The June 2020 BlakTinx Dance Festival: Dancing on the Edge
was presented online by Bootleg Theater.
At some early (now forgotten) point during the confusion of the past few months of our troubled planet, a thought surfaced. Unbidden and, from that moment on, completely unexplored, it was composed of three simple words:
I miss choreography.
I thought it and...yeah...left it right there.
I think I realized how unpopular it might be in the "new normal" of EXCITEMENT!!! over EVERYTHING THAT DANCE CAN BE!!! now that it can't be what it once was, which--as we all know--was terrible. Absolutely terrible.
I'm not even going to try to argue what about dance might not have been so terrible. Because now that the fact of its terribleness is up in our faces, we can finally do something about it, right? No more procrastination.
All I can tell you is that, of the tons of content emerging online since the pandemic first divided us from one another, I have consumed a lot of virtual theater and music, many thoughtful conversations and informative panels and...a smattering of dance. Of that dance, what I've most enjoyed--although not completely--happened to be recordings of full productions of works from prior months and years. I am still waiting for up-to-the-minute made-for-Zooms to knock me out of my desk chair.
I still love you all, but these virtual solos-in-place; these housebound duets danced safely with your significant other, these whimsical improvs, these trippings of the light fantastic around your backyard are giving me an ache for something I'm apparently not supposed to continue to yearn for because there were, I'm hearing, all these problems with it.
So, come on, Eva. Get happy.
I thought about this I miss choreography thought again when I was watching the YouTube video series Dancing on the Edge, the 2020 edition of Bootleg Theater's BlakTinx Dance Festival that presents work by Los Angeles-based Black and Latinx choreographers, all alumni of the festival from years past. I had accepted Bootleg's request to view and review the four-part series out of curiosity about a dance community largely unfamiliar to me, a New Yorker, and because the brief new and archival works were all by Black and Latinx artists, twenty-five strong, responding to this double-whammy of social distancing and social uprising.
These compilations--a resilient adaptation to the extreme realities of our times--turned out not to be the best way to get to know these artists, the legacies that shaped them, their histories in the field, the contexts in which they regularly work and the meaning they may hold within their respective communities. I'm also wondering if enough time has passed for any artist to deeply process all that has happened since coronavirus began its deadly spread and since George Floyd's death awakened a passionate movement. Have they had time to dive and return with something not obvious but truly incisive and unique to them?
With all that in mind, and after having watched Dancing on the Edge without sufficient background, I'm not going to review these works--which is to say, I'm not going to white-supremacist this thing.
Catch my drift?
I'll give you the BlakTinx Theater Festivals channel links for your own exploration:
Program 1: https://youtu.be/Le-9yWLPz2o
Program 2: https://youtu.be/CkRS_eIDSzw
Program 3: https://youtu.be/lSJfVjtJWcA
Program 4: https://youtu.be/fdNjj_3BnQE
And let me just point out some items that most captured my imagination. Someday, I might make it out west to learn more--that is, if we're ever safely back to seeing dance in the flesh.
From Program 1:
Add Water & Stir (excerpt from a 2017 performance)
B.Dunn Movement/Dance & Theatre Company
Ghostly 1950s white housewives swan around ghostly domiciles and stir bowls of mysterious ingredients, literally sidelined by Dunn-Korpela's bustling troupe. While the white-folks imagery quickly gets relegated to a small oval in one corner of the screen, dancers of color churn through and own the space in a physically-demanding piece that references the deaths of Emmett Till, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner.
Como los Pájaros
Super-short, lyrical video featuring the body of a dancer in a flowery blouse and wind-blown hair sliding over a dark grey sky with bright, scattered clouds. In program notes, Ordaz sites Puerto Rican poet Willie Perdomo's The Crazy Bunch:
How to describe that sound when the birds flutter like a deck
of cards being shuffled? Where to find your uplift &
hallelujah, hosanna & hero, campana & chorus?
Although severely restricted by narrowed space and limited time, Ordaz manages to convey a flight of freedom.
From Program 2:
Baile de Cuarentena
One of a few festival entries centered in the art of flamenco, Baile de Cuarentena (quarantine dance) approaches pandemic apocalypse with a mask but no filters. Also, no costuming and no heavy footwork that might disturb Zárate's downstairs neighbors. You can feel the energy of frustration along with determination to keep flamenco--and hope--alive.
Time up the River
film: Christopher Lopez
Shelter-in-place can be unsafe for LGBTQ+ folx forced to share space with homophobic/transphobic families. Choreographer Pérez took that reality as the premise for this duet with Robert Gomez dancing in a tight spot of liminal domestic space with some mirrors for self-reflection and a bit of light from the outside world.
From Program 4:
What the Hell is Going On
Rubí Danielle Morales
Videography: Crystal Morales
Hemmed in by the stark angles of a kitchen space, Morales responds with similar starkness and angularity of movement in this disturbing solo before a restless, intrusive camera.
Dancing on the Edge choreographers:
Nancy Rivera Gomez
For more information about LA's Bootleg Theater, click here.
DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve, at Gibney, as Senior Director of Artist Development and Curation and Editorial Director. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.
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