A few weeks ago Isabella was sitting at my kitchen table, watching me chop vegetables, and we were talking about the quiet deceptions people perpetrate on one another. Something she said reminded me of an advertising mailer I received a couple of days earlier. I put the knife down, took the mailer from the shelf and handed it to her.
"The False and True are One," she said.
"Isn't that a beautiful title for a work?"
"Absolutely," she replied, and began to read the card. "We should go see this."
The idea expressed in the title of author Lydia Davis' short work has mirrored reality for me for two years- a theme played out time and time again and if I were to rename this blog it would be an apt choice. So a performance representing something so dominant in my own life was obviously alluring. Seeing it with Isabella even more so, because lately people have mistaken her to be someone else, a case of the true being mistook for the false, and they are not one, at least in this case.
The Friday before last we walked over to YBCA and caught the second performance. It's dance piece created by choreographer Liss Fain and performed by her company. Designed as an installation, it takes place in the center of the room, not on a stage, and the audience is invited to sit where they like within defined spaces and even move around if they desire. It means no one is going to see the show in exactly the same way.
The space, cleanly designed by Matthew Antaky, is set up in four quarters with a small stage in the center of it with a desk and reading lamp. That's where actor Nancy Shelby sits, reading Davis' prose as 9 dancers move among the squares while a soundscape by Dan Wool provides music and mood. There are translucent panels creating the sensation of events unfolding in different rooms, or places in time, and the dancers create intimate moments that disintegrate and then form again on another part of the floor in a different guise. In the meantime, another has taken their place right in front of you. Sometimes they're dancing, sometimes they're watching. What you are watching is based on your perception, what and who you choose to watch, and what draws your attention. It's a bit of a pleasant mind-fuck to inevitably know you're going to miss something.
|Jeremiah Crank. Photo by RJ Muna|
Fain's dancers are a talented lot- I was especially drawn to the movements of Jeremiah Crank and the sisters Shannon and Megan Kurashige. At moments I was drawn deeply into the work, only to find myself yanked out of it at odd times, mostly by something Shelby said that in my mind conflicted with how I was perceiving what the dancers were conveying. Reconciling the two, something I sought to do and perhaps shouldn't have, proved elusive to me in the end and left me curious but not satiated. Part of the problem for me was Shelby's delivery of Davis' text, which seemed more concerned with establishing a metrical rhythm than exploring the implications of the words. If you're familiar with the work of Joe Frank, who used to do this kind of vocal performance better than anyone during his Work in Progress days, you'll understand what I mean.
The Janus-like implications of the work's title never became clear to me in the work itself, and as it ended with the words "What are my happy memories so far?," I found it ironic it didn't leave more of a bite. Still, I would see it - and Liss Fain's company, again. There are some videos on the companies website of the work.