Friday, April 1, 2016

Enrico D. Wey presents new solo at Danspace Project

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Enrico D. Wey performs his new solo,
to warring states, a useless tool,
at Danspace Project.
(photos: Elyssa Goodman)

In his third Danspace commission, Enrico D. Wey presents a deeply personal examination of Asian male identity and embodiment. Wey explores clichés such as the Asian body as a fetishized and invisible minority, asking, “Can I reclaim my own physical body from the gaze of others and from my own embedded prejudice?”
--from promotion for Enrico D. Wey's to warring states, a useless tool

At first sight, the set-up of Enrico D. Wey's solo at Danspace Project--to warring states, a useless tool--first resembles an improvised boxing ring. Audience seating lines all four sides of a large, square space covered in a white, illuminated plastic mat, its parameters neatly defined by festive, tricolored tape. A pink ribbon, anchored in the air by cords extending from the sanctuary's columns, encloses this area like the ropes of a boxing ring.

We enter, claiming chairs or cushions, to find Wey already stationed at the square's center, standing as still as a rubber doll, his long, black hair completely veiling his face, his chest, legs and feet bare. Oksana Meister's costume--largely front and back panels of multicolored fringe--wraps his lower body from waist to knees. Although the set suggests a competitive match of some sort, the costume introduces a different association--cultural ritual. As we will see, both associations are fair entry into the work.

The solo moves through an hour--most of that time, astonishingly glacial in pace. It takes a while at first, and close observation, to even detect change in Wey's body. But, yes, those arms are slowly rising and spreading. That might not register until the positional change becomes obvious. Fifteen minutes, at least, have passed before the arms find an arch like half-unfurled wings. As if to (sort of) highlight the moment, Elliott Jenetopulos's lighting gives the tiniest, fleeting uptick that seems almost like a hastily-corrected mistake.

Wey's arms begin a descent, his head and back dipping forward, folding downward at the same pace. A half-hour has passed, and he is suspended above the floor, nearby shadows tinted strawberry and green. Abruptly bursting into motion, he rapidly pumps, thrashes up and down, over and over, sharply exhaling, panting, snorting, shifting from one to all four directions. About forty-five minutes in, there's humming, sudden panting, something that sounds like yodeling, scatting, muttered gibberish and then ritual chant. Never, though, the revelation of his face. We're not granted that. The lashing motion blurs whatever we might have been able to see. He is there and not there. Or there in some form of absence that removes his actual identity from easy access. Forced or deliberate. Negative or positive. Make of that what you will. Make of him what you will.

In the post-show Q&A with writer Jaime Shearn Coan, the Taiwan-born performer spoke of sourcing material from traditions ranging across several Asian cultures--including, in his furious, ecstatic lashing, an aboriginal tribal dance of Taiwan performed solely by women. He was driven by a need to put himself at the center "and always at the center," embodying what appears to be stuckness but, as he sees it, is truly "activated space."

"I'm going to place that at the center of my work and see what spins out from it," he said. "That gray space in between, I want to be able to sit in that space and take from it."

Multitalented Wey has also worked in puppetry where, he noted "the idea is to make the puppet breathe" thus changing the nature of the puppet's movement and the audience's perception and understanding. The dancer in to warring states inhabits a space between inertness and dynamism, between being acted upon and acting, between being object and subject. He might be oppressively obscured or protectively hidden. He might be invisible or visible and apprehended and known in multiple ways. The states war. He is a vessel, useless or otherwise, in this adroit and fascinating performance.

to warring states, a useless tool continues tonight and tomorrow with performances at 8pm. Seating is limited. For information and tickets, click here.

Danspace Project
St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue), Manhattan

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