Live audience returns for a new platform at the Danspace project

How does dance persist in difficult times? When she began sketching out the first live platform event at the Danspace Project since the...


How does dance persist in difficult times?

When she began sketching out the first live platform event at the Danspace Project since the 2020 shutdown, Judy Hussie-Taylor, the organization’s executive director and chief curator, had a question: With so much With the world of dance in lockdown and the line between art and life more blurred than ever, how were artists influenced by what they did outside of dance?

Some choreographers have come to mind for the platform, a selection of performances and conversations organized around a particular theme. On- and off-stage partners Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener bought a 1970s home in upstate New York before the pandemic hit. They basically redid the house – and became carpenters in the process. Dance artist Ogemdi Ude works as a birth and postpartum doula. Mayfield Brooks has extensive experience as an urban farmer. And Iele Paloumpis, a visually impaired artist, was a dying doula. For all, their skills speak to aspects of survival.

All participate in Platform 2022, organized by Hussie-Taylor, with the curatorial team of Benjamin Akio Kimitch and Seta Morton. Its title, “The Dream of the Audience (Part II)”, comes from a 1977 poem by artist and writer Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, who calls the audience a “distant relative.” In Part I, which Danspace presented in 2021, this was particularly true: it was virtual.

For the latest iteration, which runs until June 11, the artists address, in a personal way, the intersections between life and dance. This week, Mitchell and Riener present “RETROFIT: A New Era,” an improvisational performance installation that shows how much they negotiate and make choices in their lives as carpenters and dancers. “I feel like the two processes have started to collide,” Riener said. “We were dancing our house renovation and renovating our house at the same time.”

If previous platforms have focused on individual artists or overarching ideas, this one is more of an awakening, exploring grief and connection, loss and love, lies and truths. Accessibility is important; Audio description is an ingredient in some Danspace Project performances where dreaming of an audience – and caring for them – is no longer just a dream but a reality.

Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener

In “RETROFIT: a new age” (April 28-30), Mitchell and Riener continue to build improvisational structures and examine how they relate to everyday objects. What is the connection between dancing and watching the dance happen?

“There’s a way your attention shifts through time and space when you’re inside the project,” Riener said. “We also wanted to create a version of that for the audience – whether you sort of watch things change over time if you want, or you go back and forth and it’s a completely different experience.” (Audience members are free to come and go during the four-hour sessions; however, timed tickets are required.)

The choreography and carpentry – moving bodies and everyday objects or tearing down walls – showed Mitchell and Riener a new way of looking at their dance. How are the two related? “We really completely transformed this little house,” Mitchell said. “It’s completely unrecognizable since our debut. And I also feel like we can do this for another 20, 30 years or maybe the rest of our lives, honestly. It’s kind of similar to dancing in that way where it never really feels like it’s over. It’s always in transition.

For “Sensoria: An Opera Strange” (June 9-11), Brooks, who uses the pronouns they/they, continues her research on the sound life of whales and whale fall, which refers to the decay that occurs when the body of a whale, after falling to the bottom of the ocean, provides food and nutrients for sea creatures.

“I don’t know how to make an opera,” Brooks said, “but what I do know is that the enormity of this mammal that kind of guided me through this process is lyrical.”

While previous work by Brooks, “Whale Fall”, created last year at the Abrons Arts Centerwas a film, a visual experience, “Sensoria” will be an auditory experience in collaboration with the composer Anya Yermakova, which works with underwater sounds. Brooks sees it as an episodic event with built-in breaks where the audience can choose what they want to do. “It’s really about providing space, breathing space,” Brooks said. “You don’t have to stay all the time. You can go home and come back tomorrow or not come back at all.

“Sensoria” is part of a broader exploration: How to break down mourning? Within the artwork is a moment paying homage to Brooks’ former dance partner, Indira C. Suganda, who died in 2009 at age 44. “We gardened together and we danced together,” Brooks said. “In the play, I do a duet with her. It is a lifelong grieving process.

What is the difference between telling a story and telling a lie? In “I Know Exactly What You Mean” (May 12-14), Ogemdi Oude examines how the two come into play when reviving cultural memories. “I like to describe the room as that feeling when you’re at a party and a song comes on and everyone in the room sings along,” she said. and if you don’t, “you’ll pretend for the life of you that you know the song.”

It shows how much you value acceptance and just be with others, of course. But what does this show, Ude asks, about the small gaps in our relationships with each other? The work is inspired by many things: black women, personal stories, popular music and the work of Toni Morrison, particularly her ideas about memory and re-memory, or the recalling of forgotten moments.

“How can we take the fragments of ourselves and our stories and put them back together autonomously? ” she says. “If I decided to rebuild myself, what would that be like on my own terms?”

Iele Paloumpis

This year’s focus on accessibility is perhaps most evident in Iele Paloumpis“Instead of Disaster, a Clear Night Sky” (May 26, 28), which was slated to premiere in 2020. Paloumpis, which uses the pronouns they/them, includes an audio description for each performance; in the work they have created a sensory landscape that decenters the view as a way to experience movement.

While “In Place of Catastrophe” strives to expand the way we look at perception and dance, it also explores trauma and resilience. How does it pass from one generation to another? Paloumpis was thinking about how disasters and traumas are happening all around us. “The land we live on is truly literally soaked in blood,” they said.

Personally, Paloumpis has suffered the effects of the long Covid for the past two years; they are no longer able to dance the same way as before. In a necessary switch, Paloumpis will describe the movements of Seta Morton, who was originally intended to be Paloumpis’ audio descriptor. Vocalization has become a practice of movement.

“I’m still relearning my body,” Paloupis said, and “I can feel a subtle movement happening in my vocal cords. One of the things I was exploring was ancestral heritage and resilience, so I turned to Byzantine chant, which I grew up with in my youth. I started integrating that or even rebetiko” – Greek blues – “and different folk songs.”

Paloumpis is estranged from the Greek side of their family. It can be painful. “Now I find ways to be with it on my own terms, to be with its complexity,” they said. “And to share it with others.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Live audience returns for a new platform at the Danspace project
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