Sunday, September 19, 2004

I don't know what to say--Chameckilerner 

Chameckilerner, September 14, 2004
Performance: Visible Content & Hidden Form

I don’t know what to say about Chameckilerner's performances.

And anyone will tell you that is unusual for me when it comes
to conversing about the performing arts. One reason I go to
performances is because many of the ones I see make me feel
something close to a ‘happy to be alive, on this planet, part of
the human race’ kind of feeling. I like talking to my fellow and
fellowette human beings when I’m feeling that kind of happy.

I still don’t know what to say…but

At the noontime chat (Performance Journalism) on Tuesday
Sept. 14th, Catherine Thomas from the Oregonian, in response
to a question, told us, and her panel companions, Steffen Silvis
(WW), and Joseph Gallivan (Trib), that when she writes about a
performance and doesn’t have much of anything good to say
about it, she thinks she is (at least) opening a door for further
discourse. About the piece and the art form it represents. I
like her thinking. But I do wonder how to manage that when a
performance like Chameckilerner’s leaves such a faint scratch
on the memory. Maybe I’ll ask her someday.

I don’t know what to say about these performances
but I know...

Wendell Beavers, the new director of the Naropa MFA
Performance program recently talked with a group of
us working in a lab with him about his ideas
concerning the use of ‘story’ in performance. He said
that in his experience there is always a narrative, a story
of some kind. It’s either intended; put there by the
choreographers, set-designers, dancers, or it’s put there by
the human mind that moves toward putting a narrative on
most everything.
We humans think in story. One can only hope that if the
choreographers and dancers put the story there, the
audience is also experiencing their intended story as
part of the piece. Or what? Read on.

After Chameckilerner’s performance, I sat with a few
other TBA blogWriters to see what they thought of
the show, looking to their words to tell me what I had
missed or not considered. After a very brief discussion,
I said to them,

“Well once I remembered the performance was inspired
by the lives and movements of the severely mentally ill
on medication then I was able to stay with it more. Be a
little more interested…”

Three pair of blank staring eyes met my comment and one
of them replied (paraphrased),

“What mentally ill? The show’s program and background
materials say the performance was about fear,
vulnerability, not mental illness.”

I started to explain what I meant at the same time
wracking my brain to remember where I had gotten the
idea that the performance was using the movements of
the mentally ill. I’m embarrassed to admit that later that
night I realized I had gotten Chameckilerner’s performance
confused with material about something other than the
TBA festival performance series. And I realized that from
my past-life as a psychotherapist, I had borrowed
knowledge about what medications can do to the body
and facial expressions of the mentally ill and tacked it on
as story, to the performance. Good? Bad? Who knows,
but I felt lonely, disconnected that night in Lincoln Hall.
My efforts to bring interest to the piece I was watching
had left me feeling even more disconnected.

I don’t know what to say about this performance but…

Carla Mann, Reed professor of dance and a
choreographer/dancer said she saw Chameckilerner’s
performance when they were here 3 years ago. I asked
her what she thought of this years work. She took a moment
and went on to say that she believes she went to their
performance with pretty high expectations and a fair
amount of generosity. A nice combination I think. She said
a lot (and with an objective kindness) in the simple
observation of her experience of this year’s
performance pieces in the context of Chameckilerners other
work. Something about the pieces and about an attitude.
Carla Mann also reminded me that although Chameckilerner
are Brazilian, they have worked for a long time now in NYC.

Which brings me to this:

Last year’s TBA performance included a group from Brazil
called Quasar. Their performance was stunning, out of the
box choreography and dance work. You can go to the TBA
archives and read what writers said about it on last year’s
blog. I did. I wanted to remind myself that I too, might be
holding some pretty high expectations of dancers from Brazil,
wherever they currently reside. I wanted to read over last
year’s comments to also take some breathing room—
use the space to work on my own generosity before writing
anything down. Can't seem to ever have too much of that
generosity stuff floating around. At least, I’d say so.

Lilian Gael

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