Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sara Juli- Tense Vagina: an actual diagnosis

photo by Arthur Fink.

Motherhood.....baking pies, doing the laundry, reading to the kids, kisses, hugs bladder control! Giving birth to two babies created a condition called Tense Vagina. Welcome to the world of mother and dance performance artist Sara Juli.

In this hour long solo performed to a sold out audience at Portland's hip performance venue- Space Gallery, NYC transplant Juli was not afraid to push the boundaries as she explored the highs and lows of being a Mom. Juli has a long history of tackling topics that are slightly uncomfortable to talk about: money, dying, and being promiscuous. Now it's about being incontinent and how she got medical help for her vagina that wouldn't relax. A skilled comedian, actress and dancer Juli took the stage and took the audience on a tour of her life. She recounted her kids saying "mommy, mommy, mommy, ma, ma, ma, whispered mom, mommy with screams. She chops vegetables for dinner, but it never ends and she chops and chops until she is trying to smile but moans and has to lay down on the floor after trying to keep it all together while her body contorts in agony. It's a person barely holding on. She sings with dolls and then outrageously has breast pumps attached to her chest while dancing and singing like a Karaoke Night queen. Juli interacted with the audience by wiping a nose, tying a shoe, giving a kiss, and fixing a wrinkled shirt. She's every ones mother.

The spoken dialogue throughout is funny and poignant. Juli blends the absurd into the tragic. Juli describes the medical condition she was diagnosed with and demonstrates her Kegel exercises to regain her bladder control. She does funny rhythmic counting while squeezing. Next, a garden of vibrators appear as Juli grabs one (while another vibrator is passed amongst the audience for us to inspect) and reads the written instructions of how to use the vibrator to relax. She's wearing a pretty dress with a full puffy skirt so although she's demonstrating we can't actually see the vibrator. Always the dutiful mother she is next trimming the vibrators in the garden of their pubic hedge hairs to keep everything tidy. Outrageous fun and nothing seems taboo.

The set design by Rachel Romanski and Allison Bonon featured a dollhouse, a biofeedback machine and a collage of household items. Juli kept changing aprons, which represented both a covering and a highlighting of her pelvic area. The aprons designed by Carol Farrell were fanciful, blinking, and exotic. Sara Juli had the audience laughing out loud and thoroughly mesmerized as she lay open her dark secrets.

Space Gallery, Portland Maine, October 23-24, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Delfos Danza Contemporanea

The Bates Dance Festival hosted the East Coast Premiere of Cuando Los Disfraces Se Cuelgan (When The Disguises Are Hung Up) by the Mexican company Delfos Dance on July 24 and 25.

The program notes stated
The mask is a disguise, but it can be a useful one. However, all masks fall away. In the end, we are left with our true selves....Delfos examines the masks we wear to survive, to love, and to endure in a world that seems to never want us to take off the mask.

The program began quietly with a video projection of a drawing of a large tree with dance figures sitting on the limbs. Under the tree real dancers were starting to move with a fragile, uncertain and a searching quality. Were these newborn babes exploring their world as the encountered new people? The seven dancers got bolder and stronger as the exploration continued. Now definitely into adultdhood, the fantastic-bold expressive bodies lifted each other and molded together and flung across the stage as they continued to grow. The many vignettes featured different music styles, fantastic costumes by Eloise Kazan, and more captivating video and lighting design. The choreography by co-directors Claudia Lavista and Victor Manuel Ruiz was realized in collaboration with the dancers. It showcased the agility and strength of the performers. Many of the overhead lifts and partnering involved being upside down and flung over the back were performed with such finesse and flow that it looked effortless. This companies technical abilities rivals any world class ballet company.

As the disguises continued to get stronger, they put on happy faces with their partners, where one partner controlled the other by literally lifting them by strings from their costume. Like moving a marionette, the partner had no free will but moved the way the master liked. These were complex ideas of how we behave when we love or get married or find the strength to break free from someone. The company is influenced by surrealism, art, and poetry. There were many fantastical images presented: they had shoes on their hands that became the wings of birds. A masked clown appeared holding a caged bird and wearing a long stretched-out white sheet that became a backdrop were video images appeared that made the dancers turn into birds. And finally,the tree returned but this time instead of dancers on the branches there were birds up in the tree.

After the show, one of my companions said she saw the dance as representing the progress as what happens in life: we are children, then we explore love and marriage, we age and through the hardships we might grow wiser, and then slow down and accept ourselves a little easier and struggle less. I think she got it right!

The company began in 1992 and has expanded to include a professional training program homed in Mazatlan. Delfos dancers: Aura Patron, Claudia Lavista, Roseli Arias, Omar Carrum, Augustin Martinez, Johnny Millan, and Renato Gonzalez. Bravo!

When the Disguises Are Hung Up at the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine, 2015.

