Yesterday, winding my way through the new Walker, I witnessed what must’ve been choreographer Sarah Michelson’s dancers rehearsing for the performance of Daylight (For Minneapolis). As Michelson is notoriously tight-lipped about revealing details on her performances beforehand, I can’t give anything away. But expect surprises (and perhaps a stone-still dancer with a Walker Shop bag over her head). Still, as the description of her September 15-18 performances leaves just about everything to the imagination–”a dance/installation experience inspired by the design of the Walker’s new building”–perhaps a look at her earlier works can offer an inkling.
In a 2003 performance at the Kitchen, typical audience/performer relationships were reversed. Viewing bleachers were on stage, facing out, and when the performance began, the house lights went up, not down. Artforum describes what happened next: “[T]he doors to the Kitchen swung open instead of shut, and all the way, across the street, two spotlit dancers in bright yellow tunics walked in unison down three steps of the building opposite and danced, in small side-to-side motions, into the performance space itself.”
For Part I of Daylight, presented at PS 122 in June, she placed “the audience in a kind of box, with the musicians behind them, and leaving a performing space that was only about twelve feet deep,” wrote Joan Acocella in The New Yorker. “This show was one of the strangest things I have ever seen. The four dancers entered through an upstage passageway that looked like something from Dr. Caligari’s house. They then launched into a carefully rehearsed, largely unison dance that was traditional in one sense–it was done on the music–and in no other.”
And in a choreographic commission for Baryshnikov and his White Oak Dance Project, Michelson “costumed the ballet legend in Velcro handcuffs, gold chains and an ankle-length, see-through Chanel skirt, and set him to dance on a stage carpeted in bubble wrap. Such is her eclectic idea of elegance, never too pristine,” wrote Art in America.
Or maybe her personality, or as much of it as comes through an eight-question artist questionnaire, can offer some ideas about what to expect. In the September issue of Walker we ran our usual 8-ball Q&A with her. Here’s another eight:
What’s the last (or favorite) book you read?
Experience by Martin Amis
If you could throw a dinner party for anyone in the world, who would you
Tonight? Parker Lutz [a dancer in Michelson's company].
How do you like to unwind/relax?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Cellulite. My bank balance. My loneliness.
What artists are you most interested in at the moment?
How does one answer a question like that?
What is your favorite euphemism?
Who is your favorite villain of fiction?
Keith Talent [Protagonist in Martin Amis' London Fields]
What question do you wish we asked you?
The answer is: grace is crucial.
No closer to understanding? Me neither. I guess we’ll have to show up and see for ourselves…