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Monday, September 15, 2003

Dancing Conversations about butterflies and lawn...s 

Okay. So the title is misleading. Tonight at the Newmark, Donna Uchizono and Tere O'Connor and dancers were anything but "about" dancing conversations. They were the conversations, in languages both raw and elegant, timeless and as Tracie Morris said this afternoon at the Noontime Chat about her experience with early HipHop: "even if I couldn't understand what the said, I knew what they meant." Both Uchizono and O'Connor talk someKind of talk of what's what with being a human being. Saying with the body the indescribable & wordless slow-vibratory-event of loss and the effortful re-emergence (Uchizono). And saying with fine-tuned ArTiculation of the bony Body structure, the movement and spacial event of being in an upright position in the world. Two-legged-- which may be why we are heretofore graced or doomed, depending on your personal view, with consciousness, that rise from the essential base movements to the brainy mind involved in all stimuli, the mind inspired, noticing and responding to infinite sets of movements (Tere O'Connor).
Uchizono's fluttering-shaking-rocking-bodies joining-bodies bursting against each other-choreography took me all the way back to the blanket, the arms of my mother and the long crawls across the living room floor. Yeah, capturing of the primal rhythms. The sound of butterfly wings flapping, and butterfly wings struggling (?) and butterfly wings released into the air (at least this is what my ears heard in the soundtrack) backdrop the piece in a way that wrapped the music around the dancers (the beautiful beautiful hypnotic dancers). The line between initiation and connection disappeared for me: was it the sound that happened and the dancers who responded? Or was it the dancers that moved and the sound met them somehow? The answer I think is yes. Which resulted in a feeling of being awaken from a dream when the piece ended.
And about Uchizono's themes of loss, vulnerability, power and the dancers movement with these themes. One thing I noticed in particular was that throughout the piece, two of her dancers: the woman in the long red dress and the taller of the two men (I just couldn't figure out who was who from the bio's, sorry), from time to time assumed a more pedestrian constellation of movement that brought their pure presence into the dance and onto the stage. They just sort of stood there, breathing, looking around like you might see someone standing, waiting at crosswalk, or stepping into an elevator, engaged with the human movement of the moment, unable to NOT be just themselves. This was an unusual thing to see in a movement-dance performance, a bit of spontaneous regular-ness amidst the more choreographed. And for me, it was in these very moments that I understood something about the freedom of letting go that I hadn't understood in quite this way before: how letting go can lead to the power of the ordinary, the power to just go into the next moment, the freedom (from fear?) to be present & unencumbered (a state many of us only experience in infanthood and during times of great loss). At the end of the performance, I thought of Shelly Hirsch's comment at today's Noontime Chat -- "the body is the biggest recorder possible." Here were recorders that talked to me in a textured, mortal language and I liked it a lot. In fact, it made me like being a human being a lot.

Tere O'Connor and his dancers have hands and arms that tell multiple stories all at the same time. I was reminded of the original physical theater production the local theater group Liminal put on this year where 5 characters told 5 different stories all at the same time while on stage at the same time in different groupings (whew!). O'Connor's dancers moved skeleton and mind in an almost magical combination of connection, seemingly combined in fanciful responses to whatever was coming their way, whether on the video screen or from the other dancers. A friend of mine used the word robotic to describe what she experienced and I said, no, it was more than that for me. I felt a very human intelligence at work with the bones and angles of these movements. The flickering hands and fingers, the sliding from one movement alone into a combination of movements with one or more dancers. And couple this with O'Connor's take on what's up with us humans and the planet we live on. We, the noticing-ones or the ones denying we are noticing (the two basic options) what is becoming of the natural environment that we continue to literally build civilization on top of; the untouched world under the grass lawns we have made to replicate ReaLnature that lies under the buildings, roads, cars, strollers, footprints, et.al. O'Connor's integrated video work (by Ben Speth) uses plastic bags and floating napkins (at least I think they were napkins?) that drove me a little crazy and made me laugh, both good things because I felt wide awake to the larger conversation of his piece without feeling preached at. Again I'm reminded of the Noontime Chat today and this time, of David Greenberger's comments. That as a writer who uses primarily words he is aware of the non-literal or more physical impact of words. He then used humor to give an example of what he meant: not the telling a joke kind of humor, but the kind of humor that sneaks the common thread of human fallibility into the most casual of conversations making "words speak beyond the words' meaning, creating a connective tissue." Greenberger said "humor makes people believable" and suggested that humor is one of those particulars about someone that can clue us into how intimate a connection we will create with another/others. In other words, if someone doesn't get the way you see life humorously, or yourself humorous, you're probably not going to become best friends. I "got" Tere O'Connor's humor and it made me feel connected to his performance and to the reality of destruction he is exploring for me, for us. At times I even felt a little MontePython influence in the video and they were masters at pointing the finger at all of us and getting us to laugh at the same time. So, I don't think this means Tere and I are going to become best friends, but I'd recommend his work to my friends and intimates, and expect they'd find it rousing and we'd have a lot to talk about afterwards. And this seems like a very good thing to me.

Lilian Gael
ps. I know Stuart, I said I wasn't going to do this writing thing but the performances just got the better of me.


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