A Diablog in which Galen Treuer and Kate Strathmann have a Sunday morning g-chat date to drink coffee and discuss this weekend’s performance in the comfort of their respective homes.
11:43 AM me: So galen, we went to Momentum last night
galen: yes we did
First we sat behind Karen Sherman and her camera
then we saw chris schlichting wearing a pink shirt and the hair of the joker
me: Yes- I did have a weird moment because his hair and the way he stroked it were strangely similar to Heath Ledger’s Joker, which I saw the night before.
but I think this is a good place to start- the hair in Chris’s piece
galen: It is all so horribly referencial!
me: I became sort of obsessed with the fact that everyone had the SAME HAIR
11:46 AM galen: Except that some had their normal hair and others not. This is a function of knowing the dancers and seeing them “around” and also on stage either wearing this hair or wearing other hair.
11:47 AM me: Which is a good point- and sort of why I became obsessed with it…there’s a facet of the dance community, and in particular the po-mo dance community, where I feel like they are often making work for each other
So as I’m noticing the hair- and thinking about seeing all of these people around town…It became this strange insider-y detail of who normally had that hair and who had on “costume hair”
11:48 AM galen: I enjoyed chris’s statement about Jeff Bartlett. It was good to hear it in the Southern. As we type let’s remember that it’s a struggle to put this art up. (interjections are a function of this format sorry people who read it just try to follow the diverging lines of thought).
11:49 AM me: yes- I agree. I’m glad someone pointed to the elephant in the room
11:50 AM galen: Yes, costumes and hair. These piece was nicely costumed. It was nicely lit. It was nicely musicked. It was nicely danced. It was precisely choreographed. It was full of pace. It was very intentional to details.
me: lovely details
galen: And now I want to make sure we talk about both pieces at once because I saw two pieces last night.
me: and I think they provided a really good contrast
galen: We saw Maia Maiden and Ellena Schoop’s The Foundation, et cetera
11:51 AM me: And Chris Schlichting’s love things (the aforementioned hair piece)
11:52 AM galen: The Foundation had costumes and light and dancing and choreography and details. That wasn’t what stood out for me though. it also had text and spoken word and bits of narrative and history.
me: If I were going to set up a correlation to your statement about Chris’s piece…I would use the verb “I felt” instead of “I saw” when talking about The Foundation.
11:53 AM galen: What stood out was emotion and context and generations and history and well meaning. it was a dance in the form of an essay or an essay in the form of dance. it was a rumination and a dialogue on the stage.
galen: Correlation for The Foundation is I felt rather than I saw?
me: Yes- like I didn’t really feel much seeing Chris’s piece…I saw all of what you described above. But it was really “cool” and I didn’t have a lot of “feeling” about it
I have two images that I liked the best though.
want to know what they were?
11:57 AM galen: yes
let me guess one
was it the trio with Jessica doing referencial jazzy dance, chris copying her, and Justin copying him?
11:59 AM me: hmm… that wasn’t what I was going to say. But! now I want to talk about that scene…because that was one of my favorites. I loved Justin in that part. I figured out the score/game of it pretty quickly- and then I just watched Justin watching Chris. He had a great intensity about it.
12:01 PM galen: It was a beautiful to see and for me what was most beautiful was how despite, the lights, music, and precision of Jessica’s movement I stopped watching her after 10 seconds.
me: Yes- me too
galen: It says something about Chris’s process, the post-modern process, and is so very honest
12:02 PM me: I’m interested in what was honest that made you stop watching Jessica- who was ostensibly the “focus” of that trio…except then she wasn’t…
galen: It reveals a value system.
Much of the work seemed so “cool” as you said. It was very distant from me as an audience, the world outside, even from one performer to the other.
The power dynamic of that scene and where my eye was moved reveals a value system in the choreography, a very clear statement of what is worth more.
Chris values the abstract. He said this honestly and beautifully and much more articulately than just saying “i value the abstract”
That’s good dance, if you’re using dance as a means of expressing aesthetic and artistic values.
12:06 PM me: Which is why I really liked that bit (and what I like about the piece)- I think the way he inverted the traditional choreographic value system was delightful. It was subtle. And as you say, I think he clearly expressed his aesthetic and artistic values- I felt like I understood his values as a choreographer, even if I didn’t understand everything that was happing in the piece at every moment.
12:07 PM galen: Right, that was nice. Just to clarify I don’t feel I ever need to understand everything that is going on, but I do appreciate when there is a clarity of purpose.
12:08 PM me: exactly!
I think that’s the most important thing for me when I see dance
galen: At some point I lost focus on Chris’s piece.
me: I lost focus too. I put it at about 3/5ths through.
galen: My focus wandered at the Morgan and Hannah duet. Not sure why.
12:10 PM me: I was with it through much of that section- but that is what I wrote down as the point at which I wandered off.
(Galen’s internet cuts out…Kate sweeps her kitchen floor in the meantime.)
12:20 PM galen: I was saying that the moment they looked outside was predictable but interesting because it highlighted the formal, isolated, self-contained quality of the work, maybe even the style.
me: It was literally a “breath of fresh air” in one sense.
