The DI, Year One: The Return of Jill Johnston — Our Man in Flat Iron Sees Anthony Through Her Eyes

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse

NEW YORK — Forgive me, I’ve spent the weekend reading Jill Johnston and I am madly inspired to wonder how many postmodern angels fit on the head of a pin. Therefore I’m going to write the next several hundred words pretending to be her, circa 1965.

Ariane Anthony resembles Buster Keaton as much as Mary Wigman. I mean Ariane Anthony’s quality when performing quizzes Keaton and Wigman in equal proportions. Ariane Anthony & Company make Ausdruckstanz that riffles through Twentieth Century Avant-Garde “Isms” like a rack of thrift store bargains. It is a quirkfest and I like it.

To receive the rest of the article, first published on May 9, 2000, subscribers can contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($99 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) and receive full access to our Dance Insider Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading dance critics of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2016, plus five years of the Jill Johnston Letter. Just designate your PayPal payment to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us at that address to find out about payment by check or in Euros. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $129 (institutions) Purchase by February 28, 2017 and receive a second, free copy for the recipient of your choice. Contact Paul at paulbenitzak@gmail.com .

Charleston Diary, III: Pedes, don’t fail me now

charleston-threeShen Wei Dance Arts in “Re- (Part I).” Alex Pines photo courtesy Spoleto USA.

Copyright 2011, 2017 Chris Dohse

CHARLESTON, South Carolina — There’s a song by Simon & Garfunkel called “The Only Living Boy in New York.” A cover version of the song by Everything but the Girl came into my iPod shuffle while I was waiting in the Atlanta airport for my connecting flight from NYC to Charleston on May 28, and these lyrics seemed perfect in my feverish, sleep-deprived state:

“Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where; we don’t know when. Here I am…..” Seemed perfect because there I certainly without a doubt was.

I’d like to say more about Khmeropedies and Corella Ballet (see my previous Charleston Diary) and something about Shen Wei, these being the three big dance companies I saw at the Spoleto Festival. Specifically about the experiment I believe choreographers Emmanuele Phuon and Christopher Wheeldon are working out on these respective companies, Khmeropedies and Corella Ballet, with varying degrees of finesse, versus Shen Wei’s seemingly effortless creation of an individual movement vocabulary.

To receive the rest of the article, first published on June 11, 2011, including more photos, subscribers can contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($99 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) and receive full access to our Dance Insider Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading dance critics of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2016. Just designate your PayPal payment to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us at that address to find out about payment by check or in Euros. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $129 (institutions) Purchase by February 28, 2017 and receive a second, free copy for the recipient of your choice. Contact Paul at paulbenitzak@gmail.com .

Charleston Diary, II: All in the Family

corella

All grown up now: Carmen and Angel Corella face off in Maria Pages’s “Solea” with Corella Ballet. Photo courtesy Corella Ballet.

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2011, 2017 Chris Dohse

CHARLESTON, South Carolina — The first thing you notice here is that everyone in South Carolina is very moist.

I brought a sinus/chest congestion and fever with me from the North (click here for my first Charleston Diary) that has been keeping me glued to an alternately sweat-soaked and freezing mattress in my friend Neil’s “Crisp Lettuce”-colored spare bedroom when not being driven to and from chilled theaters in his car through what feels like a wall of wet socks. My newly amphibian body reacts to changes in temperature and humidity now like a barometer made of meat.

From these first febrile days and nights (nine performances in four days), the somewhat eccentric female characters have made the strongest impressions, as you might expect from any trip to the deep South, the landscape of Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. Here are five of them.

To receive the rest of the article, first published on June 3, 2011, subscribers can contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($99 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) and receive full access to our  Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading  critics of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2015. Just designate your PayPal payment  in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us at that address to learn how to pay by check or in Euros. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $129 (institutions) Purchase before March 1, 2017 and receive a second, free copy for the recipient of your choice. Contact Paul at paulbenitzak@gmail.com .

Charleston Diary 1: Writing about art as art

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2011, 2017 Chris Dohse

First published on May 28, 2011, re-publication of this article on Dance Insider is sponsored by Slippery Rock University Dance & Freespace Dance .

