COLUMNS

  • THE YEAR IN PERFORMANCE

    CAN AN ARTIST HIT THE JUGULAR while they’re reaching for the wallet at the same time? Only if the wallet and the jugular are the same thing. In the cultural devolution of “audience” to “eyeballs,” perhaps no genre has so loudly insisted on its robust resistance to power as comedy—and perhaps no genre’s complicity has, since 2017, been made more transparent. (Let the rise of Joe Rogan be citation enough here.) To borrow a one-liner from Morgan Bassichis’s brilliant solo performance Questions to Ask Beforehand (Bridget Donahue), “What stage of capitalism is it called when everyone’s a comedian?”

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  • Being and Nothingness

    How choreographer Mina Nishimura inhabits sacred space

    WITH THE WINDING TITLE of her latest dance, Mapping a Forest While Searching for an Opposite Term of Exorcist, the choreographer Mina Nishimura suggests she’s looking for a role, a word, which she has so far grasped only by way of its inverse. As the audience filed into Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church before the show, the work’s title was projected across one wall. If an exorcist expels spirits from a body, or a space, would Nishimura and her collaborators be inviting spirits in, summoning the supernatural into their bodies and the space of the church?

    It sometimes seemed that way, if

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  • Step by Step

    Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s living archive of Black dance

    FOR TIONA NEKKIA MCCLODDEN’S latest workThe Trace of an Implied Presence, currently on view at the Shed in New York, the artist has installed four dancefloors in the second-floor gallery, each tailored to different specifications. Two are covered in Marley (one black and one white). Two are made of hard wood. Suspended above each dancefloor is a screen, onto which are projected color and black-and-white filmed portraits of Black performers. Here McClodden presents Michael J. Love, a tap dancer and scholar, striking complex rhythms against the floor; Kim Grier-Martinez, current artistic director

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  • Call of the Wild

    Tracking Annamaria Ajmone's latest moves

    IN THE UNDERLIT BASEMENT SPACE of the Palais de Tokyo, Italian dancer and choreographer Annamaria Ajmone’s La notte è il mio giorno preferito (Night is My Favorite Day) started with the sound of a deep animal howl, the reverberations of which lent dimension to the darkness and outlined the space of the performance, delineating its edges and corners. In the infrared glow of the overhanging green lights, a minimal representation of a forest emerged; a few sparse lianas built the habitat for the performance. Suddenly, a stealthy, human-animal hybrid figure appeared and began an evasive dance,

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  • Live Wire

    Marco Fusinato goes solo at the Australian pavilion

    CUTTING THROUGH THE CENTER of the Australian pavilion is an enormous video screen, almost as big as the walls. Beside it sits a giant stack of amps, like a punctuation mark to a particularly emphatic billboard. Six in all, they are arranged in a grid-like ziggurat, the kind that might inspire a roadie’s ultimate (now archaic) words of praise: “sick stack.”Draped and coiled cables link them to an oversized computer hidden out of sight beneath the stage, where the number-crunching for the synchronization of images and sound takes place. On screen, the pictures appear in grayscale. The austerity

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  • Waiting for Argot

    Colin Self puts a secret language on stage

    TIP THE IVY,  the latest stage work by Colin Self, is an opera about language. First performed last year at Halle für Kunst Steiermark in Graz, Austria, it recently had a three-night run at Performance Space New York, which cocommissioned the piece. Like many of Self’s productions, Tip the Ivy is heavily collaborative, this time featuring Bully Fae Collins, Cornelius, Dia Dear, and Geo Wyeth as well as a choir, or “XOIR.”

    More specifically, Ivy is an opera about the sociolect of queers, sex workers, and entertainers in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England, known as Polari (also spelled

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  • Bar None

    Sadie Barnette’s bacchanal shrine to queer Black love

    WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES! Or—in the case of my recent two-part trek to the Kitchen to experience multidisciplinary artist Sadie Barnette’s installation-as-performance-site The New Eagle Creek—a couple of weeks. Presented in collaboration with the Studio Museum in Harlem, Barnette’s work (or the beginning of it) is a shimmering recreation of her father Rodney Barnette’s now-shuttered San Francisco watering hole, The New Eagle Creek Saloon (1990–1993). The establishment held special significance as the first Black-owned gay bar in the area, a response to the urgent need for a non-discriminatory

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  • In the Running

    On Malcolm Peacock’s We Served. . .and they felt tiny bursts along the horizon

    WHEN I HEARD THE AUDIO RECORDING of Malcolm Peacock’s feet running over gravel, his spent breath keeping the rhythm of his run, and then heard his voice—“Good morning. I wanted to provide some context this morning for what I wish to discuss on the topic of touch”—it conjured an intimacy familiar to me: when setting out early, in the quiet eclipse of day before the anxious demands of labor settle in, is marked by the presence of another in shared commitment. I am here as you are here: to breathe alongside each other. Otherwise, it may just be my body or yours moving alone against the dark, and

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  • Dancer in the Dark

    Sharon Eyal’s ballet of dispossession

    “WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN DANCE CRITICS,” said one art critic to another as they cycled through Berlin, bodies juddering as if struck by a frying pan. We were on our way home from Kraftwerk, a power plant turned club turned performance venue where, on the invitation of Light Art Space, Sharon Eyal, an Israeli choreographer and long-time dancer for the renowned Batsheva Dance Company, recently presented a number of the works she has produced with Gai Behar for their company, L-E-V. Soul Chain, 2017, the piece we saw that night, was a thing of beauty, but the kind of beauty that is exposed like bone

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  • House of Leaves

    Keioui Keijaun Thomas’s song of survival

    SMELLS LIKE CLUB. Or the emptiness before—air conditioning, fog machine, coat check. It’s been a while since I’ve been to anything, hiding from Ms. Omicron. At Perrotin, filing into Keioui Keijaun Thomas’s performance, my walk involuntarily saunters as the music transitions from soft nature murmurs to something more rhythmic. The club kids are here but we’re sitting, masked and muzzled. Enough Telfar bags to reskin a vegan cow. It’s 7 p.m. in New York. Definitely not club time, let alone dinnertime. We’re seated around a ring of paper bags, restaurant checks, dead leaves, and latex gloves. In

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  • O Holy Night

    On Kiki & Herb’s queer holiday cheer

    ON THE NIGHT OF NOVEMBER 30, a stuffed, though sacred, cow named Daisy presided over the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theatre, an opera house as weathered yet acoustically sound as the pair of queer Messiahs who joined her onstage proved to be as they launched into two hours of storytelling, Christmas songs, and quite a bit of drinking. As the story goes: Away in a manger one late December night, animals of various sorts attended the virgin birth of the nice Jewish boy who inspired the world’s most rabid fanbase. One of these animals was Daisy, who, while snacking on the local Bethlehemian

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  • Test and Trace

    On the evanescent poetry of Performa 2021

    STRANGE THAT IT'S BEEN years since I last saw live performance. But everyone was exclaiming this now-familiar platitude as they busily embraced on the sidewalk at the intersection of Rivington and Orchard the past October, during the collective reunion which took as its backdrop and pretext Kevin Beasley’s The Sound of Morning. The first of eight commissions realized for this year’s Performa Biennial, the performance began almost unnoticeably. One of Beasley’s collaborators flung a deflated basketball into the air; another began methodically disassembling a black metal barrier that had been

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