Context Notes: Alain Buffard
Alain Buffard, choreographer, performer and filmmaker, had more to offer his devoted audiences. He was thinking about his next works. He had new audiences to speak to. He wasn’t done. And while I grew to consider him a friend since first working with him in 2010 on the presentation of his dark, utterly riveting Les inconsolés, a work that draws on Goethe’s tale, Erl-King, as it speaks to disturbing themes of violence and desire, my view of him likely remains fundamentally American. That he was in his heart of hearts a radical. And he considered himself shaped by American artists, Anna Halprin and Yvonne Rainer foremost among them. For me, he was like a Sherpa (to use an ethnic designation in the news right now due to tragedy). He took us into dark, difficult and sometimes beautiful and breathtaking places.
I thank Laurie Uprichard for first introducing me to his work, when she presented his earlier work, Mauvais Genre (“Bad Type”), the longer version of Good Boy, in 2006 when she was the then Executive Director of Danspace Project, and then when she talked to me with praise about Les inconsolés. I found out from Alain that he had a particular fondness for this piece. But I’m imagining that he had a fondness for everything he made, each one a distinct world, differently birthed from the last. From that first introduction of Laurie’s, Alain became an artist with whom I wanted both a professional curatorial relationship and, hopefully, a friendship. I loved his spirit and courage. Indeed so many did who knew him, as I witnessed at his moving memorial service in Paris held earlier this year.
It is fitting that Mr. Buffard’s last work, Baron Samedi, with a wonderful cast of performers and live music, opens the three-week city-wide festival DANSE: A French-American Festival of Performance and Ideas. Through his creations, he piloted the rest of us towards emotional and psychic places we might not otherwise have gone. He bravely framed the vulnerabilities of the human body and spirit, diving deep and unflinchingly into the terrains of sexuality, gender and race through singular choreographic and filmic essays; we owe so much to this artist.
On behalf of New York Live Arts and our audiences, I thank Antonin Baudry, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy along with Sophie Claudel and Nicole Birmann Bloom of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York for their vision and support, both for the overall DANSE Festival and for this presentation of Mr. Buffard’s Baron Samedi.
Please join us in our tribute to this singular artist in a gathering entitled Remembering Alain. We will celebrate the life and work of this remarkable artist immediately following our opening night performance. Please also watch the documentation of his many works in our lobby, which will remain on view during the performance run.
–Carla Peterson, Artistic Director
Come Early Conversation: Diane Madden (Associate Artistic Director, TBDC) in dialogue with costume designer Judith Shea
Theater of Ritual and Desire, Ralph Lemon in conversation with luciana achugar
Come Early Conversation: Voicing the Spirit of OTRO TEATRO moderated by Marya Warshaw
Context Notes: Trisha Brown Dance Company
Each year for the past three years we at New York Live Arts have invited different writers to each reflect on the aesthetic and conceptual concerns of our season artists, as a way of providing entry points into the work that our audiences will be seeing, locating the work within a larger cultural context and encouraging informed discourse. It’s never been about suggesting how one should think about or respond to any of these works, but rather to offer a dialogue, to spark a conversation, to take these works and these artists seriously.
This year I have joined as one of three writers, along with Aaron Mattocks and Ivan Talijancic. To date, I have contributed thoughts on three of the artists including Moroccan artist Bouchra Quizguen, French artist Jerome Bel who worked with the Swiss Company Theater Hora, Serbian artists Sasa Asentic and Ana Vujanovic and, upcoming, for the late French choreographer, Alain Buffard, whose work, Baron Samedi, will be presented in early May as part of DANSE – A French-American Festival of Performance & Ideas.
But it would be sheer hubris of me to suggest that I have something to say about the celebrated artist Trisha Brown that hasn’t already been said by countless knowledgeable folks – curators, international festival producers, critics, scholars, visual arts leaders, peer artists and longtime colleagues, etc.. This luminary, who has so deeply influenced succeeding generations of artists over the course of her long, brilliant, multi-directional and game-changing career, has had so much written about her, deservedly so.
So I am going to go personal. It’s of happy reminiscences for which I have enormous pride and even more gratitude.
I love and am interested in so many forms of art, but I love dance, dance with a capital D, for a whole range of reasons and love being in positions where I can follow and support various risk-taking investigations that may well move the forms of dance forward.
For me, Trisha is an artist whose means, spatial awareness and movement vocabulary have always given me delicious pleasure, not only on a cerebral level but on a deeper plane that speaks to our fundamental body-mind connection, how one literally perceives dance. Watching her dancers over the many years has given me the deep kinesthetic sense that I am somehow, like them, fully embodying the intelligent choices of movement and choreographic structures. That I can (magically) move like they move. That I understand without words why they are moving the way they are. That I literally experience a sense of being them, all while safely planted in my theater seat. That I am them.