Audio Interview with Claudia Lavista and Omar Carrum from Delfos Danza

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Missing Generation - Sean Dorsey Dance

The idea of having survivors of the 1980s AIDS/HIV epidemic telling the stories of those who died, is a relevant and an important idea for history. The sheer number of people who succumbed to AIDS before any medical treatment was available is staggering and must be remembered rather than forgotten. Choreographer Sean Dorsey was driven to document and share these stories as his creative art. Dorsey is paying homage to those who died from AIDS as well as all those people who survived but were forever changed by living through a time when their friends, lovers, and family members died without any treatment or understanding of why this was happening.

The Missing Generation is a monumental dedication to remembering.

The East Coast Premiere of San Francisco choreographer Sean Dorsey's work was presented in Maine at the Bates Dance Festival on July 16 and 18th. The evening length work had beautiful dancing with powerful oral histories recorded and told by real survivors. The program started out with Dorsey dancing in a pool of light- he struggled, contorted and moved with jerks and spasms. He's the person with AIDS that is infected. A voice over of a survivor states that she has blocked out memories of that time in order to keep moving forward. Whoa. We immediately know we are in for some heavy stuff. The dancing by the four-member company was impressively executed. The sound track started off with cello and somber sounds while the ensemble weaved an interconnection of supported lifts and balances for each other that represented in many different ways the idea that "I'm holding you up." We heard other survivors speaking as the dancers continued to move with grace and tenderness. Dorsey spells out in a voice over narration how the evening will progress, "I am asking you to tell your story -I am ready to listen I am here for you." It's an invitation that we want to know what happened we won't forget, you don't have to remain silent. Then many vignettes were presented representing various people who lived and died of AIDS and what the culture of those decades were like. The dancers spoke, then the voice overs continued throughout as Dorsey used many devices to make sure we learn about the people that died- that we don't forget.

Dancing to the oral histories was problematic for me. I think the movement, although it didn't mimic the words, suffered from competition for our attention with the words. Was the movement enacting or just embracing the text? This was distracting for me. The spoken stories with the dancers moving to the words made me get into a more educational mindset rather than an emotional mode. I was not fully drawn into the piece as I had assumed I would. I thought since I lived in New York City in the 1980s and had lost loved ones from AIDS, I believed that seeing Dorsey's take on the epidemic would leave me awash with emotions. But, strangely, it fell short of transforming my seeing into feeling and didn't allow me to get into a deeper sense of sadness and loss. I much preferred when the dancers moved to the musical only parts of the score, or when a few times the oral stories were told without movement by the dancers. That being said, the overall dance was quite beautiful and daunting. And I am sure many members of the audience would disagree with me and I know many people were deeply touched by the dance. The audience gave a standing ovation that was long, loud and genuine.

Exquisite ensemble dance throughout the show with exceptional dancing by Dorsey along with company members Brian Fisher, ArVejon Jones, and Nol Simonse. Dorsey has a lot to say and puts a lot of effort into his work. His dedication to preserving the history of the LGBTQ community is timely and necessary.

The Missing Generation at the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sean Dorsey audio interview

Here's a short interview I had with Sean at WMPG Radio talking about his newest work called The Missing Generation.

Esduardo and company will perform in NYC

Esduardo Mariscal and company are heading to NYC to perform CARNE in August.Check out the details.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Carne - Esduardo Mariscal Dance Theater

Photo courtesy of Esduardo Mariscal Dance Theater.

The opening sequence of "Carne" performed last week at the Portland Stage, was a visual and aural treat that overwhelmed (in a great way) all the senses. Choreographer Esduardo Mariscal introduced us to his large cast of characters as they invaded the stage in an almost dreamlike procession. A lone figure crouched in front of the audience is the first image we see. Then slowly others appear, a woman enters with a magic wand while performers emerge out of the top of large sculptural blocks. A trap door opens and a body appears from under the stage. It's a processional with so many interesting people and visuals that as an audience member we understand from the first few minutes that this will be a complex, exciting show. The performers range from classical dancers to martial artists to aerialists.

This multimedia performance featured original music by Nicholas Brewer and a mural that was drawn live on stage by Wyatt Barr. Original poetry was delivered by Jennifer Lunden and the lightening design was by Gregg Carville.

Mariscal gathered an eclectic group of performers and used their varying talents to great success. Everyone danced, and danced with much strength and grace. Then some also performed exciting martial arts moves and some acrobat feats on an aerial silken rope. There was humor by Beth Gorski as she donned a red cat outfit and showed us what a feline dancer had to say. Two veteran dancers Nancy Salmon and Jeff Decareau, brought the wisdom of experience as well as strong technique to their characters. While all the performers shined, there were four exceptional stand-out dancers who completed some very beautiful duet work strikingly performed by Victoria Broshes, Pamela Wiley, Kerry Kaye and James Riley. Also in the cast were Dorothea Amara, Tegan Bullard, Justin Cedrone, Bethany Field, Steve Fortune, Debi Irons, Zach Labbay, Simon Skold, Camden Spear, Ella Spear, Simon Spear and Wendy Ward.

Mariscal calls his brand of dance theater "Comical Surralism" and that aptly describes all the twists and turns the company presented throughout the 90 minute show. It was a delight for our eyes, ears and imaginations.

Carne, at the Portland Stage, May 28-30, 2015