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    2018-2019 reviews:


    Young and loveless

    Ann Liv Young's "Michael" flips the bird at the audience and the art world.


    In Ann Liv Young's unadulterated spew of venom Michael, nakedness is no longer vulnerable, love is not anyone's ideal, sex is not an act of communication, and relationships offer no moral support through the darkness of life. In this sociopathic fantasy of nihilistic trailer trash, through a series of linked vignettes, the audience is assaulted by the vacant relationships of six women and one man. They speak with vigor about incest, murder, suicide, sex, and violence with no human emotion. Mostly naked, and aggressively unselfconscious, the performers soon inure us to the meaning of the body: not only to its taboos, but also to its beauty. In fact the naked body becomes ugly, (the beautiful bodies of the performers notwithstanding), a vehicle for meanness and little else.

    Choreography by: Ann Liv Young.
    Dancers: Renee Archibald, Adrianne McDaniel, Jana Panconesi, Liz Santoro, Nicholas Strini, Tosha Tillman, Emily Wexler, Ann Liv Young.
    Set design by: Michael Guerrero.
    Costumes by: Ann Liv Young.
    Lighting design by: Erik C. Bruce and Ann Liv Young.
    Text: Ann Liv Young.
    Dance Theater Workshop
    219 West 19th St.
    Oct. 19-21, 2005

    Michael is a man masturbating outside a window unsuccessfully, (rumor has it that he was supposed to ejaculate on the window), simulated sex between two angry and naked bodies, a catfight between two naked women, a gynecologically inspired ballet adagio on a table, a girl swinging on a suspended tire ferociously yelling the lyrics to an 80s song, and a raucous naked Supremes number by three women.

    We have evolved beyond the taboo breaking Judson era and the conceptual "fuck you" to the art world is not art unto itself anymore. There also needs to be some raison d'etre beyond showing the darkness of the world. The best art asks a complex question, or proffers a daring answer. This does neither. Nevertheless, Young has become something of a cult figure in the performance art world of late; she is unforgiving, seems to have no consideration for what the audience thinks, and will put anything onstage.

    On a technical level, the spatial relationships and tempo never waver; the unison provides no contrast or resistance between the characters. The show suffers from a flat line of inertia, though the base line is manic. The energy level of the first dangerous, explosive image — a naked woman in a pink knee-high cast dances violently to ear piercing popular music — is consistent throughout the work. It never shifts or breaks open into something new or revelatory except the taste of what's inside Young's head. Some will find a statement in watching someone do something you are "not allowed to do," especially in light of the recent political climate and the issues of censorship inherent in current legislation.

    The best art asks a complex question, or proffers a daring answer. This does neither. Regardless, the clearly defined, strongly performed statement stays with you.  

    Undoubtedly, this piece was difficult to create. The rigor of the unison text (often two or more people speaking rhythmically and simultaneously) cannot be underestimated, and the bravery of the performers is not something that comes overnight or to all. The performers are all devoted, intense, dogmatic and committed and the direction, though one can certainly question its efficacy, is clear and forceful. There are no doubts about point of view or intention. The doubts come around the topic of purpose, and that extends to the purpose of art. Depending on what your answer is to that question you may LOVE this work. Regardless, the clearly defined, strongly performed statement stays with you. That may be success unto itself.

    NOVEMBER 4, 2005

    Reader comments on Michael:

  • MICHAEL   from Phil, Feb 24, 2008
  • [no subject]   from Sir J, Oct 10, 2010

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