Friday, October 5, 2018

Deborah Hay's "Ten" draws a crowd at MoMA

Deborah Hay presents a revival of Ten (1968)
at the Museum of Modern Art's Marron Atrium.
(photo: Ralf Hiemisch)

Heading to MoMA for performances of Deborah Hay's 1968 ensemble piece, Ten, today or tomorrow at 2pm? Be sure to set out early. The audience for postmodern dance exists! I found them at the museum's Marron Atrium (exhibiting Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done through February 3) and on four floors of overlooking balconies. In the atrium, they stood several rows deep, cupping the open performance area with stragglers, like me, struggling for viewing space. Associate Curator Thomas Lax kindly secured a folding stool for me and a vantage point on one extreme end, and I was happy as a clam.

Against the far wall, the band Gang Gang Dance--with guitar, percussion, electronic keyboard--started things off precisely at 2 with a cascading, deepening rumble of sounds, a hot, gradually complicating, poly-ethnic mush that would hold steady through most, though not all, of the lengthy performance. A metal pole--perhaps fifteen feet, if dancer Wally Cardona's height is any gauge--rose from the dove-grey floor, and a metal barre, very low to the ground, stretched across the width of the performance space. Black-clad dancers would attach themselves to these items in various ways, as other dancers--inaudible to us over the loud music--would monitor and coach them into just the right positions. The dancers regularly but unpredictably rotated in and out of these supervisory and performing roles.

These dancers--Cardona, Michelle Boulé, Miguel Gutierrez, Miguel Ángel Guzmán, Malcolm Low, Shelley Senter, David Thomson, Adrienne Truscott, Arturo Vidich and Marýa Wethers--well, let me just say these folks are the equivalent of actors you'd pay to hear read the phone book. Given that Hay basically has them doing a string of tasks like draping themselves over the barre as if sunbathing or gracefully embracing the pole or creating a line or stack-up of dancers in similar poses, that phone book thing might not be too far off. It definitely looked more banal when the music dropped out and I could pick up what a patrolling Gutierrez was actually saying to his charges.

But I was enthralled from the first and stayed that way over more than an hour. I can account for this only in that, for several decades now, my mind has been infiltrated by postmodern artists and that I remain a weird child. This is my tribe--or, at least, one of them.

Ten runs through Saturday with performances at 2pm with limited seating. Free with museum admission. For those with sensitive ears, bring earplugs just in case you end up near the speakers. Today's performance will be followed at 3pm with a conversation between Hay and Ana Janevski, MoMA's Curator of Performance and Media. Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done runs through February 3. For information, click here.

Museum of Modern Art
Enter at 18 West 54th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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