Wednesday, October 25, 2006

beta beta dance

Gang Gang Dance (City Pages)

Jandek (The Stranger)

A week or so ago, my friends Mark and Julie came to town, on the occasion of Julie's dance performance down in Dumbo. My only exposure to that art form occurs only on such a perennial visit. Seated in the first row, so as to help tape off a square plot for her piece, I fidget uncomfortably watching the other dancers get limber. I'm not the most uptight dude, having done yoga for many years and still doing a stretch routine that lasts longer than most of my gym workouts, yet watching the pliant bodies disinterestedly contorting and expanding on planes I've never dreamt of in my own skin, I feel more aches and tight spots. The deft ease with which the dancers move can only make the observer's muscles tighten. But wait, when's the last public art that evoked such an unconscious physical reaction to it?

While the seven other performances have a sense of removal (not unlike playing touch football in McCarren Park and then watching Chad Johnson or T.O. tightrope a catch in traffic), of distant admiration for their abstracted movement and whorled grace, an aesthetic ease in the well-drilled effortlessness of each gesture, Julie's performance only ratchets up the discomfort level. Her piece stands out from the others in a few ways: her attire is normal, workaday business-casual; there is scant music to accompany her; and while the other dancers can be heard breathing intently as they move, only Julie has a recitation to it. And while grace and swanlike glides are the common language among the others, Julie's movements are rote and jerky, not unlike that in the house or at work or in transit, awkward, agitated, yanked from bodily awareness. My own body tenses, teeth dancing in a grind as her movements become more frazzled and crazed, her huffed words caught up in that feedback loop of daily thought. I feel like my rubber band might snap itself from the pressure.

Afterwards, I exhilarate in such anxiety, in her performance having such a grating effect on me. She talks about the feeling of being trapped, of a state not unlike "Yellow Wallpaper," an allusion to the short story by proto-feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I remain at a loss to think of a recent musical event that inspired both such tension, release, and acute physical awareness and so in homage to both Julie and Mark, here are two tracks I snaked off the sadly-defunct 12 AM Maternal blog. The former is the perfect marriage of Mike Love and Arthur Russell, the latter...well, words can't quite grip its 13 minutes of dancefloor delirium.

John Forde - Stardance

Bohannon - Maybe You Can Dance