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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Sounding off with Miguel Gutierrez at The Chocolate Factory

Center: Dance artist Miguel Gutierrez
brings his new work,This Bridge Called My Ass,
to The Chocolate Factory Theater
(photo: Paula Lobo)

Miguel Gutierrez
This Bridge Called My Ass
American Realness at The Chocolate Factory Theater
January 9-19

Before the messy mound of fabric scraps, chairs, step stools, electric cords and other discards at center space gets picked through for eccentric props; before festively-colored lights blink on and draw attentions to unexpected places; before dancers, without a shred of self-consciousness. display more and more bare flesh and sexual inclinations, there is sound.

In the beginning of This Bridge Called My Ass, there is the word--or many, really--some written by Miguel Gutierrez. A Spanish call-and-response--all the performers are of Latin American heritage--and a kind of chant that seems derived from an elementary school classroom or a language lesson for the non-Spanish speaker. The pacing and forceful energy of the choral readings of this text sound like a choir filled with conviction. But not a choir without the capacity to be flippant; if you were placed just right, you would have noticed a sly gaze-and-grin passing between Gutierrez and Oakland burlesque dancer Xandra Ibarra.

As things spread out--and lordy, how they do spread out--so does resonant sound of voice, music, props making bizarre impact against the floor and each other. As things spread out, they sometimes come in precarious contact with other things or nearly so. I worried much over the safety of so much unprotected flesh in the presence of hard metal wielded with abandon and also fretted over the safety of a MacBook with a rather large step stool weirdly balanced on the edge of its opened cover. Who takes this kind of risk?

Sprawling over the mess, toying with it, the dancers get tangled apparently without any of the fear I, from the relative safety of my front row seat, was feeling. Nor do they inhibit themselves or others. Soft and hard things are just things. Things are just things, and you might find yourself hallucinating that the inanimate is animate, and very much vice versa. These juxtapositions are truly audacious, monstrous connections. You have to give yourself over to the in-the-moment pointlessness and futility of it all, because the dancers definitely do.

Presented without intermission, the piece is about 90 minutes and feels really endless. Towards the end, though, there's an interesting shift that I resist interpreting. In fact, I resist interpreting anything here. All I will say is that the execution of it has--again, the best words I can find for this show--energy, resonance, to an impressive degree. There's something here that lives beyond the initial mess.

Created by Miguel Gutierrez and performed by Gutierrez with Alvaro Gonzalez, John Gutierrez, Xandra Ibarra, nibia pastrana santiago and Evelyn Lilian Sanchez Narvaez

Dramaturg and assistant director: Stephanie Acosta
Lighting design: Tuçe Yasak

This Bridge Called My Ass runs through January 19. For information and tickets, click here.

The Chocolate Factory Theater
5-49 48th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens


DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.


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