Blogs The Green Room Kenna Cottman

Review: Momentum with SuperGroup + Rachel Jendrzejewski & Leslie O’Neill

I walked in with my homegirl at 7:55 to directions – instructions:  Choose a group, follow the movement and try to repeat the words you hear.  I kicked off my sandals and got to work – trying to flock and mirror and echo/respond.  Being a dancer in this community means it’s not that big a […]

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I walked in with my homegirl at 7:55 to directions – instructions:  Choose a group, follow the movement and try to repeat the words you hear.  I kicked off my sandals and got to work – trying to flock and mirror and echo/respond.  Being a dancer in this community means it’s not that big a risk to copy some homies on the Southern stage, so I tried hard to follow my directions.  Still, I cannot remember one phrase or word that I repeated.  Very challenging activity, but me and my homegirl* appreciated the outlet for anxious energy. I think it was Jeffrey who finally told me “ok have a seat.”  We grabbed our stuff that we had flung down and by the time we found a seat, there was more work happening on stage.  I realized that the curtain talk was being given and I had no time to read my program or even orient myself.  This was a good place to be as I entered the world of it’s [all] highly personal.

SuperGroup has a dance film where I remember them being very tiny.  I felt shrunken down to the size needed to build a tiny shelf and then shot inside of the collective mind of the group like InnerSpace.  Once inside the mind, I’m getting buffeted from place to place, text firing at me like synapse in the brain.  Bits and pieces jump out and stay out “we do what we can,” “sometimes we don’t,” “this is what we do.” I keep bouncing back and forth between following the text thread like a conversation and just letting the cacophony of voices wash over me like a soundscape.  Ah white art.  My homegirl said the piece felt very white, like culturally white. I’m always searching for the content I can identify within white art, because I have a lot of white dance/art homies. Like white noise though, this is kind of relaxing, but like eavesdropping through the cubicles at work, this is kind of disturbing.  I’m trying to grasp what these words are about – are these empty platitudes, like super general astrology readings?  Are they deep insights?  Or are they just every possible qualified sentence that can exist?

It is the movement that makes people laugh, draws us in.  The snarky gossip, the bored housewife, stoner, wanderer, captain.  I always say that I don’t like unison too much, so this piece really put that preference to the test.  There were so few moments of unified movement , everything was so individualized.  (spoiler alert) I dug using my binocs to zero in on one person at a time.  The rare moments of sync were strong and well oiled.  I used my binocs like a telescope to make everybody tiny. I liked the way the ensemble would seem to click into place and then just as easily break back into themselves – moving independently but not in isolation.  There was a kinetic feeling of connection and moving in concert, even though nobody was doing even close to the same thing.  And this group was seriously super.  They spoke and orated in accord, while moving, singing, dancing – it even got choral at one moment.  And the jumpsuits… the jumpsuits are amazing.

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Leslie O’Neill‘s Fortress started with a world created for and by kids.  Laura Selle Virtucio and Erika Hansen really managed to convince me of their childlike mentality through movement.  So much so that I became unnerved by the possibilities.  There were more than a few treacherous moments – movement-wise.  There were precarious positions and super-charged couplings that spoke to me of violence.  There was such a physical sense of foreboding, my homegirl described it as ‘heavy.’  The physicality reminded me of some less embodied people, and also young people who don’t know their own strength, who are hard on their shoes, who are gangly and unsteady on their feet. My homegirl doesn’t like when adults play kids on stage, and I might be with her on this point.  Or maybe I was just unnerved by the way Laura and Erika took it to the darkside on so many occasions.

The environment made me uncomfortable to start – two girls whispering inside a tent.  These girls’ friendship started to remind me of the friend I had who called me a n—— one time. We were pretty close but she still took it there.  There was a dark edge to the way these two girls did everything, and I began to get a sense of the secret world of childhood that grown-ups are not a part of.  Now we all know it exists because we were all children once, yet the dark corners get blown out in this work.  I was getting the feeling that these girls were powerful in different ways.  One girl was more classic – strong and daring and bossy.  The other girl was deeper and had complex ideas and twisted emotions, she was subtle with her power.  Now why did these girls feel like they were so connected and had to drag each other in and out of dark places? And like all kids, they were attracted to the dark and the light at the same time. They wanted to be scared and comforted all at the same time.  There was much unknown in this piece, and I felt like I didn’t get it.  Or I thought I was getting  something and then something threw me off that track near the end…

*my homegirl: an amalgam of all the homegirls i talked to throughout the night.

