The Awkward Morning After… Jan 27, 2014
by Amy O'Neal
The context of personal memory, experience, and where you are currently at in your development as a human has everything to with how you view and digest art. For most of you ready, I am sure that is a given, but just in case… During this piece, I just couldn't seem to get out of my head when the piece really wanted me to get into my body. I mean there is rock music and nudity for Christ's sake. I can see why OTB asked me to blog about this show. Aspects of this piece were like looking into the mirror at my artist self in my 20's. The piece had a very promising beginning. Within the first 5 minutes I thought "Woah, this is like if locust, Dayna Hanson, and The YC had a baby. Interesting". (For those that don't know, those are all Seattle based artists spanning 3 different generations.) For the rest of the piece, all I could think about was my dance history…what I have made and what I have seen over the past 15 years that reminded me of what I was watching. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, let me be clear. We all need to check in sometimes.
However, all I could think while I was watching was done that seen that…serve alcohol to audience and drink onstage,check….hip live music with hip performers, check.. rock show sound levels and vibe, check…super athletic movement with awkward pauses, check… self referential lyrics and stage banter, check… strong women and awkward men, check… mixed training in performers, check…audience blinding lights, check…warming up on stage as the audience comes in and maybe talking to them or staring them down instead, check… When I did those things, (and still do sometimes, I mean shit let's bet real) I was and am inspired by others who did those things before me. They are all great things. I like those things.
Being a part of an artistic lineage is inescapable. I like that Lane addresses this in his program notes about the work. I don't want to write Gravel off by any means, I appreciate the questions he is asking, but the output felt empty and too self aware and held back. I understand exercises in self restraint. I understand statements about the emptiness of Pop culture. But this show felt like neither of those things, but were trying to be, maybe? And I didn't really care. As an audience member, I want to care, even if I don't know.
The work just didn't suck me in. Had this happened at a club and I could have talked to people and walked around and engage with it on my own timing, perhaps I would have felt different about it. The music overpowered the action most of the time. I found myself closing my eyes and imagining what I would do with that sound instead because what was happening was so uninteresting to me. I don't want to be thinking about what I would do instead when I see something. I want to go inside the world of the choreographer even if his point is not to create a world. I felt that Gravel so desperately cared about what we thought but acted like he didn't. There was so much holding back that I was wondering when the piece was really gonna start the whole time…maybe this was his intention? If so, bravo. But I didn't feel closer to him as an artist or the performers or the work.
My take away from this piece was this…It's like a socially awkward record shore clerk decided to make a band and a dance show at the same time, but he didn't think too much about it or really care about how it communicated, even though he really wants to communicate and be loved…and get laid. Which could potentially be really awesome but… his choices of timing and composition just didn't transcend anything for me or inspire me. Where is the heart of the work? What holds it together? Not that things need to be tidy and summed up and feel good. That is most certainly not the point. I just felt like this piece floated around and never got rooted. And again, maybe that was the intention. Great. I just wasn't feeling it.
It's not about What you do, but How you do it. In Usually Beauty Fails, there is a long list of potentially great What's, but the How just didn't carry them for me.