Sunday, May 19, 2019

"Surveys the Prairie of Your Room" opens at La MaMa

Ae Andreas (front) with Dan Safer
in the premiere of Surveys the Prairie of Your Room at La MaMa
(photo: Maria Baranova)


Surveys the Prairie of Your Room
Witness Relocation/Dan Safer
La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre
May 18-19, 2019

Not a person shifted place during last night's performance of Surveys the Prairie of Your Room, though Dan Safer--who collaborated on this bold duet with his Witness Relocation colleague Ae Andreas--invited us to move anywhere around three sides of the perimeter of their crisply delineated rectangle of performance space. Standing in a single, constrained line curved around that space--I had one of several folding chairs--viewers were encouraged to look at the performers' duet from any number of angles.

And we did not. We stayed where we were planted. Which is kind of okay. The piece--Safer's first full-length duet--looks just fine from a stationery viewing point. Certainly, it moves enough, itself, for dozens of people. And there's enough excitement when a dancer's arm, sneaker sole or backside gets within a foot of your face. The intimacy of the setting--wide but shallow liminal space betwixt the theater's entrance and the back of its seating rows--heightens a sense of drama, urgency and potential. This "prairie" in a box has got a lot going on.

David Bowie's "prairie of your room" (from "Eight Line Poem") had its "tactful cactus." Andreas has a chair--a hard, unsparing one--and they are mighty restless not only sitting on that metal chair but sitting within their body in its man's suit.

At the top of the 45-minute piece, Andreas darts past the rectangle's white tape that keeps the audience sidelined, and they sit on the chair, their left foot instantly jittery. Turbulence ensues. Their hands shove their jaw this way and that. From the chair to the floor, their body wriggles, writhes, twists and stumbles, a mess of angles. And when Safer--shadow, partner, instigator, supporter, challenger--melts into the scene, also suited-and-sneakered-and-contradictory, all of this trouble is doubled and magnified.

Andreas and Safer
(photo: Maria Baranova)

Longtime Witness Relocation collaborator Heather Christian contributed an intriguing music-scape evoking diverse moods, and writer Kate Scelsa worked found text into a voiceover rendered by actress Grace McLean into soothing seduction in sharp contrast to the dancers' agitation. In a soft, moist tone, McLean touts the amenities of a luxury hotel and, if you're like me, you'll fixate on the apparently hundreds of pillow variations on offer--from anti-allergy to duck down.

There are two people here, but this appears to be a journal of one life, a long stretch of unpaved road with some exhilarating views along the way. It's handsome and danced with all-out exuberance, and you have only one more chance to line up around the rectangle--this afternoon!

Directed, choreographed and performed by Dan Safer
Co-preated and performed by Ae Andreas
Original music by Heather Christian
Original text by Kate Scelsa
Voiceover by Grace McLean
Suits by Ministry of Supply
Lights by Juan Merchan

Surveys the Prairie of Your Room, presented by La MaMa Moves! dance festival, concludes today with a 5pm performance. Tickets are limited. Hurry and click here.

And La MaMa continues to move! Now through May 26, in fact. For schedule and ticketing information for this annual dance festival, click here.

La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th Street (between Bowery and Second Avenue), Manhattan

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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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