(photo: Benjamin Boar)
Fascinated by an artisan’s gestures in which movement is organized to serve production, Mriziga uses his body like a tool to play with perspective and audience expectations. What emerges is an ancient symbol bearing new meaning, questioning our fundamental attachment to symbols and their ability to transgress meanings over time. In the artist’s own words: “The starting point of 55 is: how can I be as functional as possible on stage? As a dancer you constantly ask yourself questions: Is it sufficient? Is this what I want to convey? Is this the right form? What exactly am I doing? What am I making? What do I express? I set out in search of functionality and the form functionality may adopt. It is an almost architectural approach. I question myself as a performer and as a creator.”
--from promotion for Radouan Mriziga's ~55
Someone recently asked me what I look for when I look at a dance. It's an impossible question. Isn't every dance different? And, anyway, I'm not supposed to be looking for anything. I'm supposed to be looking at something. I'm supposed to be present with whatever's there and, with luck, connect and communicate with it in some way. At least, that's the way I see how I'm seeing. Just to be clear, that doesn't mean that I'm always going to connect or, if I do not, no one else can.
Radouan Mriziga's ~55 solo--a US premiere at New York Live Arts--kept hitting me in the intellectual chakra, you know, the one that detects checklist items like counting, repetition, geometrics, workmanlike gesture. Stuff I get. Performing in NYLA's upstairs studio, Mriziga, dressed simply--black jeans, casual black shirt--made his way within a perimeter of onlookers. Hailing from Belgium, born in Morocco, he looked and moved like he would have been right at home at a showcase at Judson Church.
Every now and then, we would hear individual, ragged outbursts of unidentified music that sounded classic (as in really old), each lasting perhaps a few seconds. Everything about the movement construction seemed snapped together, like a Tinker Toy, and everything about this intermittent soundscape seemed rudely snapped apart, shredded, flying past the audience at unpredictable moments. I was more taken by the source--five ancient cassette decks--and the integration of layers of past-ness in this present-day event in a festival devoted to futurity (Live Ideas 2016: MENA/Future – Cultural Transformations in the Middle East North Africa Region). I was reminded of how, here in the States, we like to bulldoze and obscure the past--whether it be old neighborhoods or old social traumas--as opposed to other places in the world where the past is either rightly treasured or still sadly inescapable.
Anyway, those were my thoughts. And here I was with Mriziga who has his own thoughts and questions and something that, we would learn, building in his head, in the air and, ultimately and most carefully, on the ground. As his moves and gestures became more familiar to me, either I received them better or--and this could be true--he seemed to relax more, enough for me to see and connect with the human artist at work. Maybe, maybe that was because he knew he was closing in on something he felt sure about and we had yet to see.
~55 concludes with a performance tonight at 8pm. For information and tickets, click here.