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    Space and the city

    Reflections on the Dendron arena.


    My notes scratched on the subway home: not landscape. theater in broader sense (theater of war or ideas). city. flow/pace. allowed us to leave, too. Kayugen (a term?). type of space. arena of decans or graces, classical only insofar as arena characterized sense of emotional-philosophical space. canopy: view from 3 sides. headphones- inner/outer. decide to enter; decide to allow interruption. stereo effect in multiple ways. open/closed: concentration is a form of opening, literally pore opening- a shift in dancing that real work brings. movement=work. tree/sound interlude. pod dresses. surgical wraps. 3 dancers focus. silver eyes. of the world yet described in a single arena.

    Choreography by: Mark Jarecke in collaboration with the performers.
    Dancers: Andrea Johnston, Molly Poerstel, Netta Yerushalmy.
    Music by: Jon Moniaci and Chris Peck.
    Production design by: Maria Cornejo.
    Art direction by: Maria Cornejo.
    Costumes by: Maria Cornejo.

    Related links: Official site
    ARENA:CITY Already the space of performance is special. Sometimes, we come in, we perch, we watch silently. There are conventions of definition, fourth walls, stage lights and house lights. Then there are dances where we (the we not dancing) are an invited, present part of the space, where the collective hum of the viewers defines the borders of the performance. "Dendron" confused people about which kind of space this was. What kind of spectator am I? What kind of space is this?

    I thought this question defined the terms of the piece. (The ambiguity was not in the piece, but in its odd fit within our habits of viewing.) I thought of the psychological distance I keep from the people squashed up next to me on the train. Adaptation to city life in terms of proximity and privacy.

    Were we invited in or not? We were free to walk around. No chairs defined our choices. The dancers faced us yet didn't. (What's in a facing? In faciality? Face isn't surface but openings: eyeholes, noseholes, earholes, mouthole.) Do they see us? Do they care? A confusion in relation to habit arises. I found the experience indefinable except in terms of living in a crowd.

    Is this the engine of something?  

    The space becomes an arena, which strikes me as almost classical. I grope for Greek or Japanese types of theater space. (There must be a name for this in Noh...) What creates this sense of arena is the procedural rigor of the dancers. Nothing about what they're doing seems spontaneous, relationship or time-based. 3 decans go through the mechanical actions of the cosmos. It's astrological (without the purple and incense). I imagine the space as the vision of some Renaissance cosmologist trying to account — through attribution of an intermediary zone of clockworks — for the cycles and patterns of the world.

    But the tone isn't Renaissance or even mathematical. The tone of this work is something entirely unique. Inscrutable if you try to read it in terms of anything other than itself, but quite extraordinary.

    OPENNESS There's a line of communal expectation that I think I share when I attend a performance at Danspace Project. The church is a sanctuary not only in the literal sense, but as a home space for our brethren's odd fascinations and group bond as dancers/iasts. Entering into the performance of Dendron sends me back to the outside city. We're given walkmans taped to a particular frequency which, from my position in the space, was pretty much straight bad radio, with some bursts of static later in the game. The sound erects a barrier; the dancers solidify it. The effect is similar to the way your vision changes the day you decide to walk home instead of ride the tube. Heightened perception simultaneous with a heightened sense of isolation, of individual noggin. It takes a while, I wander the space, I discard my headphones even. I feel like I've navigated some complicated lock; I've stumbled wide-eyed into the inner chambers of a very old judge with ties to secret things. Is this the engine of something?

    So the openness isn't an invitation as such. More, it's an activity on my part as a viewer, opening a squeaky door in my own way of seeing. "Dendron" is a unique event with very little sense of identity or authorship.

    Other kinds of opening: the way a body changes with work over time. Like stages of marathon running.

    VISUAL/AURAL EXPERIENCE An interlude of deafening tonality while tree shapes flash through the canopy. The only moment of *total* in the work, like a lightning storm. Otherwise the aural experience is a stereo effect of rumbling frequencies in the church space matched with FMitude's distance in the ear phones. "Experience it now. Remember it always. The Lion King on Broadway."

    LET US NOW PRAISE A.J., NETTA AND MOLLY It is the combined intelligence of everyone involved that makes the thing what it is. But special praise must go to the three extraordinary dancers who make the thing actually happen. They focus on doing. Their dancing is purity without preciousness, without saintliness. They have force like water has force. Their presence is not performative, but neither is it self-effacing. They define completely the terms of the piece. They never falter, and dance this thing of great difficulty and duration without comment, indulgence, or relief. From all points in the frame of my viewing, I saw something quite astonishing. The experience was strangely energizing, and I am thankful that I found my way to that spot in the city, one night in February.

    FEBRUARY 26, 2005

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