Performance

  • The Trouble with Normal

    IT’S ALL IN THE TIMING. The same week that former President George W. Bush published 41: A Portrait of My Father, his “love story” for pater and predecessor George H. W. Bush, the Farrelly Brothers’ (d)ur-comedy sequel Dumb and Dumber To was number one at the box office. Also that week, “The Innovations Issue” of the New York Times Magazine championed failure as the new success: “Welcome to the Failure Age!” “Virtual Reality Fails Its Way to Success,” “A Brief History of Failure.” A prodigal son who sinned and was born again—first into Christ, then into art—writing the record for dear old dad.

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  • Now You See Me

    RUSHING FROM BROOKLYN, the subways are slow and I don’t catch the right train up to Beacon to see Steve Paxton’s not-a-retrospective. The work of the virtuoso Cunningham dancer, Judson pioneer, Grand Union collaborator, and Contact Improvisation creator is precisely about awareness of one’s body and so as a distraction I try to pay attention to mine. Pacing on the platform is a kind of magical thinking, I realize, an impotent attempt to speed up trains or slow down time, as if my internal velocity could exert some force outside its own envelope. It is impossible not to make metaphors of this.

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  • Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman

    I ATTENDED two performances of Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this past June, the first out of curiosity about what Wilson would do with the oddball coupling of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe, the second because I was ravenous for more. More of the miraculous mix of precision and spontaneity in the interplay of the performers, more of Wilson’s incandescent yet hard-as-nails stagecraft, more of Hal Willner’s pulsating score, and of Darryl Pinckney’s incantatory adaptation of Russian avant-garde writer Daniil Kharms’s short story “Starukha” (The Old Woman),

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  • Freddie Mercury

    I’M NOT SURE HOW MUCH I learned about Fred Herko during “Fred Herko: A Crash Course,” a four-hour-plus symposium organized by Joshua Lubin-Levy and presented Saturday afternoon by NYU’s performance studies department and a bunch of other august orgs.

    This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy myself. I mean, we were fed well, for starters, and anytime anyone is showing Andy Warhol films, life is good. More on those later, but the above paragraph is to say that there is a lot of misinformation and mythology out there on our dear Freddie, and people really, really, really like talking about both.

    This

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  • Wendy City

    1.

    WENDY WHELAN is twenty-two minutes late for her thirty-minute rehearsal with fellow New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild, who had been preparing to head out but now, smart man, quickly slips off his street shoes and gets back into studio gear.

    “Sorry!” Whelan mouths, her face making an exaggerated smile-cringe as she rushes to put on her own pointe shoes. Apparently she thought the rehearsal began a half hour later than it did.

    Somehow this isn’t even remotely obnoxious. If anybody is thinking irritable thoughts, they’re well hidden. (As one of the company’s publicists says to me as

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  • Girls, Interrupted

    ANY GOOD STORY has another stowed somewhere inside of it. A young girl is pushed out into the world without warning, before she is ready. Motherless, fatherless, and without a home, she is unprotected from the elements, from threat and harm, and must find her own way to the end of her life. This is the story of J, the heroine of 600 HIGHWAYMEN’s Employee of the Year, a humble, epic tale performed by five girls, all between the ages of nine and ten. Over the course of the performance Candela Cubria, Rachel Dostal, Stella Lapidus, Alice Chastain Levy, and Violet Newman take turns playing J,

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  • When Life Hands You Lemon

    THERE WAS THIS MOMENT, when April Matthis was lying on the floor of the Walker Art Center’s Burnet Gallery, scream-shouting in virtuosic fashion, her red clothes and brown skin and black hair vibrant against the waiting-room-of-god–like white room, when all I could think about was Bina48.

    Matthis, with Okwui Okpokwasili, makes up the absurdly brilliant live cast of Ralph Lemon’s Scaffold Room, which had its premiere at the Walker this past week.

    Bina48 is the AI robot modeled after Bina Rothblatt, as profiled in a recent, engrossing New York article on the real Bina’s partner, the transgender

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  • Environmental Hazards

    YOU CAN’T SWING A DEAD CAT these days without hitting a reference to the “Anthropocene,” the term for what some argue is a new geological age caused by humans fucking up the environment. Philosopher Bruno Latour’s play Gaïa Global Circus—which had its US premiere at the Kitchen last week (it first played in September 2012 as part of Documenta 13 in Kassel)—invokes the Anthropocene to tackle hairy issues about who bears responsibility for global climate change, and what can possibly be done about it. Like the Civilians’ play The Great Immensity that was at the Public Theater earlier this year,

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  • Days of Future Pasta

    AS I LEANED over the table to assess the respective merits of two equally intricate pasta necklaces that were being fashioned before my eyes, a participant in Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s Iron Age Pasta Workshop spoke my thoughts out loud: “It’s like kindergarten.” Her painted face (and arms), homemade costume and headdress seemed to bear this out. Other similarly disguised Chetwynd familiars and some laymen were applying themselves to the task of stringing and gluing together an assortment of painted pasta, mostly of the tubular variety, laid out for that purpose on two makeshift tables.

    Only this

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  • Falling Down

    ONE WEEK before his performance last month at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, I sought out Hu Xiangqian in his Upper East Side studio apartment. Amid dozens of ceiling-high houseplants, in front of a full-length mirror, stood a music-stand, to which were taped copious handwritten scripts. Hu was silent about the details of his upcoming performance, but screened for me instead a video of his most recent work, Speech At The Edge Of The World, made for inclusion in this year’s Gwangju Biennial. The two works share a protagonist, and the format of a public speech.

    In his video, Hu plays the

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  • Time and Again

    YOU ALL KNOW THE DRILL: It’s fall. There are things happening.

    Here are just a few of them, as filtered through a sensibility that may in no way be compatible with your own:

    1. The inimitable ballerina Wendy Whelan is giving her farewell New York City Ballet performance on October 18, ending an astonishingly fertile thirty-year run that has included collaborations with just about every ballet choreographer of note, and performances of breathtaking command and finesse. Say you were inclined to commit some sort of semi-serious crime to get a ticket to a show this fall—this is the one. Otherwise,

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  • Lunch Break

    Last week, I had lunch with Anna Halprin. On her deck, in a little screened in gazebo, surrounded by a cathedral-like cluster of redwoods. She made a really good salad, which I ate more of than she did.

    The hillside around us was buzzing with insect and bird life. The water pitcher was cool to the touch. Her hands, it should go without saying, were amazing, thick with ropey wrinkles, tanned and strong. She wore two gold wedding bands on her left hand, one on her middle finger—I didn’t ask, but I assume, that the larger one belonged to her late husband, the architect Lawrence Halprin.

    I want to

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