Tuesday, March 1, 2011

ashes to ashes, dust to DUST.

Went to see Dust performed by the Paul Taylor Dance Company on Saturday night at New York City Center. One of the dancers who I am collaborating with suggested it because there is a section of the dance where a dancer performs an "amputee" solo where her left arm is held to her chest.

The dance was...beautiful.
It was narrative. It was illustrative.
It told the story of a flock of organisms with some sort of un-ability
The malady shifted and morphed as the sections progressed: a broken arm, blindness.
It was synchronous with the harpsichord/clavichord (?) instrumentation in the background.

But like any novice creative writer will relay, a story is better shown, not told.
The movement echoed the swells of emotion in the music to tell the story of burden. At one point, a dancer was tossed like a knapsack (or a koala?) between other dancers emphasizing the weight and burden that propagated through the community. However, despite this use of weight to represent restraint, the entire piece lacked any genuine struggle!

The dancers were complete, whole, able-body dancers. In fact, they were hyper-anthropomophic-ballet-aesthetic-ideal bodies (with long torsos), that were too beautiful to communicate any felt sense of struggle, restraint, or pain. I was ultimately unable to suspend my disbelief long enough to extract any sense of sympathy or empathy even, for the dancers who were pretending to be otherwise affected. Moreover, the dance ends with a tableau that suggests the evolutionary development of the afflicted man, from a woman who crawls without the use of legs to a woman who stands, upright, while expanding her arms like the wings of a crane.

Forgive me, because though I acknowledge the beauty in a stage that is side lit by a single column of light on stage right, and the constructed shadows that reflect the haunting of our other selves, I simply did not see the light at the end of the tunnel, because there was no struggle to begin with.

Perhaps I am a dancer/choreographer with a masochistic dimension who longs for effort and struggle to be exhibited voyeuristically on stage. This is probably true. I am, however, not interested in playing pretend gimp, and alluding to any false hope that a person born without an arm can suddenly become an erect emaciated ballet dancer. Mostly, I find the notion that a community of disabled bodies should somehow aim to assimilate into abled body life absurd, offensive even--it assumes that the construct of abled/disabled is one worth recognizing in the first place.

Elements I did take away:
  • weight as indicative of burden
  • notion of blindness not just congenitally but as hysterical blindness as it relates to Khmer Rouge and PTSD
  • the form of an amputated arm--what does it look like? congenital or accident?
  • contraction with leg hold--limp.
  • shadows of us that are bigger than ourselves (literally and metaphorically)
  • people who create the context--used as space holders in defining relationship and space between dancers
I also saw Cloven Kingdom and Three Dubious Memories. They were both fine.

*NOTE: I still find myself struggling with the notion of disability and using that particular word to describe the phenomenon that I am interested in. It seems detached, colonistic, and mostly it just feels wrong between my lips. To be continued...explored...problematized...I suppose.

No comments:

Post a Comment