Saturday, July 28, 2018

An audience with Angie Pittman

Dancer-choreographer Angie Pittman (photo: Scott Shaw)
Sequined Kisses and Vazlean is a diptych that grapples with ways to give love, receive love, be cool, be resilient, achieve survival, and daydream. Sequined Kisses... is an exploration of interiority, and its relationship to compression, love and joy within the context of historical trauma against Black folk. ...VazLean centers “cool” as an African Diasporic concept through greasiness, lubrication, and James Brown cape choreography. Together, these two pieces are a journey towards what Donnell Alexander calls “finding the essential soul while being essentially lost.”

Presented as part of The Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness at The Kitchen, Angie Pittman's performance of conjoined solos--Sequined Kisses and Vazlean--seemed like a half-hallucinated audience with Black shamanic or ancestral royalty. The James Brown/Prince lineage, in particular. One night only--and for your eyes only, lucky ones.

We saw her partly in dim light and, even when bathed in spotlight, in a form that seemed indirect and indistinct, often twirling or oriented sideways, never giving us a good look in the eye. Moving and gesturing as if through a fishbowl filled with gel. Here and not here.

The radiant white-and-gold satin cape (designed by Athena Kokoronis), which Pittman wore at the top of the hour, was lifted away by a tender supplicant and only returned late in the action. Musical voices accompanying her were often unpleasantly muddled and distorted, discordant and abrasive as if they, too, represented someones not of this time. Many pasts accumulated into the present.

Our evening with Pittman unfolded in a much-transformed performance space that turned what is normally inclined rows of audience seating into dark, bleak mountain for the holy descent and re-ascent of a spiritual being. The audience--and we were many--sat in semicircular rows opposite this "mountain," watching Pittman gradually forge her path down its central steps, her movements suggesting an effort to turn a three-dimensional body into bold, iconic marks against a black surface. Ancient, enigmatic, beautiful, powerful.

Powerful, especially, when reaching the black floor and whirling nearly--but never--out of balance on the dips and surge of the music, her surefootedness a thrill and an instruction. Vulnerable to the risk of stumbling and yet taking care of herself in the midst of the ecstasy she claimed.

Angie Pittman: Sequined Kisses and Vazlean is closed.

The Kitchen's visual art exhibition of The Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness continues through August 3. Artists include Josh Begley, Paul Chan, Mel Chin, Ja’Tovia Gary, Ken Gonzales-Day, Kate Greenstreet, Titus Kaphar, Baseera Khan, Charlotte Lagarde, Seung-Min Lee, Glenn Ligon, Mores McWreath, Sandeep Mukherjee, Native Art Department International, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Cindy Sherman, Rodrigo Valenzuela and Anicka Yi. For information, click here.

The Kitchen
512 West 19th Street (west of 10th Avenue), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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