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    2017-2018 reviews:


      Carlotta Sagna
    Falling over ourselves for you

    Carlotta Sagna's "A" reveals its own efforts to win the affections of its audience.


    The lights are up as Carlotta Sagna's "A" opens. "Ceci est une noir," we are told by Sagna who is standing behind the audience, "This is a blackout." There is no blackout except the one given to us in words. We are told we can slowly see the lights revealing a figure, who we have seen in full view from the beginning. On the bare stage of the Kitchen, we watch him dance.

    Choreography by: Carlotta Sagna.
    Dancers: Lisa Gunstone, Antoine Effroy, Carlotta Sagna.
    Music by: Paul Hindemith, The Residents, Aphex Twin, Dynamoe, Inuit games and songs.
    Text by Carlotta Sagna
    The Kitchen
    512 West 19th St. (btw. 10th and 11th Ave.)
    Oct. 1-4, 2003

    These minor omissions of theatrical machinery continue throughout the hour, revealing what is usually hidden, the work commenting on itself in full view. But "A," titled for ',' the word meaning 'to' in French and Italian, is not so much a deconstruction of performance as it is a foregrounding of the relationship between the audience and performer. I speak to you.

    "A" also refers to Yvonne Rainer's seminal "Trio A." "A" doesn't follow Rainer's accompanying rejection of virtuosity, theatricality and seduction, but rather weaves around the question of performing, not so much from the perspective of the performer's manipulation of the audience as the performer's desire to be in loving exchange with her observers. "A" treats the tenderness of performance.

    Sagna appears occasionally as the director of the action, but "A" is mainly (and superbly) performed by Lisa Gunstone and Antoine Effroy. Sometimes they watch each other perform. Antoine dances in red face paint while Lisa and Carlotta eat snacks and discuss his body. Lisa performs domestic-drama dialogue as a monologue while the other two watch. When she's done, they tell her how great she was. Scenes drift into each other (perhaps in this sense reflective of the undynamic transitions of "Trio A"), with the occasional blackout called out (though never actually executed). They velcro costumes onto themselves, using an empty staple gun to call attention to their efforts.

    Well into the program, Antoine starts to tell us his idyllic fantasy of a summer cottage. Bored, in his imagination, on his own at the cottage, the next year he adds to his fantasy a woman, a relationship. "I want in invest a lot in this relationship. I'm ready." The way he speaks of this relationship, the way he idealizes it, his tentativeness in fully committing to is (he imagines it lasts for maybe six or seven years) starts to become a way of speaking about his relationship with us. He wants it, but there is an opacity to it. Tender, loving, idyllic, it nonetheless is somehow fueled by more a vision of self than of togetherness.

    A second scene beautifully realizes this odd kind of self-seeing love. Lisa and Antoine dance a duet, she, crying, collapsing into him, tearfully completing a partnered duet, he, smiling throughout at the audience, never seeing her, basking instead in the glow of being watched, his countenance generous even as he is oblivious to Lisa in his arms.

    The end of the piece breaks the rhythm leading up to it, sticking instead with an image of Lisa, the crown of her head stuck to the ground, fruitlessly trying to unstick it. Sagna comes out in a suit and heels, and describes a kind of sweeping light that moves over the scene, again telling us what we do and don't see, describing the theatrical power, the kind of nostalgia the lighting effect creates. Later, back behind the audience, she retrogrades the opening, describing a blackout that isn't happening, telling us about the fading image. She calls 'blackout' and the dancers move, falling over each other, running into a wall, the blackout become real for them. And then finally, the lights do go out.

    "A" is not a comment on performance or an effort to unmask it so much as a meditation, without pretension or self-proclamation, on the medley of love, care and egotism inherent in the performer-audience relationship. It was gentle, provoking, and delightful.

    OCTOBER 13, 2003

    Reader comments on Carlotta Sagna:

  • Lisa Gunstone   from Maria, Apr 7, 2006

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