Thursday, September 10, 2015

Won't stop: Jeanine Durning's new "To Being"

Jeanine Durning, Julian Barnett and Molly Poerstel
(photo: Ian Douglas)

With To Being we are asking: What is at stake? Where is the end? What does it take to stay in action? And how can we give more when we feel that we’ve met our limit? 
-- Jeanine Durning

When you're about to do what Jeanine Durning and her partners do in To Being, it's more than reasonable to ease your way into it. After all, what you plan to do will take force and stamina to a maniacal degree and, in excess of an hour, demand your complete mental and physical will. To Being--which just opened at The Chocolate Factory--requires something of the same from the empathic viewer. In the presence of these dancers, you might flip from feeling startled to feeling tickled to feeling absolutely spent.

Durning calls her process "nonstopping," and she first gave audiences a taste in her solo, inging (2010), where it was largely a phenomenon of the voice or "unscripted nonstop languaging," as she would have it. In the new work, To Being, Durning, Julian Barnett and an impish Molly Poerstel--accompanied by sound designer Tian Rotteveel--bring us nonstopping as disruptive acts of the body.

Audience seating is scarce and widely scattered around the edges of the theater's bright white space. You come in and take any chair. One or more of the performers might drift through, sometimes ambling by to say hello or give a hug to an audience member. And this amiable, apparent nothing-ing goes on for a while until the performers suddenly vacate the space, and one theater light fires up, signaling...what exactly?

In the absence of an immediate something, the audience's coughs and rustling amplify, and that stretches on for another awkward while. Then: a loud bustle from beyond the entrance, from the metal staircase. What?

From the moment the dancers burst through the entrance, they're on, violently, with little transition or drop in energy. If they were sounds--aside from their audible gasps--they would be blaring dissonance. They disturb the atmosphere with their jutting, threshing arms, lashing torsos, jabbing elbows. Being that refuses to stop.

One gets why Durning rejects the word "continuous" as a description of her movement qualities. That word indeed sounds too soft and flow-y. Nonstopping looks--feels, to the empath--like battle, like resistance to the very idea that you cannot do what you will to do.

As Durning wrote in her program notes, "nonstop points to the critical nature of what it takes to keep going in the midst of, and despite, questions, doubts, limitations, and, of course, inevitable failures." She came to this practice after many questions, some of them regarding why she continues to make work and if she should.

Objects in the way--a speaker, a tangle of electric cords, a radiator, a wall--are commandeered and roughly used, often to create flashes of sound. You sometimes worry for a dancer's safety; you always admire the currency of thought and commitment.

With lighting by Joe Levasseur

To Being runs through September 19 with remaining shows this week tonight through Saturday and September 16-19, all at 8pm. Durning will reprise inging Wednesday through Saturday, September 23-26 with 8pm performances. Remember, seating is very limited.

For information on both productions and ticket availability, click here.

The Chocolate Factory
5-49 49th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens

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