|Above, Lillie De and below, Ariel Speedwagon |
in scenes from ETLE and the Anders
(photos: Alex Escalante)
You know how it is when you first open a sci-fi or fantasy novel and, right away, you're plunged into a world teeming with characters, creatures, exotic place names, complicated back stories, unfamiliar languages, ideas and values? It can be jarring, overwhelming. You need a little time to acclimate.
The ETLE Universe--a massive project shaped by feminist and queer thought, three years in the making by Sarah A.O. Rosner and her A.O. Movement Collective--reminds me of that experience. I have dipped into just one portion of it--ETLE and the Anders, a performance set in Clinton Hill's Loft 172. To use a Rosner term of choice, it is maximalist.
My best guess is that ETLE and the Anders is a schematic of what it might look like, sound like and feel like to have any number of universes rushing at you all at once. And I believe Rosner and her collaborators take this to be necessary training for a coming world that awaits our evolution--or maybe a world that's already here, waiting to be noticed.
I don't feel moved to describe most of what happens in this piece. Go have your own experience, please. But here are some things I'm still thinking about.
It would be limiting to call ETLE and the Anders a dance work, just as it would be limiting to ignore the way ETLE universality encompasses everything from dance to gaming to fashion to photography to shopping to porn. (That's right, thanks to ETLE, Rosner's bio now reads: "choreographer, pornographer, and radical arts businessman....") Nevertheless, bodies and movement carry the main charge and main interest in ETLE and the Anders--some of the most diverse, unconventional, in-your-face bodies in professional dance and some of the most prodigious energy. Rosner thrills us with the momentum and sound of these bodies rushing through air and making contact with the floor. When her dancers run the ring of their space, the breeze hitting the audience is pretty damn maximal.
They execute movements and movement patterns in a big, open way. Heroic. Also somewhat predatory. Not afraid of being large and in charge. Not afraid of the body. Not afraid of any body. They jabber and shout. They build and deconstruct imagery with a speed that will make you question whether you saw what you just saw, and they fracture your ability to attend to any one thing at any one time. Destructive of boundaries, expressive of multiplicity, they require that you release your own hold on form and focus and certainty.
The mysterious ETLE--unseen but referenced as "she" and "her," and maybe those pronouns should be capitalized--appears to be driving what will turn into sacred erotic ceremony, centered in the stately Anna Adams Stark. Coordinating Anders efficiently arranged the audience closer to peer through the transparent windows of a vinyl enclosure.
Here, performer Lillie De--who also serves as the collective's manager, we're told--guided our way. With De in the spotlight, I felt the tone shift, and a handle present itself to me. I needed a handle, a way into this work. It seemed to come in the note of irony she introduced.
But even that irony quickly fell apart. No sooner did De draw chuckles from some of us than orgasmic ecstasy buffeted and wrenched her.
Each time we hurl our bodies through space, we have shifted the universe.... Our bodies are time machines...."
Let yourself go! Let your Future Self in!Suddenly, dancers sailed past us, naked or nearly so. Inside the clear vinyl enclosure, Ariel Speedwagon--dressed in a long, medieval tunic, arms stretched out from her sides--revolved and whirled to the martial cadence of Idgy Dean's live percussion. For a brief moment--everything ETLE flares, shimmers and becomes something else--wary dancers patrolled the enclosure, baseball bats in hand, tough attitudes in place. Baseball bats seem kind of old school for sci-fi, don't they? But the sight of them was both amusing and entirely convincing. We get the message. I have never seen a better protected ceremonial site.
ETLE and the Anders is a fascinating experience, but I won't pass judgment on it in isolation from a web of manifestations that I won't have the chance to experience. See for yourself. The ETLE Universe continues, through October 10, with three weeks of performances, parties, screenings, workshops and much more. For a schedule of ETLE and the Anders performances and a guide to the entire ETLE universe of events and resources, click here.
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