Monday, May 24, 2010

Fuerza Bruta and me

In the 1980's I was a performance artist in New York City.  I spent a week's grocery money to see the opening of the Philip Glass piece, The Photographer at BAM.  I also saw Pina Bausch and Sankai Juku condemning myself to eating out of dumpsters in order to see art that changed the game.  I went to 24 hour long renditions of sections of Kei Takei's Light.  I learned that art doesn't just hang on walls and theater doesn't have to tell a linear story. And I went to class many a weekday at the studio of Alwin Nikolais, the man who taught me that the people are not always the most important thing on the stage.  He also taught me the sheer power of simple theater magic.

I moved to Chicago and began to experiment. I was a live art object late at night at nightclubs and in gardens. I created performance pieces that threw out most conventions of the theatrical relationship between audience and performer---there were no tickets, no seats, no programs, there were planned and unplanned audience members and occurences.  Chance was one of our performers. Once we almost got arrested.

Then I got married, needed health insurance, and semi retired from experimenting.  But last weekend, I went back, or should I say forward. At the last minute, I got tickets for Fuerza Bruta opening at the auditorium theater.  The show was not on my radar.  My life could have gone on much as it had before without it.  But I did go. And it awakened in me the artist that has long been sleeping.

The show is clearly South American with an aesthetic and image base drawn from a cultural that has survived totalitarian regimes and the paranoia that brings with as baggage.  The recurring image of the man running, running, running on the treadmill resonated deeply within me, especially when a wall shot out and slammed into him.

This kind of work does not have easy or easily verbalized meanings--it intersects with the image bank in your own brain, and your life, and evokes meanings that are not easy to speak. Trying to describe it to my husband I was reduced to Blue Man Group meets the ol Limelight at Cirque du Soleil and they travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Only he knows what I was blabbering about.

There is a scene where furniture, a sidewalk cafe, appears on the treadmill. The treadmill stops briefly and then starts up and the main character desperately attempts to hold the cafe in place but it dissolves in ever more painful ways. 

Sooner or later others join him, on the treadmill for a while then literally falling off the edge.    So many times my life is just like that. 

I will not spoil the end, the stunning visual image.  Everyone talks about the giant slip and slide over head, but for me, the primal dance on the ocean of mylar was more poignant and memorable.

Don't miss this show.  And stay tuned for my next one.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Subcribers are Appreciated

As a Subscriber, I get Appreciated. The audience is always in dialogue with an artistic organization, but a subcriber has a long term invested relationship. On Saturday last, my daughter and I got to reap the rewards of that long term relationship. We had the joy of watching the Joffrey Ballet take company class. I felt a little guilty blowing off my own work out to go, but this was an opportunity not to be missed.
When a dancer is on stage, it looks easy and effortless. It is the pinnacle of what the human body can attain.  But these artists are decidedly human with bodies that will someday age. When  the dancer is in class, you see that being a god or fairy is work, grueling hard work and you can see the strengths and the weaknesses. They don't always get it right. They are not always together. They are not always that kind of beautiful.  But in the way that we broken and damaged souls are all the more beautiful for our flaws, somehow seeing the heart and effort is more moving than the show. At this the final company class of the season,  it is morning, after a night of full out performing. I see the bodies are cold, achy.

My friend was amazed at their attire--no pink tights and black leotards! A dance company at company class looks like a group of skinny refugees from a badly stocked and highly picked over rummage sale. Footwear ranges from mismatched sox to down booties to truly ratty ballet slippers in a host of colors and materials.

Some dancers carry in their coffee in Duncan Donuts carry out cups. Some have water bottles. Some wear entire wardrobes of layers and avoid smacking into the giant duffel bags below the bar. I explained to my companions how, in a company class, everyone has a place at the bar--its a territory, and there is an unseen hierarchy. You dare not take a higher ranked dancer's place.  It is fascinating to watch how little is demonstrated. They speak in code. Ballet code.

Company class is like daily mass for priests. Its the ritual that holds the world together. You may be hung over or injured or nursing a fever, but your entire known universe will fling apart at the seams if you don't go to class. Something about the regimented order of plie to tendu to degage keeps the earth spinning on its axle and allows you to go on. I have been retired for almost longer than my career lasted and I still want to kill something if I miss dance class. Nothing works right if I don't go to class. Once you have been a dancer, it lives in your body,and your body cannot live without it.

I could have sat in that theater and watched class for the rest of my life.  Don't worry Dancers. I will be back next year.
Special thanks to Linda's Iphone for the pic!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why Subscribe

It's that time of year when you get the glossy begging brochures: fork over the dough for our fabulous new season!!!! They send you several, each spaced over some scientifically designed interval. And in an age where my belt is tightened to the last notch, I do. I send in the grocery money, or charge it on my Mafia Rate single credit card. In some data aggregation database, I am an ideal cultural consumer, since in the end I subcribe to the ballet, the opera AND to the symphony. I am highly educated which makes me a likely target--but alas I am poor, which negates the rest. So why do I subscribe? Well, for me its a bit like why fundamentalists tithe. I put my little pennies where my passions lie and where my heart lives. I could wait and hope for free tickets. I could get discount tickets through one of the many outlets where unsold seats go, or pine for industry nights. But in the end, I really really love the opera and the ballet and the symphony and I want them to be there when my kids grow up. Even if I don't particularly love everything in the series, I believe we need to support Art because it deserves to continue,whether its my taste or not, and its not like I am chucking my retirement fund on conceptual art--you might say when it comes to subscriptions and cultural investing, I am a fiscal conservative.
I look at it like I do my back garden. I must tend our fair city's cultural garden and my little cheap seats subscription at the back of the house because, I hope, I am putting a little miracle grow on the magnificent harvest of future artistic endeavors. When you subscribe, you provide a base of support for the artists--its money in their bank they can count on, so they can afford to experiment. Yes, that means that occasionally you will see a train wreck on stage, but mostly you are rewarded richly because it forces you to make time for something you love and it doesn't get lost in the busy-ness of living. Once you have kids and dogs and a
mortgage and a job, you don't spontaneously do ANYTHING, so you have to carve out time and make a commitment to getting out of your rut. I get out of my rut, really breathe and come to life, sitting in the back of the house, watching talented performers practice their craft. I will wear thrift store clothes and forego my second passion, travel, in order to be there. So subscribing is the very least I can do. When you love something, you have to take care of it.
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