My Spot in the Studio
Questions/observations/excitements that bubbled up for me as Behold Bold Sam Dog took shape.
1. These ladies appear like giantesses as they circumscribe the space and halo their heads with long arms. Their limbs and shapes vibrating and tensile, exuding energy without holding any awkward tension.
2. How is it possible for the movement to be simultaneously soft and specific? I am accustomed to precision coming with hard-edged unison, more ready to easily accept the ice-capades version with plastered on smiles and right angles than this confounding (and therefore delightful) roundness of shape coupled with razor sharp timing and ironic surprises.
3. I should read Susan’s book. I’m nervous to read her book. I want to wait and find the right moment to read her book. I am reading Jonathan Franzen right now. In fact, I’m having a similar experience with this movement as with his words—after I’d experienced just a snippet (a few pages, a few minutes) I knew that I’d devour the entire cannon; that there was a completeness that this artist would demand of me, a full comprehension and attention. That is easier to do
with books; the words stick around practically forever. I’m not going to dig into the Rethorst video archive to try to “experience” her history. That would feel false. I want to see them all, to “read” them all, firsthand rather than get the translation.
4. There is just as much careful and subtle attention to the wrist and elbow in Rethorst’s work as in classical ballet, but none of the trappings of perfection. They are both full of effort, herculean in fact, though neither lets on, and all dancers commit equally to precision. Blades and paws and supple claws, crumply wilting petal fingers, opposable thumbs and the itsy bitsy spider all play into Susan’s port des bras which is equal parts elegant and esoteric.
5. The internal (performance) landscape is directly related to the external (performed) image—I sense this, though don’t readily see the connections. Intention is important, without being overly delicate, and sometimes it borders on precious. The sculptural mass of bodies continuously shifts, always interrupted by another image that slides over and erases the first one I’m trying to hold onto. It’s best to sit a bit further back in the space, to see the shapes and patterns emerge and dissolve.
6. The music was absent in my first rehearsal, and now the piece—the waltzy and celebratory orchestration is winning over my attention. I love this piece of music, love the way that it is layered over movement that is incongruous to the images that it conjures. Because Anna Karinina would be at home in this sonic landscape, the movement (more akin to Miranda July) pops all the more. The choreography slides in and out of being in sync with the soundtrack, and gives a taste of movement that would have the right topical “syntax” without a mickey-mousing beat per gesture as The Beatles takes over.
7. It feels very important that this work is now living in Philadelphia—a landscape changer, so to speak. I imagine it also feels a little sad for the choreographer—absenting herself from the city that she made her home in for so long. Bringing 208 on the road is more than just up the block and now involves dragging that furniture across state lines. That living room is one of the few things that is an umbilical tie to New York.
8. We’ve been like flies, buzzing around this dance-meat during it’s making and performing. I wonder how much of a fishbowl this has created, how this well-documented event has been changed by my presence, the photographers, or the big introduction of Rethorst’s work to (mostly) new audiences.
9. I can feel it in my body, I want to wriggle my head and stand attentively and feel the fingers tracing and assessing my arm and abdomen. It is intensely intimate, even from a distance, simultaneously presentational and experiential. This is a dance about bones and gravity and real people—can it be functional and sensual at the same time? Seems so.
10. Despite all of the detail in the movement, there is nothing ornamental—flourishes and bric-a-brac function differently. All of it is essential, a world unfolding in its surprise and simplicity and overlapping in choreographed complexities. I keep talking about subtlety, intention, focus, “just so-ness” which is the opposite of it being plain. It is super satisfying to watch, and a long time since I’ve latched on to something.
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