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Comfort with Falling: A SpeakEasy for Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People

A SpeakEasy is an informal audience discussion facilitated by a Walker tour guide and a local performer or choreographer.  Today’s edition highlights themes shared during a conversation on Saturday, September 22, led by choreographer Anat Shinar and tour guide Jack Bardon.  Join us for the next SpeakEasy on Saturday, October 27, for a discussion about […]

A SpeakEasy is an informal audience discussion facilitated by a Walker tour guide and a local performer or choreographer.  Today’s edition highlights themes shared during a conversation on Saturday, September 22, led by choreographer Anat Shinar and tour guide Jack Bardon.  Join us for the next SpeakEasy on Saturday, October 27, for a discussion about   BodyCartography Project’s Super Nature.  Coming up next, the Walker presents Voices of Strength: Contemporary Dance & Theater by Women from Africa, October 10-13.

Instructed to join hands, the audience forms a communal gesture that encircles the stage. Our collective gaze fixed upward, we are engulfed by a shifting spectrum of colors and a low bass that vibrates around and through our bodies.  But how does each of us come to know this performance? What of it exists in the world and what comes into being only in our minds? It is an experience shared by all – differently. Following Miguel Gutierrez’s And lose the name of action, a group of audience members gathered in the Walker’s Balcony Bar to discuss these diverse impressions and interpretations during the first SpeakEasy of the season. Themes from that conversation are featured in the paragraphs below and readers are invited to add thoughts, questions, and responses using the comments function on this page.

Presence & Non-Presence

Beginning with a pseudo séance and continuing through moments of seemingly possessed ecstatic dance, And lose the name of action is imbued with specters. The nature of ghostly being is in essence to not be, to perform and embody in a diaphanous presence this non-being. A ghost references a realm beyond, but such phantoms also bring to our attention the ephemeral and faltering nature of being in this world. Flooded in an instant by distractions, self-doubt, critical reflections, memories, judgments, or questions, there are myriad barriers to being fully present, as well as a variety of interpretations as to what “fully present,” if possible, might be or mean.

A soloist falls, seemingly out of control, through a series of precise stumbles and suspensions as another performer describes her actions, making noticeable the gaps between language and action, explanation and feeling, being and analysis. With this piece, Gutierrez not only brings these divisions to the fore, he questions and seeks to bridge the mind/body dichotomy so ingrained since Descartes. Rather than privileging the mind, Gutierrez focuses on the body in the world as the seat of consciousness.

As the dancers writhe, seemingly entranced, the question arises as to how the body might be used to actively seek heightened mental states – through rigorous, meditative practices, or the contrary, ecstatic, Dionysian exhaustion. It is perhaps in such instances where cause and effect overlap, the body both creating and reflecting the activity of the mind. The edges of psychic and physical comfort present a kind of thrill, enjoyed with the knowledge that one can control deviation from and return to a reliable norm. The loss of such a base presents an extreme alternative experience, perhaps the most ghostlike of all, where intensely felt struggles at the margins, viewed from the perspective of a stable center, might appear incomprehensibly otherworldly.

Time & Resolution

Two dancers work out a sequence of choreography in the corner while another performer crawls diagonally across the stage.  Time is simultaneously slow, constant progress and a series of fading moments. It could be 9 pm or 2 am. Time distorts and one senses only a constant now. Dancers rush by and sit amongst the audience, who are lit throughout the performance.  It is in turns comical, invigorating, and exhausting.

A sense of timelessness surrounds the idea of ghosts, yet in presence, they are associated with the ephemeral, with a subtle half-seen motion that disappears as soon as it is noticed. This transitory quality is echoed in the nature of dance itself – fleeting movements of the body, traces across the stage. Although passing, these moments hold weight, just as our own humble and short-lived gestures, which maintain such import as they transpire, are revealed to be mere traces as well.

The evening begins reflecting on the process of learning without a teacher and as an audience we are left to piece together unresolved fragments, to make our own meaning and to become accustomed to this process. Anxiety in the face of such uncertainty makes the source of Gutierrez’s title particularly fitting. Hamlet, after asking “To be or not to be” explores the possibility of suicide, but is stopped by a dread of the unknown afterlife. He comments that the paralyzing effects of the fear of an action’s potential results might “make cowards of us all.” In Gutierrez’s work, there is a call for an embodied, engaged form of presence which, when it falters, perhaps causes our simple impulses to lose their boldness or intensity And lose the name of action.

Join the conversation!
The above blog shares a few impressions voiced by audience members at our post-performance discussion.  Additional comments, ideas, and questions are welcome in this on-line forum, using the comments feature below.