Cool, but Soul?

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, dancer and choreographer Kenna Cottman shares her perspective on Thursday’s performance of David […]

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, dancer and choreographer Kenna Cottman shares her perspective on Thursday’s performance of David Zambrano’s Soul Project. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

It’s so different writing about something that’s just cool. Not super excited about it not super on fire about it — just cool. The Soul Project was cool but I will say that it made me feel my old soul. Especially when I arrived to see my parents and other elders in the dance community struggle with the format of standing and moving around and sitting on the floor. It pleased me greatly that David Zambrano reminded us to help each other view the solo dances. In the end, most of the moments I loved had to do with the soul music that ruled the evening’s playlist. So it was a cool night after all.

Dancer-wise, the two dudes, Evivaldo Ernesto and Horacio Macuacua, resonated with me — as I’m sure they resonated with everybody, but I wonder what the reasons really are? For me, these men interpreted the music, the spirit and the meaning and the groove, in a  way that made me feel like the weight of the soul ancestors was being touched or explored in a familial, respectful type way. For instance I loved the white fro and the trembling piece to the DreamGirls ballad. I actually kind of hate that song and I started to walk away but I’m glad I saw it. The physicalized vocal histrionics and the trembling movements were making me laugh so hard and then it was the moments of stillness that killed it*. Mr. Macuacua provided me with my “steps,” as I say, and I loved that the format allowed me to just go ahead and dance with him at certain points.

Let me go ahead and talk about the format. Because I always have to wonder, what do artists want and how much do they want when the invite us onto the stage. Because I feel like Minne should become known as the town to interact. Like “Don’t come to Minne if you don’t want people to dance with you when you invite them onstage.’” We are starting to loosen up and get that vibe, so I did appreciate all the people bopping their heads and dancing. If I had a boo there I would have been slow dancing for sure. I felt like the performers wanted it and Nina Fajdiga even jammed with me for a second during the group jam. They looked me in the eyes when they were walking around too. I felt like they wanted a lot of interaction and we could have given them more. I also liked the format but I thought it would have been nice to: 1.  have drinks onstage, 2. let the elders sit down**, 3. play some cuts after and let us dance more — or we could have just done that during the show, right?

Another point is that you invite cipher logic into the environment when you invite people on the stage. This means I get to talk, walk away, like it or not, and I get to jam the whole time if I want (as my friend Nancy was doing). Cipher logic is not the same as sitting in the theater seats  logic but I don’t know if the Soul Project peeps realized that some of us think like that.

Lastly I will say that it was just cool because of a lot of the dancing, although it was highly physical and mostly interesting, was lacking in the connection to the music that I was feeling.  I mean, there were only like two or three songs that I didn’t know played on the sound set that evening and I can feel some of those lyrics like I wrote ‘em meself!!! There were some moments when I was ready to walk away. When you play cuts like that you have to perform the hell out of them. I’m not saying you have to dance every beat but there is a certain energy that has to interpret those stories. Especially if we are going to do solos in close quarters. When I asked Mr. Zambrano afterward he said that he grew up listening to that music but the dancers had to be introduced to it. I know they were trying to make it but something was missing.  It’s sad to say that some of them lacked soul — I wonder if that is what it is.

*the good  kind of ‘killed it’

**they did provide gallery chairs

Peace!

Ms. Kenna-Camara Cottman

Stay Black: Kenna Cottman on “red, black & GREEN: a blues”

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, dancer and choreographer Kenna Cottman shares her perspective on Thursday’s performance of Marc […]

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, dancer and choreographer Kenna Cottman shares her perspective on Thursday’s performance of Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s red, black & GREEN: a blues. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

…operate not as an urban planner or as an architect but operate based on my beliefs… belief is BLACK

I have to admit that I don’t think about “the question,” meaning the green question, at all really. I mean, I recycle, I use reusable bags at the store, I turn off the water when I brush my teeth, I even have a composter in my yard. But I never really think about the environment, sustainable living, fresh food and all that stuff in the context of Black people, and in the context of my art. So Marc Bamuthi Joseph really brought a new topic to my eye, to my mind, and that was tight!  Because he put it in the context of BLACK PEOPLE (well that’s how I interpreted it). Growing up in Minnesota, I realize that I’m actually pretty close to the earth, growing gardens and community gardens and all that shit. But red, black & GREEN: a blues made me remember that boyfriend I had in college from Mississippi. When he took me home for Christmas I found out that people still live in those shotgun houses, and there is a Black side of town and a white side of town, and I don’t think we ate any veg that wasn’t out of a can or cooked to grey death.

