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

  • Sarah Michelson, September2017/\, 2017. Performance view, Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Annandale-On-Hudson, New York, September 22, 2017. Madeline Wilcox. Photo: Paula Court.
    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

  • Wally Cardona and Jennifer Lacey, THE SET UP: ISLAND GHOST SLEEP PRINCESS TIME STORY SHOW, 2017. Performance view, June 25, 2017, LMCC Arts Center at Governors Island, New York. Kapila Venu and Rajeev Padiparampil. Photo: Darial Sneed.
    performance July 07, 2017

    Breaking Tradition


    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

  • William Forsythe, Pas/Parts 2016, 2016. Performance view, January 23, 2016, San Francisco Ballet. Carlo DiLanno and Sofiane Sylve. Photo: Erik Tomasson.
    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

  • Stephen Kaltenbach, Art Works, 1968–2005, bronze, 4 7/8 x 7 7/8 x 5/8”. Photo: Benjamin Blackwell.
    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

  • Deborah Hay, Figure a Sea, 2015. Photo: Urban Jörén.
    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

  • Adee Roberson, Brontez Purnell, keyon gaskin, Tasha Ceyan, and Wizard Apprentice, Blank Map, 2016. Performance view, Dance Mission Theater, San Francisco, June 2, 2016. Adee Roberson, keyon gaskin, Brontez Purnell, Tasha Ceyan, and Wizard Apprentice. Photo: Leila Weefur.
    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

  • View of “Lutz Bacher: Magic Mountain,” 2016.
    performance June 29, 2016

    Comin’ Round the Mountain


    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

  • Cecil Taylor, Min Tanaka, and Tony Oxley in performance at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. April 14, 2016, as part of “Open Plan: Cecil Taylor.” Photo: Paula Court.
    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

  • Trajal Harrell, The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai, 2015. Performance view, Zellerbach Playhouse. Thibault Lac and Stephen Thompson. Photo: Orpheas Emirzas.
    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

  • Maria Hassabi, PLASTIC, 2015. Rehearsal view, Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 30, 2015. Photo: Julieta Cervantes.
    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

  • David Neumann, I Understand Everything Better, 2015. Performance view, The Chocolate Factory, Long Island City, New York, January 2016. Photo: Maria Baranova.
    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