Faith Triptych Oct 22, 2010

by Andrea

In the late ’70’s/early ‘80’s something was happening in this Pacific Northwest outpost.  Bill Gates and Paul Allen figured out DOS.  Starbucks started selling espresso.  Nirvana released their first recording.  On the Boards opened its doors.  And Pat Graney started showing dances.

Within the last year Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham, and Kazuo Ohno passed away.   The three of them, from different continents and different ages, were all choreographers who helped broaden the definition of ‘dance’.  They explored contemporary issues, used innovative stage technology, and collaborated with artists from other disciplines.  They showed audiences how to look at movement in new ways.

Pat Graney is an inheritor of those traditions.  She’s made enough work that a kernel of it is being showcased in a retrospective Faith Triptych, which opened at On the Boards last night. 

Sure, some of it looked dated.  Back in the day a slide show was high tech.  Tattoo was made before everyone was getting them.  Pat’s quiet social activism has broadened from an exploration of women’s identity to queer politics and work with incarcerated women.

What still resonates is the way Pat illuminates images with movement.  Tiny gestures as important as grand flourishes.  Caravaggio paintings, red stilettos, little black dresses.  Flickering candles, falling rice, a crocodile.  The quiet, expressive beauty of Sign language.

Last night was a big family reunion.  Pat brought together old friends, collaborators and dancers who came from across the country to create what was on stage.  Someone commented that the audience was older than a typical OtB audience these days.  For many it was a walk down memory lane. 

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about last evening to me was the performers.  Pat could have chosen to set the work on younger dancers.  Or they could have declined the invitation.  Instead they slipped the movement back on like a comfortable caress.  The lines were softer.  More poignant.  They, like Pat's work, are aging well.