COLUMNS

  • 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

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  • Sleeper Hit

    THE FLOOR, like the walls, is bright white. Rectangular floodlights line its perimeter on three sides, angled upward in the manner of expectant faces. This eagerness is mirrored by the audience; tickets sold out quickly and seats filled up fast.

    None of this surprises me. Neither am I surprised that we are given a reading assignment of sorts (typeface Cambria, the default for Microsoft Office), handed out alongside the “official” programs. I read dutifully.

    We are here to see Yvonne Rainer, after all. She holds court in a chair on stage right: wiry glasses, hair in a modest French twist, striped

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  • Pass It On

    IF VISUAL ART sometimes seems only to mine archives for stuff to appropriate or sell or both, performance is the now-action that reanimates and perverts the past, in large part because performance can’t (won’t) calcify time into objects, or objects in time. This is a very obvious thing to say, but running between galleries and theaters these past weeks, I’ve been considering how to better map these spaces’ relationships to the historical, wondering how to think about their differences in a way that isn’t always reduced to capital. Three recent performances—each by female artists—wrestle history,

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  • Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

    THE ART WORLD’S FASCINATION with relocating dance into the gallery has been gathering steam for well over a decade—and as of this spring it shows no signs of abating, despite the numerous conundrums that encumber the transition from theater to white cube. Of all the stage-to-gallery transpositions I’ve seen, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s recent exhibition at Wiels Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels resolved these dilemmas most impressively. This one-work show was based on the Belgian choreographer’s sixty-minute dance Vortex Temporum, first performed by her company Rosas in 2013. As a

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  • 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

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  • Murder on the Dance Floor

    I’VE SEEN (or rather, tried to see) performances by Yve Laris Cohen at The Kitchen three times now. The first time, I didn’t see anything at all. Unaware that viewers of Seth, 2013, had already been chosen, I was turned away at the door. For Thomas, 2013, four of us restlessly shifted on the floor of a disheveled third-story administrative office. In the dark, we listened to the even tick of a metronome and the rain hitting something metallic on the roof, illuminated only by an orange bulb flickering in the artist’s lap. That time, the audience was self-selected; volunteering meant missing all

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  • 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

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  • Death Becomes Her

    THERE MAY BE no experience more excruciating, or more essentially human, than that of rising to the occasion of a loved one’s death. What to do when there is nothing to do? How to tell a story as form is falling away?

    Playwright/director Richard Maxwell wrote his most recent play, The Evening, as his father was dying. It is his first work in a forthcoming trilogy inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. Rather than adapt or remake, Maxwell has so far loosed threads from the classic, weaving them through a story set not in hell, purgatory, or heaven precisely, but in an unremarkable bar in an unnamed

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  • Construction Sites

    Silly Writer Construct:

    See two plays, one written by a woman and directed by a man, the other vice versa. Discuss within larger context of progressive New York performance.

    Shows in Question:

    Social Security, at the Bushwick Starr, written by Christina Masciotti and directed by Paul Lazar, performed by Elizabeth DeMent, Cynthia Hopkins, and T. Ryder Smith

    Running Away From the One With the Knife, at the Chocolate Factory, written by Aaron Landsman and directed by Mallory Catlett, performed by Kate Benson, Juliana Francis Kelly, and James Himmelsbach

    Post-Performance Reality (aka Mostly Non-Construct

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  • Punch and Judy

    “MY GENDER IS PERFORMER,” a bedazzling Taylor Mac announced to a sold-out audience at New York Live Arts. “My pronoun,” he twinkled, “is judy.” Looking like the love-child of Rosalind Russell and a leopard-print-obsessed Lubavitcher, with eyes lashed like Venus flytraps, Mac launched into a six-hour marathon performance of songs and stories of the 1900s to the 1950s—a preview of sorts of his forthcoming opus, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music. Written by Mac, the show reads music history to double as a chronicle of sex, repression, expression, and community, and “to remind people what they’ve

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  • Out of the Box

    THERE IS A PARTICULAR LOW, sustained rumble that is used in films to build suspense. Unlike the discordant stabs of a piano or frenetic strings that mark terror, this tone alerts us to danger’s nearness, lurking but not immediate.

    In Ligia Lewis’s Minor Matter, which recently premiered at Human Resources LA, this sound announced performer Kenneth Nicholson’s rise from the floor.

    Like the best science fiction, Lewis’s work is most successful in its insistence that the spare can be made spectacular. Nicholson began with a monologue delivered supine. Reporting on his view under the astringent gallery

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  • Mortal COIL

    AH, TECHNOLOGY! The bogeyman that threatens to fetter our bodies to gadgets, entangle our synapses in wires, thieve our memories, erode our free will, etc. Popular stories remain riddled with the plagues and punishments that befall humanity when it believes it possesses the power to create the new, to exceed the limits of the body, to trump mortality. And in the end we always save ourselves somehow, don’t we? (Spoiler alert: There are no spoilers anymore.) How dispiriting to realize that our devices might be updated with greater frequency than the narratives we spin around them.

    However, there

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