NEW YORK — In a few hours I leave for Charleston. Preparing my body-mind-heart to write again. I haven’t revealed myself in this way, stripped off my skin and displayed the stinking gut of my brain, for nearly three years, except for a few lackadaisical posts on my blog, Know Your Own Bone.   I’ll be dispatching daily or periodic blog entries about my experience attending 10 days of the Spoleto Festival. I got my press badge through the Dance Insider & Arts Voyager, and I’ll link simultaneously to Know Your Own Bone, for perhaps slightly altered entries.

The container of the experience will be simply being again in my beloved Charleston, the city of my becoming (1981-1985), and how do I even talk about that. It’s physically painful, the throb of nostalgia, regret, the solipsistic regret. The smell of pluff mud transports me to a ditzy 23 years old. Many of the houses are gone where I had my joys and sorrows, my starving hysterical naked love affairs. They were wiped away by Hurricane Andrew. Many of the lovers are dead.

Secondary will be throwing myself again into the fray of critical discourse. Will it go tits up or nipples to the wind I wonder.

I approached Dance Magazine and Musical America to see if there was any interest in placing traditionally formatted reviews of specific shows in either place. Both said no…. Dance projects that aren’t premieres have already been reviewed and music projects are being covered by someone else. I don’t want to write that deadening format any more anyway but I thought I could make a few bucks. At this point in my life, I feel finished with the objective journalistic who-what-when-where of the traditional review. It’s just another form of advertising that serves no one except the artists who maybe get a pull quote for their next post card. Buy me! Consume me! The New York Times/Village Voice deems me worthy!

But wait. As Burroughs said, the ultimate addiction is to being right. And now already here I am, scrambling in one of my hamster wheels again, the rung of sour-grape festooned hell reserved for sufferers of post-traumatic embitterment disorder.

So what is it I aspire to write if not “deadening journalism”? Let’s see if I can gather and clarify my thoughts on the subject. What is my project anyway? I thought I’d like to call it dharmic criticism. Then I came up with non-canonical post-historicism. I think I’d feel proud if I could produce subjective, performative writing — like Jill Johnston or Gary Indiana — that captures everything in the constellation of my identity. (See elsewhere in these DI Archives for writings from Jill Johnston.) The stuff I’ve spent my life studying: praxis, theory, and the history of visual art, theater, and dance. Through the lens of the rest of the stuff I’ve spent my life studying: the bottom rung of the ladder, the gutter, frailty, falling down and getting up, getting laid and getting high, passion, art, radiant hootenanny happiness, enduring love.

“A woman like that is not ashamed to die. I have been her kind.”

–Anne Sexton

And what the hell does this writing look like and can it be accessible? Wikipedia tells me that performative writing is mostly feminist. I’m okay with that. But the entry sounds a bit surly: “It [performative writing] is often loosely semi-autobiographical, free-flowing in an ersatz stream-of-consciousness mode, and heavily informed by Left wing critical theory, but arises ultimately from linguistic ideas around performative utterances.” It cites Peggy Phelan, whose writing is about as penetrable as week-old pumpernickel. If I need to puzzle and puzzle till my puzzler is sore to understand it, what good is it? Why does it exist except to exalt the ego of its utterer? And how the hell can stream-of-consciousness be ersatz exactly?

I think I once wrote in Movement Research Performance Journal that I wanted people to read my writing because I wrote it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be criticism but program notes.

Since then I’ve spent time clarifying:

* The body in the body

*Feelings in feelings

*Mind in mind

*Phenomena in phenomena

I have stumbled across the idea of listening with my tongue. This is my invention entirely. I was at a program at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra on Meads Mountain to receive a reading transmission from Lama Karma Drodul. We had been instructed to absorb or receive these texts with our hearts, to allow them to fill our hearts, and I had been experiencing a lot of tension in my jaw and throat. An acupuncturist there mentioned that Tibetan medicine considers the tongue to be connected to the back of the heart, so I tried receiving the sacred sounds with my lolling tongue — like an open-throated baby bird with a song in the bottom of its heart reverberating with the sound of Lama’s Tibetan phonemes.

Since then I’ve been experimenting with grokking art objects and performances this way, just kind of hanging out with and corresponding to them. It seems to help remind me that everything is exactly as it should be, if you slow down enough to notice.

I’ve learned a distinction between judicious criticism and judgmental criticism, as defined by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, who has written: “So how do you know if your criticism is going to be judicious? Ask yourself four questions before you say it:

*Is it true?

