Claudia La Rocco

  • Claudia La Rocco

    IN THE PHOTOGRAPH, choreographer Anna Halprin and writer John Rockwell lead Halprin’s company, the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop, in a procession along Market Street. Each participant holds an unmarked sign. Taken by the architect Lawrence Halprin, Anna’s husband and collaborator, the image documents her 1970 performance Blank Placard Dance—a demonstration that doubles as a conceptual invitation for audiences to imagine what words of protest could or should be expressed in that moment.

    When I came across the picture in Janice Ross’s thoughtful and thorough book Anna Halprin: Experience as

  • performance October 17, 2017

    Back to School

    THIS IS THE THIRD TIME I’m writing here about Sarah Michelson’s work, following 4 in 2014 and tournamento in 2015. Now comes September2017/\, which I saw September 24 at Bard, and which was the culmination of a four-year residency Michelson had with students there. Culmination is the wrong word, but I can’t think of the right one.

    I didn’t explicitly address those first two pieces to anyone, though of course there was a particular person I was writing to, and for. I’m thinking now of how Michelson has said she makes her dances for four people, herself included; it’s something, like many things

  • performance July 07, 2017

    Breaking Tradition

    “I FEEL TOTALLY SPUN OUT.”

    That’s a note from 4:24 PM Saturday, two hours shy of having experienced twelve hours, spread over two weekends, of THE SET UP: ISLAND GHOST SLEEP PRINCESS TIME STORY SHOW, a series of dances unfurling on Governors Island as part of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s River to River Festival, in makeshift locations ranging from carpeted office space to cavernous basement to the dry moat surrounding a nineteenth-century fort.

    My dizziness was mild in the scheme of things: For the twenty-seven performers, the entire marathon spanned twenty-four hours (each day-long

  • performance February 17, 2017

    Adult Contemporary

    WILLIAM FORSYTHE’S PAS/PARTS 2016 begins like an about-to-happen assignation at the bottom of an abandoned swimming pool. The air is dusky blue; the mood is at once alienated and electric. A lone woman is still, and then gloriously in motion, kinetic impulses flickering and undulating through her body with crystalline propulsion.

    The woman is Sofiane Sylve, the imperiously grand San Francisco Ballet principal. She is the cold-hot center of this episodic ensemble ballet and, like Thom Willems sinuous, spectacle-courting score, she is only warming up.

    Forsythe made Pas/Parts for the Paris Opera

  • interviews November 29, 2016

    Constance Lewallen

    The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) was one of the first museums to focus on collecting Conceptual art. Since the 1960s, it has amassed works by Tom Marioni, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Ant Farm, and this commitment has not waned since, as witnessed by the recent acquisition of dealer Steven Leiber’s collection. Constance Lewallen was instrumental in building Berkeley’s collection. As a curator at the institution for over three decades, she worked closely with many of the artists featured in “Mind over Matter,” a survey she recently organized of

  • performance October 26, 2016

    Laugh Lines

    “IT’S A TERRIBLE WORD FOR A YOUNG ARTIST—creative dance; it’s oppressive.”

    “I hope you can understand how absurd my practice is.”

    These are two of the many very good lines Deborah Hay tossed off Saturday night on the stage of Zellerbach Hall, during a pre-performance lecture (a first for her and, no surprise, she nailed it) at Cal Performances in Berkeley. The occasion was her Figure a Sea, a 2015 collaboration with Sweden’s Cullberg Ballet.

    Here’s a third: “They both happened to laugh a lot, and that helped me.” This in reference to John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg, whose art and thinking were

  • performance July 01, 2016

    Deep Space

    SHORTLY BEFORE I SAW BLANK MAP, a work created and performed collectively by five black, queer artists, an invitation for “Blackness in Abstraction,” a show at Pace Gallery curated by Adrienne Edwards, landed in my inbox. 