Both Dance Theater Workshop (DTW) and now New York Live Arts operate out of a commitment to working with independent, progressive artists across generations. Identifying the young ones who seem possessed of nascent gifts and, as importantly, a steely will that insists on continuing to make work in an inordinately challenging field – a fundamental mission. And following through to the likes of those who have been honing their distinctive voices so keenly –artists like Reggie Wilson, Tere O’Connor, RoseAnne Spradlin, Annie-B Parsons and Paul Lazar, and many others. And artists in between. But it’s been rare over the years that either organization has had the opportunity to work with the likes of such an internationally acclaimed artist like Trisha who has been on some of the most prominent operatic stages in the world.
But why hadn’t an organization like DTW ever worked with her? I suppose that there are a myriad of reasons but it seems to me that by the time DTW might have been in a position to consider working with Trisha, her practice was distinctly different from the core of DTW artists, and she was then soon off to making larger scale works with notable collaborators, like Robert Raushenburg, Robert Ashley, Kurt Munkacsi, Donald Judd, Laurie Anderson, Cage, and others, and even silence as a collaborator (not in any order here).
But when it became public that the company was approaching its 40th year, I wanted DTW to be a part of it. As a tribute to her wide-ranging influence. And to be able to offer audiences the opportunity to see Trisha’s work on a stage that, while not operatic in scale, was reasonably sized AND offered the intimacy of a small house. First, Rebecca Davis organized the 40th anniversary year talk series at DTW in 2010, which was a precursor to our hosting the company the following year. And we had Trisha’s wit and memory in the house for each of those talks.
When we had the company here at DTW for a two-week run in March 2011 performing For MG: The Movie (1991), Watermotor (1978) danced by Neal Beasley, and Foray Forêt (1990), people commented over and over about how special that level of intimacy was for them. We also projected as a loop Babette Margolte’s dance film, Water Motor, on our lobby wall, allowing audiences to watch Trisha dance her solo, once at normal speed and then in slow motion. And then to compare the two genders and vastly different physicalities of Trisha then and Neal now. I remember presenting Foray Forêt in its US premiere at the Wexner Center for the Arts in 1990 when I was then Assistant Director of Performing Arts (the late Bill Cook was Director of Performing Arts), during the early years of that interdisciplinary arts organization when it was looking at and reflecting upon the work of the major figures in modern and post-modern dance. The acclaimed Ohio State University marching band played the John Phillip Sousa score behind the theater walls. Carolyn Brown and Diane Madden, now the company’s Associate Artistic Directors, along with David Thomson, an artist in his own right and on the New York Live Arts board, Shelley Senter, Lance Gries, Wil Swanson and others were in the original cast back then. Mesmerizing. I loved being able to work with Barbara Dufty, Diane Madden and Carolyn Brown to bring that work to our stage in 2011.
That same year, Movement Research (MR) honored Trisha and the original cast of Set and Reset (along with me as a former MR Executive Director.) To a packed, hushed and then jubilant house at Judson Church they performed the work, first with the original cast – Diane Madden, Stephen Petronio, Vicky Shick, Irene Hultman, Randy Warshaw and Eva Karczag. There was something very beautiful in the passing of the dancers metaphoric batons, from original cast to current members, something poetic about how influence and information is passed down, and on. Our lineages.
There is more to say – especially about the four iconic works to be seen tonight, Jodi Melnick’s work, One of Sixty Five Thousand Gestures, that she had Trisha create for her as part of her commissioned run at New York Live Arts in 2012, and the beautiful work, New Work for the Desert, by Beth Gill on our stage this March, inspired, in part, by Brown’s Newark (Niweweorce) (1987) – but I will end now with another lovely moment for me, tho insignificant for the field. When I was for a moment working as a video artist and documenting dance in the mid-‘90s, I got the chance to videotape Trisha in her prime dancing her indelible solo work If you couldn’t see me (1994) in Houston, TX (a work that has been since set on the beautiful and statuesque Leah Morrison). Watching Trisha even more acutely through the camera lens, her back (and spine and limbs) ever to the audience, and having to simultaneously follow and anticipate her intelligent, poetic and elastic expressivity, I had that delicious kinesthetic experience imprinted even more in my being.
I secretly hope that my 3/4 tape is still in their archives.
