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    2018-2019 reviews:


      The Match
    Intracellular sports

    In "The Match," the latest from Deborah Hay, four people and their many millions of cells play an awareness game.


    Not far into "The Match" by Deborah Hay, at Danspace Project recently, I was reminded of a line from a Henry Adams book: "True eccentricity is a tone." This word, tone, made sense to me in trying to articulate that inscrutable thing that hums around curious and extraordinary dance events like these. On the one hand, there are plenty of aspects to "The Match" that can be intelligently described and fit within a general picture of dance-making. And on the other hand, there is something else that binds the whole thing, that elevates the whole thing. Asa way of describing an intelligence that is intellectual in a deeply physical sense, that is highly articulate but also in its final form, non-verbal, this idea of an eccentric tone struck home.

    Choreography by: Deborah Hay.
    Directed by: Deborah Hay.
    Dancers: Wally Cardona, Mark Lorimer, Chrysa Parkinson, Ros Warby.
    Lighting by Jennifer Tipton
    Danspace Project
    St. Mark's Church, 131 E. 10th St.
    Feb. 5-8, 2004

    Performed by Wally Cardona, Mark Lorimer, Chrysa Parkinson and Ros Warby, "The Match" was built around a four solos. Each night, the dancers rotated who performed each solo. Although adamantly described in the post-show discussion as "not improvisation," the solos themselves were not 'set' in a traditional sense, that is, there was not a specific movement vocabulary or movement sequence. Rather, the solos were built around specific instructions. In the post-show discussion (I think it was the only deeply illuminating post-show discussion I've ever attended), Hay and the performers hinted at how the score was constructed. The hints were coy, and I can't be sure that this is right, but I understood that the score was created of a set of verbal directions, that were each a set of impossibilities — impossible convergences or preposterously abstract ideas. The most concrete scrap of information I gleaned was that in the third solo (performed the night I saw it by the ridiculously funny Ros Warby), the solo was to disintegrate, and when the other three re-entered the space, they were not to do so on a way that "saved" the soloist.

      "I mean it's preposterous, it's insane, but at least it's a lot more fun than being told to put your finger on your nose."
    The word "preposterous" is actually Hay's. In her book, "Lamb at the Altar," she describes her use of performance meditations. These meditations, stemming from her Buddhist practice, involve a constant practice of a specific awareness. Underlying the construction of the piece then are these physical practices that inform, essentially, the alertness of the performer. In "Lamb at the Altar," the meditation was "I am the impermanence I see." A practice of both seeing and sensing the transitory nature of things. Describing how this idea might work in the dance, she records saying to her group, "Some of you experience impermanence as limiting. What I mean by impermanence is not loss. What I mean is a steadily transforming present. What I mean by seeing impermanence is a feeling of humility." Hay writes that she would focus on a meditation practice over the course of about a year, then move on to another. In the post-show discussion, she described the underlying practice of this piece as the possibility of every cell in the body recognizing the uniqueness of each moment in time. Demonstrating that particular moment's uniqueness, she stood with her finger on her nose. "I mean it's preposterous, it's insane, but at least it's a lot more fun than being told to put your finger on your nose."

    This points to the richness of the performance, that whatever is being done — fingers being put on noses, five minutes of padding runs about the space — is being done not with an inner life in an expressive, representational kind of way, but with a constantly evolving life of the mind. But the life of the mind, this awareness practice, is transferred to every cell in the body, so it's explosive, heterogeneous, inscrutable, and totally compelling. And though watching the piece doesn't lead to gleaning the specific content of the meditation practice, the practice leads the piece to an extraordinary place, to a tone.

    Another thing contributes particularly to the tone of this work is that there seems to be no discrimination between what is funny and what is not. It's playful in a very broad way. But even when the two extremely funny ladies do their solos, they are not playing only for humor. Again, the work has too many layers to simply categorize its parts. Everything is fair game. Hay spoke of wanting to see the performers in the action of surrendering their habits, in many ways, surrendering their dance identities. "That doesn't mean that nothing is left. It means that everything is possible."

    The discourse is heady and involved. But the dance it creates is wondrously strange and truly approachable (as opposed to being reductively accessible). All four performers really stepped up to the score and the practice. Mark Lorimer's solo, which began the show, was the simplest, a low-key running, now in place, now about the space, now investigating a squeak on the risers. With a simple persistence and gentle, understated appeal, he set up a tone of seeing the preposterous amounts of variation within a simple idea. When Chrysa Parkinson spoke/danced her solo, which was something like a manic gibberish soap opera channeled directly, the flood gates were open. Ros Warby was outrageously odd in her disintegration, spinning an operatic amount of emotional drama out of a short phrase invented on the spot and repeated until it fell apart. Wally Cardona danced a beautiful nothing solo at the end — literally, I think the score was about doing nothing, or very little. But even in the simple economy of gestures, gradually standing up a bit more, a bit more, there was a kind of hum of activity in him. Maybe it was all those cells standing about with their cellular fingers on their cellular noses.

    FEBRUARY 18, 2004

    Reader comments on The Match:

  • The truth about "The Match"   from Big Dave, Dec 13, 2006

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