     

    As I watched these five disparate individuals in Blank Map moving and not moving, together and apart, for roughly an hour, the concept of Edwards’s exhibition kept surfacing. When Brontez Purnell lay prone in front of a camera positioned on the floor, pulled down his pants and undulated his ass, the audience witnessed both the spectacle of bouncing flesh and the dark, wavelike

  • performance June 29, 2016

    Comin’ Round the Mountain

    IN THE BEGINNING IS THE END.

    That’s what I kept thinking while standing alone in 356 S. Mission’s industrial backlot amid shifting clumps of art-world denizens. The late-day golden light was fading, and wave upon wave of Biblical so-and-so begat so-and-so washed up and over us via James Earl Jones’s unmistakable voice.

    It was the opening night of Lutz Bacher’s Magic Mountain, an expansive installation that is one of the best things—full stop—I’ve been inside of in ages. All of the choices on display feel inevitable, unerring: complexity and clarity wandering hand in hand.

    Found objects and materials

  • performance April 28, 2016

    Church and State

    IN A THREE-NIGHT STRETCH earlier this month, I saw jazz legend Cecil Taylor’s concert with Min Tanaka and Tony Oxley at the Whitney, Miami City Ballet at Lincoln Center, and Vicky Shick at Danspace Project. “This is a totally weird amalgamation,” I wrote to my editor, “and so I’m thinking it might make for a good column.”

    Such, it seems, are the dubious writerly frames I devise when faced with an overabundance of choices. I should have Shick choreograph this column for me; Another Spell, which marked the twentieth anniversary of her first commission at Danspace, showed yet again how skilled this

  • performance March 22, 2016

    History in the Making

    AS WITH HIS PREVIOUS SERIES, Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church, 2009–2013, Trajal Harrell’s new production, The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai, is explicitly concerned with speculative history. But this time around, instead of imagining a meeting between the Harlem voguing and Judson Dance Theater worlds, Harrell turns abroad, to a choreographic encounter between two enigmatic figures: Tatsumi Hijikata, a founder of Japanese butoh dance, and Dominique Bagouet, of France’s Nouvelle Danse movement.

    He also dreams up a midwife: Ellen Stewart, the inimitable force behind

  • performance February 29, 2016

    Present Tense

    THE WOMAN IS sitting on a couch in the museum. She is only sitting. She isn’t looking distractedly at a brochure, or taking a picture of art, or herself, or herself and art. She isn’t doing anything with her phone, even just holding it like a talisman, and in fact it appears that she doesn’t even have a phone. In a room full of chaotic, barely-there bodies, she simply and powerfully is.

    Soon enough she will not be sitting. She will, slowly and with a coiled, liquid purpose that seems to originate at a cellular level, flow into less conventional poses, coming up for air periodically to level her

  • performance January 19, 2016

    Five Years

    But to impose is not

    To discover. To discover an order as of

    A season, to discover summer and know it,

    To discover winter and know it well, to find,

    Not to impose, not to have reasoned at all,

    Out of nothing to have come on major weather,

    It is possible, possible, possible. It must

    Be possible. It must be that in time

    The real will from its crude compoundings come

    LAST WEEK I had the great good fortune to secure a hard-to-come-by seat to I Understand Everything Better, a dance-theater work by David Neumann and his Advanced Beginner Group. Co-commissioned last year by Abrons Arts Center and the

  • performance November 11, 2015

    Pointe / Counterpointe

    FOR HIS PERFORMA 15 COMMISSION, Jérôme Bel has created a compact work in an unwieldy delivery system: The thirty-five-minute Ballet (New York) is being presented in three spaces around Manhattan this month—Marian Goodman Gallery, the Martha Graham Studio, and the theater at El Museo del Barrio—so that, per the program, it “plays with how these environments each frame and shape the ways we see and ‘feel’ dance.” (Amusingly, the Graham Center, a modern-dance shrine that now occupies Merce Cunningham’s fabled digs on Bethune Street, gets labeled “a downtown dance studio.”)

    Alas, for this contextual

  • performance October 02, 2015

    Game On

    IT’S A FUNNY THING to spend five hours with something and not know how you feel about it. This is especially true when it’s someone else’s thing, that you have ostensibly, or so convention holds, been invited in to witness.