12:21 PM galen: It was but it was also a tension building moment that made me question why they were doing it this way. Was it because it is easier to achieve clarity in a contained and cleaned space – removed from the mess of the world. A space that allows the possibility of intense focus and intentionality?
12:23 PM me: In a way that moment created a problem for me while watching the rest of the piece- because it brought up all the “whys” of what they were doing…and I wandered off when the piece went back to the contained space. There wasn’t really a shift after they openened the exit door, was there?
12:24 PM galen: No not really.
I struggled to line up the sections as more than isolated pieces of choreography throughout the piece. They were held together by a powerful overall aesthetic.
12:26 PM me: It didn’t really build as a structure
galen: For example: I wondered what was going to happen with Justin after copying the others. But as far as i could tell it didn’t change him.
Maybe this added to the emotionless quality.
me: because there weren’t real characters or relationships
12:27 PM galen: there were nods at character like actions that looked like relationships. there were plenty. there were very clear “put on” faces.
me: sure- but nothing carried through. the nods to character reinforced the discontinuity between the sections.
12:28 PM galen: so this is it. I didn’t care about the dancers. That made it a formal exercise.
me: Yes. and maybe this is a good time to talk about The Foundation. etc…
Because that piece was quite the opposite.
12:29 PM galen: one last thing: Love Things was like a series of poems describing an environment, with a few gems of insight and a very consistent esoteric style/rhythm.
12:30 PM me: I can agree with that.
galen: Yes The Foundation was opposite in so many ways. Similar in that it was local and staged at the Southern.
At the end of Chris’s piece that music came on, and I actually wrote down – non of them are black. I just found the note.
In the Foundation – non of them were white.
me: Actually that “touch of soul” in the music at the end of Chris’s piece strikes me as kind of funny now.
12:32 PM galen: Yeah.
It really left me writing “non of them are black” and thinking. maybe that’s great.
me: Anyway…I didn’t write down any images in my notes on The Foundation
galen: Yeah not so much the images, more the emotions.
12:33 PM me: That’s why I say “I feel”
Because it was all character, narrative, emotion
galen: it was very sincere, steeped in sincerity that i didn’t feel earlier in the evening.
me: I actually really appreciated the complete sincerity after seeing Chris’s
12:34 PM galen: Yeah, but initially it was a little shocking for me. It took a bit for me to warm into it.
By the end, especially at the end I bought it. I had little tingles.
I also felt a little voyeuristic or at least like an outsider looking in.
I couldn’t fully relate emotionally only intellectually but the performance was appealing to emotion so much that I would get stuck in my head and feel I was missing something.
12:37 PM me: Do you think you would have felt differently if you hadn’t been pulled so far into your head earlier in the evening?
galen: No idea. It is definitely part of the experience.
But I have seen a lot of performance that deals with issues/struggles within specific groups (racial, sexual, political) and one of the common problems I experience is relating fully. There is a serious danger of over-emoting or assuming that I care equally or that if you care so much so will I.
In the moments where The Foundation worked, I cared. It felt good, it challenged me, and it stimulated new thoughts.
12:42 PM me: And there were definitely successful moments where I cared too. But overall, no, I didn’t get into it for the whole ride. It’s really difficult to take a personal, specific narrative and make it universal.
But then sometimes I’m like “so what”. I’m sure Chris’s piece confused and alienated a lot people
(although I should clarify because he wasn’t going for a personal, emotive response)
galen: Yeah, it really is. I’m not sure it needs to be universal but when I pulled back into my head I began to wonder and judge (as in Chris’s piece). But here the judgment was different, would this be easier to absorb if it had the clarity and specific detailed intentionality of Love Things? How would you retain the emotion when focusing on this clarity? I’m sure it’s possible but very tricky.
Pulling back from Maia and Ellena’s work felt like I was judging them. I felt guilty not just intellectual. That’s a benefit of isolated, formalistic art work. I can judge it and feel powerful about engaging my intellect. Hey it’s just a formal exercise. There are human and social consequences when I judge a piece where the stories, politics, and real people are at the center (something at the center of hip hop, which was a big part of The Fountain).
12:49 PM me: Right- but it implicates you. I think even if you weren’t “in” emotionally, you’re outside judging and you’re still implicated.
which is really interesting and powerful in itself
12:50 PM power dynamics…
galen: Right. Power. Both pieces were very much about power, in subject and form. Interesting. Well, now we’ve spent about as long chatting about these shows as we did watching them.
12:51 PM me: hmm…it’s true though- they didn’t have the clarity or the set/lighting/images to focus on when you were removed from the performers and the emotion.
12:53 PM galen: Power – the stage is a safe space to display and discuss power.
me: they were both about power/hierarchy- but in such radically different ways.
intellectual- choreographic/visual hierarchy vs. historical, generational, real-people power and heirarchy.
or something like that.
galen: I wonder if next week they deal with power too? Power is sexy.
me: sure…Eddie’s is about a relationship.
hooha! that’s a lot of power dynamics