As 2019 draws to a close, this section dedicates a number of its pages to the Bauhaus centennial. The Bauhaus legacy has stood the test of time, not least because of its principle of inclusion; its multi-disciplinary and egalitarian values saw dance and performance integrated into its design practice.
The Bauhaus Dances were a set of choreographic experiments that Oskar Schlemmer and his students performed intermittently during the late 1920s in the context the Bauhaus stage workshop. The opening sentence of Walter Gropiuss Bauhaus Manifesto of 1919 read: The ultimate aim of all visual arts is the complete building.1 The building combined architecture with craft, but Schlemmers insight was the aim of building: to house the body. Although primarily a painter and sculptor, we can tell from his teaching notes that Schlemmer placed the human body at the center of building.
Part of Performa 2019, which has taken the Bauhaus School as its theme, the festival commissioned (Untitled) The Black Act in partnership with the works venue, Performance Space, to explore the parallels between the 1920s German art school and the voguing practices of late 20th century New York ballroom culture.
Audience members wait in the entrance of the townhouse (now run as cultural space by the nonprofit 1014) before filing in to a back room. Hassabis FIGURES (2019) unfolds. 51, 52, a projected voice counts as four dancers move subtly between twisted sculptural poses. The harsh fluorescent light overhead cancels what warm tones would have been offered by the ornate, wood molding.
After performing the piece in living rooms across the country, this would be the final performance for writer and performer Kristen Kosmas and visual artist Leon Finley. In the performance preface, Kosmas states at length that the piece comes from her desire to have a direct impact in communities affected by the political climate. Henceforth, Kosmass published book would guide others to perform her utopic vision under the assumption that it would be theirs as well.
David Byrnes American Utopia, on Broadway, is a jukebox musical, yes, but it upends the genre. Its at once brilliantly simple and subversively revolutionary, kind of like Byrne himself.
Just then a new male dancer named Irakli arrives on the scene, and his rebellious charm quickly grabs Merabs attention, as does his talent: Irakli is a gifted dancer who is also planning to audition for the coveted spot in the main touring ensemble. Iraklis dancing is strong and sharp in contrast to Merabs lithe fluidity, and the rehearsal director praises him, switching Merab out for Irakli in the duet with Mary. Competition aside, the two grow closer, and its an endearing (and at times predictable) portrayal of emergent desire. Their courtship materializes in familiar ways: a look between the boys lasts too long, a hand lingers on a thigh while demonstrating a difficult sequence in rehearsal. Their relationship develops most compellingly when they dance.