    Sarah Michelson’s four-day tournamento took over the Walker Art Center’s William and Nadine McGuire Theater last week. I was in attendance for only the final hours on Sunday, starting with two-and-a-half hours of afternoon activities that began at 4 PM, followed by the last official show, which began at 7.

    But “activities” isn’t quite right here, and neither is “show.” Better

  • performance August 27, 2015

    Back to the Future

    HERE IT IS: the annual highly selective, totally subjective, goddammit-I-only-remembered-the-best/weirdest/awfullest-thing-after-it-was-published, New York fall performance preview. Trust me, this hurts me more than it hurts you.

    I decided to take a different tack and focus as much as possible on smaller and out of the way things, because, you know, the city is going to be taken over by Performa 15, which is coming up November 1, and this year has the humble theme of the Renaissance. And yes, the Crossing the Line festival is great (Miguel Gutierrez’s complete trilogy at New York Live Arts, and

  • passages August 13, 2015

    Albert Evans (1968–2015)

    “AFTER SPEAKING WITH ALBERT EVANS, a reporter’s transcript is filled with notes like ‘big laugh,’ ‘throws hands up dramatically,’ and ‘mischievous whisper.’ ”

    That sentence didn’t make my editor’s cut for the 2006 New York Times profile I did of Evans. But the very three-dimensional idea of his expansive and warm presence always came to my mind when people mentioned him. And it did again when I learned in June that the former New York City Ballet star had died.

    It’s a shocking loss, in part because of that big and warm personality, which shone through whether he was performing in one of George

  • performance July 31, 2015

    Naked Truths

    AT SOME POINT in Mike Taylor’s mockumentary DANCENOISE: The Phenomenon (1992), Richard Foreman holds forth, pointing out that you never know whether people are “really picking up on the salient points” of DANCENOISE or simply having “their own fantasies.”

    It’s a marvelously deft and deadpan note in the satirical hagiography, which celebrates as iconic and omnipresent a performance duo (Anne Iobst and Lucy Sexton) that was decidedly fringe. On Sunday afternoon at the Whitney Museum of American Art the film took on an added meta-dimension: The occasion for the Taylor screening was “Don’t Look Back,”

  • performance June 30, 2015

    Identity Play

    IF THERE IS A HEAVEN, there will be a theater. And if there is a theater, it will be Oakland’s Paramount, a marvel of kitschy and sublime Art Deco grandeur. And if there is a ballet for you to watch, while you fill out the necessary forms (there will always be necessary forms) and your martini is shaken or stirred, I wouldn’t mind at all if it’s Vaslav Nijinsky’s L’Apres-midi d’un Faune.

    I’d never seen this ballet live until a few weeks ago, when I arrived, with no small amount of trepidation, at the Paramount for the Oakland Ballet’s fiftieth anniversary gala. Galas generally make me want to

  • performance May 22, 2015

    Now and Then

    “I’M AGAINST STYLE. I don’t know what it means, style. I’m trying to find the language of each ballet … It’s whatever came out of my soul.”

    These are the sorts of statements one can somewhat get away with if possessed of a marvelously lugubrious, thick Russian accent. Such an accent has Yuri Possokhov, who I recently encountered during an audience fluffer for the premiere of his newest work, Swimmer, at San Francisco Ballet, where he is choreographer in residence.

    Swimmer’s imagistic narrative takes its point of departure and its title from the 1964 John Cheever story; Possokhov, himself a child

  • performance April 15, 2015

    Body Parts

    THE SUNLIGHT from the circular window high in the wall marks time in a shifting stretching oval on the floor. I am not quite sure what I am looking at, the various piles of construction and design-related materials, also maybe marking time on this long floor. I haven’t yet made the decision to look closely enough, always that decision when you walk into a gallery, like any conversation, whether or not to commit. I’m still getting my bearings at the echt Brooklyn arts-and-science compound that is Pioneer Works on a Sunday afternoon.

    Lauren Bakst and Yuri Masnyj’s Living Room Index and Pool is