…His skin was the brown of soil you want to sow…

Traci Tolmaire. I loved her voice from the top of the stairs.  She was sitting at the top of the tallest part of the environment and she was speaking and singing and then she began moving and I really fell in love then! I loved her movement style – grounded, sexy, powerful, and totally in control. There was no abandon, but I didn’t miss it. Her eyes sparkled with intent. She inhabited these people: the bougie project manager, the busybody community woman, the old ex-wino turned installation artist. I guess I feel sad that I didn’t get to see as much of her, Traci – but she was there and present in her movement. The footworkin’ section, the Lindy hop section, the Dindada section, the anguish of a mother with a lost child – her movement was too tight! That moment when she went to comfort and was thrown off two times before her comfort was accepted – damn!

I WAS SO HAPPY that we got to walk on the stage and be inside the set, but I didn’t really see the beauty in the shotgun houses until I took my seat and viewed it from a distance. It wasn’t a set to me, it was an environment. I think that Theaster Gates intended for us to get all up in that environment, and we were too scared and Minnesota to really go there. That’s why I’m going again on Saturday night and best believe, it’s ON!  I saw a kid with a watermelon rind in his hand walking around. Yes. I didn’t believe that we were supposed to stand still and quiet and just watch – I KNEW we were supposed to walk around and see people, greet people, join in the songs and rhythms and just get all over it. I’m proud that I clapped, sang, danced, and stomped, hugged my homies and kept on changing spots. Even though my 13-year old is going to be mortified, when I go again I am going to:

• eat some watermelon and lemon
• sit in the chair and mess with the dominoes
• stand in weird places and look straight up or peek around corners
• try to engage Bamuthi in some capoeira or contact improv type thang
• ask if I can play the cajón and then play it if MC Soulati says yes
• this time I WILL BE THE LAST PERSON TO LEAVE THE ENVIRONMENT (homegirl was trying to be the last one so I let her have it)

…the church that you smell in his voice is grief…

Theaster Gates‘ voice had so many tears inside it. He took me straight to church and to the jook joint after. He’s the type of performer who manages to make eye contact with me several times when he’s performing, and I feel like he’s really seeing me, talking to me, singing to me.  What a beautiful lament.

Beats and rhythms are the way I process life, making MC Soulati‘s contributions to the piece super important to me. He manifested this idea that I have that everything has an accompanying rhythm. Bamming bones, fingers on the light pole, the subversion of the cajón that looks like an innocent box – those things represent the rhythm that “they” tried to take away from us, proving it’s power! Stomps, claps and snaps — the church clap – praise break — djembe solo, tama waye! Soulati was the heartbeat of the piece, essential. Like how if you watch Boyz In The Hood with good sound, you can hear the bass of a booming system somewhere in every scene, sometimes buried way underneath but still essential, still kickin’. Stay.

…if you’re gonna be in this garden you can’t just be pretty; you have to put out…

Bamuthi moves like a man, not a dancer, and that’s a good thing to me. Gestures have so much meaning. He’s fusing all of our traditions – West African, Haitian, Black American. There’s a solidness to his footfalls, not stomping or heavy, but dependable. This is what we mean by grounded. There’s a fluidity of torso, not that he’s tworking or popping, but I feel the oceans and rivers in there. These things are also powerful and dependable. Everything is really clear and clean, and though I see the work required, he doesn’t look like its that taxing. Especially when he speaks and moves or busts a major phrase and then starts talking immediately after. Breath control, breath control, breath control styleeeee!  My favorite favorite, after the capoeira-like way that he cut through the crowd when we were all on stage, was when he was at the window and I could only see his upper body. Like looking at a pic that stops at the waist, you know the legs are still there even though you can’t see them.  He did one particular twist of his hips, just beneath the threshold of the windowsill. Aw man, that was so tight!

…she spits out a seed, looks at me, and asks “the question”

…Panther Blue Seeds, can’t just be pretty, strange fruit,Dindada, church that you smell, spits out a seed, Mekhi, Tupac, china straight, stay. Black panthers, still here, dangling earpiece, “cray,” shaking left hand extended, hella, belief is BLACK, my skin is brown, nobody knows, won’t let me breathe, yeaaaah, well…