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Pictured above standing (l to r) are Jill Marissa, Paris Hurley, Daniel Mullikin, Chris Segawa, Pol Rosenthal, Beth Graczyk, Christopher "Space" Howe and Brenna Monroe-Cook and sitting (l to r) are Molly Sides, Rainbow Fletcher, Annie Hewlett, Jody Kuehner, Ivan Arteaga, Serge Gubelman, Douglas Ridings and Jeffrey "Ffej" Mandel.
This installment, for reasons I'm not totally secure in expressing as accurate, allowed me to more succinctly realize something that I had only been given hints of along the way these past 2.5 years. And that is this: when we choose to attend staged time-based performances (music, dance, theater, etc.) we acknowledge two things: 1. that someone has taken the time to create the staged experience with creator-specific artistic goals in mind as that experience was being developed and 2. as an audience member, we expect that our time witnessing this staged experience will be filled with a proportionate amount of energy as was put into its development... i.e., it will feel justifiable for the experience's creators to have spent that amount of time creating this specific experience.
And inside the seed carrying these two acknowledgements is, therefore, this: our proverbial expectation bar automatically rises when we know we are about to witness a performance that has been staged vs one that has not. It would seem that we are not simply more prone to earnestly qualitatively analyze the staged experience, but only prone to earnestly qualitatively analyze the staged experience consequently because it is staged.
(Expectations! You're on in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...)
By no means the only reason HERE/NOW is always such a fantastically engaging and dynamic event, but the idea that a spacetime of purposeful zero-judgment is formed due largely to the improvisation-based performance format does seriously expand the potential of such an event becoming consistently fantastically engaging and dynamic. And that's incredibly reassuring if nothing else.
It was hot and sweaty at Open Flight Studio the evening of September 10. Everyone was collectively coping with the heat. To willingly bear through it together and experience live performance created a bond. This was the first HERE/NOW that during the intermission the entire audience, as if fleeing a catastrophe, emptied the space. They returned. They were committed to being there.
HERE/NOW's format has many random elements. For example, random audience members are selected to choose a random pair of participants to improvise together. However, the outcome of these random elements seems to frequently create serendipitously idyllic scenarios.
Douglas Ridings opened the evening wearing an ornate black feather mask while dressed in a dark tailored suit. There was a sense of modern poise with reverence to animal form. Christopher "Space" Howe created ambient quietude and spaciousness with his electric bass and symphonic recorder. His sounds enabled Douglas to cultivate a dark, humble and primitive mood through rhythmic, defiant and contorted motions. I felt I was watching a shadow morph between animal and human form.
Rainbow Fletcher introduced layered imagery. Her physical form alludes to different physical archetypes: a classically trained ballet dancer, a professional gymnast and a burlesque drag queen. She entered boldly and quietly with glittery high heels and lips. Her lean and strong muscular form shouted loudly while her gaze is soft and generous. After removing the high heels, she created long, elegant and sustained lines through space. Serge Gubelman played a small family of cymbals inducing a meditative experience. Time and sound seemed to pause in this piece.
Jody Kuehner and Jeffrey "Ffej" Mandel took me into a surreal dream. Jody wore dark makeup that emphasized facial creases and lines giving an old masculine impression. Contrastingly, she wore a long brown wig, short shorts with a halter-top giving a young effeminate impression. Her motions were small and contained, solely expressed through slight postural shifts and hand, feet and face gestures to Ffej's science fiction like electronic sounds. It was as if she had been possessed by an alien being and was beginning to understand how to move for the first time in a new environment... while being witnessed.
Jill Marissa athletically attacked the movement in response to Ivan Arteaga's saxophone. She began in a runner's starting position. Supported by her arms, she ran underneath herself while mimicking the saxophone’s flutter-like sounds. She induced a sense of awe in me, at how she expressed her physical strength and precision, similar to the awe experienced when watching horses race - raw power.
Brenna Monroe-Cook opened the second half of the evening with a sense of quiet grace. Her motions were precise, gentle, romantic and poetic.Paris Hurley's tape recordings and live violin initiated and echoed these qualities. There was poise to every movement choice, a delicate extension. Her movements and emotions were seemingly contained and then released at her choosing. Simultaneously, her movements and emotions were also overtaking her. This created a sense of internal tension, yet appeared to be a pleasurable experience.
Annie Hewlett listened to Chris Segawa's distorted, high frequency ambient guitar. The sounds made me think of the arctic; how I imagine icebergs breaking would sound. She mentioned after the evening that her improvisation was not visual and the experience existed inside of her ears. In hindsight, this made sense. Her pathways were direct, simple and repetitive which induced a trance-like state. This state was seemingly paralyzed at different moments and reset to start a new pattern. She was caught inside a sonic experience.
Molly Sides’ motions were held inwardly and released in an elastic suspension, simultaneously pausing and pulling, creating a dramatic physical story. Daniel Mullikin's sounds from his cello, including live sampling, supported and generated this quality. Molly's movements were low to the ground, haunting and organic and reminded me of a creature. This was highlighted by a moment when she pulled her hair and opened her mouth. She made me think of the book Let the Right One In, whose main character is a gentle vampire in love.
Beth Graczyk took on the moment with a courageous physicality. She followed an explosive physical impulse that was guttural, athletic and sensual. She engaged with Musician Pol Rosenthal physically and sonically asking, and at one point even demanding, to be covered by the sound. She tossed his seed-filled metal bowls around and Pol decided to dance. Together they wrestled on the ground together in an intimate entanglement - so much so that when they paused, Pol's shirt was almost completely unbuttoned - everyone laughed. It was a cathartic ending to the evening.
HERE/NOW provokes me to wonder: is there a subconscious connection that exists between people? The pairings between Musicians and Dancers are randomly selected but appear to be intrinsically connected. Are the participants unconsciously selecting their partners? Were they supposed to meet one another, or had they already but just did not know it?
The evening's duets in chronological order:
1. Douglas Ridings (D) + Christopher "Space" Howe (M)
2. Rainbow Fletcher (D) + Serge Gubelman (M)
3. Jill Marissa (D) + Ivan Arteaga (M)
4. Jody Kuehner (D) + Jeffrey "Ffej" Mandel (M)
5. Brenna Monroe-Cook (D) + Paris Hurley (M)
6. Annie Hewlett (D) + Chris Segawa (M)
7. Molly Sides (D) + Daniel Mullikin (M)
8. Beth Graczyk (D) + Pol Rosenthal (M)
If you attended this installment take a minute and share your thoughts. What did you feel was the most engaging moment of the evening? Whose duet resonated with you the most? How did you hear about HERE/NOW and why did you feel as if you wanted to attend? Were you familiar with any of the participants? Did the evening serve as a catalyst for discussion amongst friends?