Friday, January 31, 2014

New York Live Arts presents world premieres from niv Acosta and Tess Dworman

Tess Dworman's new trio, macromen--opening last night at New York Live Arts on a program with niv Acosta's i shot denzel--had a quirky-fresh way of turning everything, from potted trees to flesh-and-blood dancers, into flat, malleable, playfully disappearing items. But what Acosta dropped into that familiar space felt a whole lot more radical and compelled the whole of my attention.
Dance Up Close to niv Acosta
niv Acosta
(photo by Nicole Whelan)
denzel, I hear, has had five previous lives in the imagination and developing work of Acosta, a Black-Dominican, transgender-identified performer. This was my first encounter with Acosta's attempts to extract himself from the archetypal Denzel Washington and common notions of what it means to be a Black man. What got me is how uncool it all is.

I like several things about that. Going on a stage and singing when you're Black and your voice is adequate but not remarkable is uncool, and that's great. Bringing your gorgeous, singing mother onstage with you and dancing near her in a way that foregrounds all the tender vulnerability within your Black masculinity is uncool, and that's great. Reciting too-revealing, over-the-top text when people might expect Strong Silent Type or Angry Black Male is uncool, and that's great. Doing all of this in a body that defies both dance aesthetic expectations and gender conformity may not be all that uncool, or uncommon, especially at New York Live Arts, but it's still great. Repeatedly taking aim and smacking that body against a big ol' white wall might be painfully obvious and kind of futile and therefore uncool, but that's great.

niv Acosta and Yessenia Acosta in i shot denzel
(photo courtesy of New York Live Arts)
Sort of mixing up where audience should go and live musicians should go is kind of wacky, though not original, and that's not bad if not truly great. The only thing I thought was the exact opposite of great was how I couldn't make out the emotional Spanish lyrics Yessenia Acosta sang to, and apparently about, her son. The higher sound level for the band muffled her voice, and they were positioned closer to the audience. I hope that will be corrected for tonight and tomorrow's shows.

"No one has died inside of me," Acosta says at one point in his forceful monologue atop the white wall. Everyone and everything is there, and that's great.

Acosta's performance in i shot denzel makes me sorry that I'm just now catching up with this series, which has possibly reached its end. I enjoyed his dancing--his voguing and scrupulously clean inscriptions against space--but even more, I enjoyed all the uncool.

Performed by niv Acosta, Yessenia Acosta, Lee Free, Amy Gall, Lydia Berg-Hammond, Caitlin Marz, Jo Pang, Julia Read, Aleksei Wagner and Gary Zema. Music by niv Acosta and Jo Pang.

niv Acosta/Tess Dworman runs through Saturday, February 1 with performances at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

Come Early Video Installation created by Anna Pinkas and Lani Rodriguez
(on view Thursday, January 30-Saturday, February 1)

Friday, January 31 - Stay Late Discussion: none-other: regarding the alien and the uncanny in the work of niv Acosta and Tess Dworman, moderated by Marissa Perel

New York Live Arts
219 West 19th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), Manhattan

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