A Rock, A River, A Street is like finding a way through an enigmatic moment of performance: the body is the thing that connects feelings and experiences, moves us through them. It is a train of thought, a largely unvoiced internal monologue to which we are given partial access.