— Carla Peterson, Artistic Director
Carla Peterson in conversation with luciana achugar
Reading List & Links from “Bill Chats: When did the avant-garde become black?”
Black Dance Magazine – blackdancemag.com
Dances That Describe Themselves by Susan Leigh Foster – University Press of New England
I Want to be Ready: Improvised Dance as a Practice of Freedom by Danielle Goldman – University of Michigan Press
Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance by Thomas F. DeFrantz – University of Wisconsin Press
How to Do Things with Dance: Performing Change in Postwar America by Rebekah J. Kowal – Wesleyan University Press
Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists & Progressive Politics During World War II by Farah Jasmine Griffin – Basic Civitas Press
African American Concert Dance: The Harlem Renaissance and Beyond by John Perpener – University of Illinois Press
Butting Out: Reading Resistive Choreographies Through Works by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Chandralekha by Ananya Chatterjea – Wesleyan
Geography: Art/race/exile by Ralph Lemon – Wesleyan
Not So Black and White by Alexis Wilson – Tree Spirit Publishing
Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance by Jennifer Dunning – Da Capo Press
Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina by Brenda Dixon Gottschild – Palgrave Macmillan
Marion Cuyjet and Her Judimar School of Dance by Melanye White Dixon – Edwin Mellen
Black Performance Theory by Thomas F. DeFrantz and A
Dance Magazine “Finding the Power” By Charmaine Warren – dancemagazine.com/issues/january-2010/Finding-The-Power
Parallels, Danspace Project Platform 2012
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACKS IN DANCE –iabdassociation.org
COALITION FOR DIASPORAN SCHOLARS MOVING –
DANCING WHILE BLACK – facebook.com/dancingwhileblack
Context Notes: luciana achugar
POETIC (R)EVOLUTIONS OF LUCIANA ACHUGAR
Since her childhood days in South America, the Brooklyn-based, Uruguay-born performance-maker luciana achugar developed an intimate understanding of the profound impact of politics on people’s personal lives, having witnessed first hand the vicissitudes of life under tyrannical governmental regimes but also the empowering sense of togetherness in the face of adversity. achugar’s formative years are tinged with memories of people organizing demonstrations in her parents’ home, of silent marches for the disappeared, and the feeling of connectedness originated by large masses of people coming together, ensuing in her keen awareness of injustice, violence, power structures and military oppression.
Artistically, during those formative years achugar was first exposed to modern dance in her native Montevideo by training with a protégé of Jose Limon’s from New York. Ultimately keen on discovering other approaches, achugar pursued her university training at CalArts in Los Angeles, where she discovered post-modern dance and release techniques which greatly informed the future development of her own choreographic vocabulary in the ensuing years.
Originally dedicating herself to dancing, achugar came to choreography as a result of a desire for deeper participation in the creative process she had been a part of, which resulted in first collaborative projects with Levi Gonzalez, whom she found a common artistic ground. Countering the traditional hierarchical model, which endows the choreographer with all the decision-making power, achugar pursued a creative process based on dialogue. Interested in unlocking dance’s potential to engage in existential and philosophical discourses, and fascinated with the phenomenology of pleasure in movement, she embarked on an ongoing investigation of connections between the experience of living within one’s body and one’s life within a society. While discovering her choreographic voice in the United States as a foreigner, achugar also developed a prominent sense of awareness of her adoptive culture, afforded by her vantage point as an “other.”
Both within her own practice and within the larger context in which her work is presented, OTRO TEATRO (literally translated, “another/other theatre”) is a call for a new paradigm. achugar believes that theatre is a forum for offering possibilities, a space for utopia, an incubator for the notion that another world is possible. For her, this work became an opportunity to question the very fabric of her practice, to investigate what performance is and why she makes it. Concerned with the capitalist model, where each work is ultimately viewed as a product that is served to the consumer in a supply-and demand chain, achugar was very keen on subverting that dynamic, instead approaching this work as a ritual involving a shared transformation of the performer’s body as well as the audience’s. This work evolves as a continuation of an approach she began to develop with her previous evening-length work, PURO DESEO, based on the premise of putting a spell on the audience through ritual, singing and repetition. This path is rooted in her philosophical principle of embodying pleasure, as a resistance to producing dances as material for consumption. Although achugar challenges herself by unapologetically pushing the boundaries of exposure and vulnerability to the fullest, she also manages to conjure a powerful act: being objectified by the audience’s gaze transforms into a true act of sharing and experiencing a sense of togetherness.
Time Out Q & A with luciana achugar
luciana achugar talks about her process and how she envisioned her new work OTRO TEATRO. Read more here.