*Is it beneficial?

*Is this the right time and place to say it?

*Am I the right person to be saying it?”

*I’m not clear who receives this benefit. I’ll be working that out as my writing gets read again and people send me death threats or marriage proposals. Is criticism “for” the reader, me, other people who saw the thing I’m criticizing, the object I’m criticizing, or its maker?

I used to categorize my interaction with the world as expression and relationship. Now I prefer the words response and connection.

Brenda Dixon Gottschild said something once, and I’ve paraphrased her many times in trying to understand the role of a person who writes about art and who wants that writing to be considered art: “Criticism is a response to a primary source, a kind of choreography for the page.” I would go further. I want to make friends with the performers in this hard-copy choreography of mine. The elements of personal memory, the absorbed knowledge of history and context and nomenclature, the goddam canon, the images that come unbidden — Joni Mitchell’s lyrics or Tenniel’s Alice illustrations, Plath Sexton Giorno, budding virions, sluts, slatterns, the performance of gender as an imitation for which there is no original (thank you Judith Butler), the ersatz stream-of-consciousness, my ongoing unflinching gaze at despair.

Who am I ideally writing for, other than myself, because I’m fond of the flatulent sound of my precious voice? I’d like to speak to and for the Queers, the fatties and pizza faces, the wallflowers, the Ichabods, the disease-riddled whores with hearts of gold, the androgynes with bird-like wrists, the flatsies, the tomboys, the unseen, the unclean, the doomed the damned the dead.

In other words, the people David Gere referred to, in his book How to Make Dances in an Epidemic, as “women, freaks, and marginalized others.”

So that’s it. What am I hoping to do? How am I hoping to do it? And who is it for? As Chiang Kai-shek said to Henry Kissinger, when asked what impact the Napoleonic Wars had had on world events, “It’s too soon to tell.”

Flash Flashback, 9-8: Still Re-born: Jones/Zane Looks Back and Finds You Can’t Go Home Again

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2003 Chris Dohse

(Originally published September 12, 2003.)

NEW YORK — This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself disagreeing with history. Or remembering it differently. I mean, I was there, dancing and making dances at the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s. Not in SoHo, not even in New York (though I did starve through a winter here), but I remember what concerns influenced me and the dancers I knew then. What compositional choices we made; what styles fascinated us. Surely if we, many of whom are still members of the pomo dance so-called “community,” gazed into our ’80s navel, what would we find? Bill T. Jones, of course. Inescapably the bellwether of a generation of dancemakers who collided East Village performance and the ’60s avant-garde lineage into talking, gestural, identity-specific, polemical formalism.

To get the rest of the article, subscribers can contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at artsvoyager@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Complete articles are $5 or three for $10. Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($119 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) and receive full access to our Dance Insider Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading dance critics of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2015. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $129 (institutions) Contact Paul at artsvoyager@gmail.com .

Flash Flashback, 9-5: O Deborah: In Hay World with Durning, Greenberg, Gutierrez, Mapp & Schick

“What is the truth of the universe that fills your body and mind? Don’t tell me — show me.”
— John Daido Loori, “The True Dharma Eye”

“Inside the fortress of our skins we human beings have remarkable defenses against enemy intrusions, but we are not impregnable.”
— John Money, “Reinterpreting the Unspeakable”
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2006, 2016 Chris Dohse

(Originally published February 17, 2006.)

NEW YORK — So Deborah Hay’s “O, O,” January 26: in this version a showcase for five downtown dance veterans (Jeanine Durning, Neil Greenberg, Miguel Gutierrez, Juliette Mapp, and Vicky Schick). These bodies are as comfortable inside Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church as five old socks in an old shoe. As we enter, cell phones trill, powering down; we’re not particularly paying attention and the dancers enter consecutively, taking the space to perform subtle gestures. They are immediately, and as it turns out, irrevocably, embodiments of a sort of politesse, a sort of Stoicism. They impassively ignore us, even though their gaze includes us, as if they’re well-trained figure models.

To obtain the rest of the article, subscribers can contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at artsvoyager@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Paul can also tell you how to purchase the article. Complete articles are $5 or three for $10. Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($119 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members etc.) and receive full access to all articles. You can also purchase the complete Dance Insider Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2015 for just $49 (individual) or $149 (institutional; includes rights to distribute the archive among your students and faculty in perpetuity).