AGA’s new dance work premieres Friday, September 27th at UNC Charlotte’s Robinson Hall.
Performances are Friday the 27th and Saturday the 28th at 7:30pm.
AGA has completed and shown a draft of their work-in-progress for an invited audience. As much as a dramaturg might want to offer opinions about “what is (not) working,” it’s usually not helpful at this point in a new works process. Counterintuitive as this might seem, my job is to revisit the artists’ original vision for the work, to remind them (even indirectly) of the questions that guided them to this point, and to ask questions. A first step toward this is to present the artists with some images in response to the work I’ve been seeing.
AGA’s piece is shaped by the technologies the dancers use in order to compose new works–personal computers, the Internet, et cetera. This response to contemporary technologies combines with AGA’s use of close proximity as a choreographic score to conjure Marcel DuChamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2” (1912), the Armory Show piece the artist himself described as influenced by chronophotography, film, and other “now” technologies of the artist’s time:
When they are not in residence at UNC Charlotte, AGA Collaborative plans and composes across geographic distance. For eleven months of the year, the things and systems of communication technology we take for granted in our everyday lives–cell phones, Internet connections, computers, and cameras–are AGA’s essential compositional tools. For the past ten days, Alison, Gretchen, and Amanda have been together in one studio, building a piece from the work they have done from individual studios and shared virtual spaces.
On Wednesday, AGA showed a draft of their work-in-progress for an invited audience, presenting a 30-minute piece of choreographic phrases and group tasks fueled by their embodied exploration of intimacy and collaboration across distance. Incorporating technology into their current piece has been frustrating: will setting up the camera and projector each day eat away at studio time? (It does.); will the technology fail onstage? (On Wednesday, yes, of course it did.)
Today is AGA Collaborative’s mid-residency showing; they’ve prepared a set of phrases to show to an invited audience, and show them they will. Then we’ll have a traditional talk-back to see what people think.
I will also prepare a formal dramaturg response to share with the dancers on Friday. Please contribute to my response, I would greatly appreciate it. Read on:
I am in thrall to the chair, to each one’s ever-emerging subjectivity. Anyone who has taken a critical theory class with me can confirm this (as in, “Enough, Jeanmarie, about chairs”). What can I say? Chairs look like people, and this charms me. Phenomenologist Bert O. States spends a lot of time thinking and writing about chairs on stages (I’m in thrall to States, too). When I cover materialist theory in classes, I talk through States’s example of the chair’s effect on nineteenth-century theatre practices. Innovations in stage lighting allowed the actor to move freely around the stage, to face her acting partner instead of the audience, and thus to speak of intimate things. In turn, playwrights wrote more intimate dialogue. “What the chair made possible, in a word, was conversation.” (45) Imagine Nora in A Doll House, preparing to have the serious conversation with her husband that will lead to the serious door slam at play’s end. “Sit down, Torvald,” Nora says, “we have a lot to talk over,” not “Stand and face downstage, Torvald, I’m about to make an important declaration . . . ” Without Ibsen’s indexical reference to that chair, could Nora have reasoned her way into casting herself out into that dark, snowy Norwegian night? Probably not.
Continue reading “Of Chairs, Flint Hammers & Tripods”
A book I have been awaiting arrived this morning– Intimacy Across Visceral and Digital Performance. Dominic Johnson‘s contribution to the 2012 collection, “Ecstatic Intervals: Performance in a Continuum of Intimacy,” speaks to the potential for AGA’s work to contest the narrow notion of intimacy as a positive, affirming result of a long-term, caring relationship. Johnson tells us that performance affords a useful way to study intimacy’s limits, extremes, and politics:
Instances of performance may shed more light on intimacy than is usually granted in everyday life. Rather than imagine intimacy as simply an untroubled situation of pleasant interpersonal relations–two people coming together in a politically neutral way–I look to performance to see if intimacy might reveal itself as a more volatile, complicated and meaningful category of experience. (89)
There’s a movement I see each day in the studio with AGA Collaborative. One dancer will cradle another’s head in her shoulder or arm, like this:
Or sometimes, without bearing the other’s weight, the head appears to float over another’s arm–to hover and rest at the same time. Sometimes a dancer will simply lean her head to the side to be received by a waiting arm or shoulder that . . . isn’t there. Continue reading “cradle / hover”