Michelle Marion and Wesley Mech, UVM students in Clare Byrne’s choreography class, preview next week’s performances by Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People.
Michelle Marion: Miguel Gutierrez is a New York based artist, and in his own words, he makes “performances that are about things and things themselves.” As a choreographer, dancer, poem maker, and noise musician Gutierrez always steps outside of the idea of the traditional “dance show” by combining poetry, voice and visual media with movement, while still being influenced by spectacles like Broadway, Vegas, and queer club performances.
In 2001, Gutierrez started the endeavor known as the Powerful People, a continual collaboration of dancers, composers, designers and visual artists. Instead of having a dance company of just dancers, Gutierrez looks for a communal experience among artists of all backgrounds to work with.
Gutierrez has an extensive background of work, with each piece usually answering some lofty theme or question, most notably desire, longing and our constant search for meaning. Each piece uses different collaborators in new and exciting ways, always reinventing the audience’s idea of what a dance performance should be.
The piece that will be showed in FlynnSpace is entitled And lose the name of action examines the question of “how do we experience consciousness?” Inspired by many things, including Jorgen Leth’s film The Perfect Human, dance improvisation, philosophical quandaries about the brain, and the 19th century spiritualist movement, And lose the name of action will move the audience to ask questions. With music Neal Medlyn, lighting by Lenore Doxsee, and film and text by Boru O’Brien O’Conoll, the performance will connect the analytical and the unexplainable, the self-imposed limits of language, and the constant availability of death, and will be an innovative piece of art to see.
I’ll be at the Flynn next week for Gutierrez and the Powerful People to see a contemporary artist making art for right here, right now. From what I’ve read about Gutierrez, it seems like his work embodies the lines, and movement of the classical modern choreographers that have graced the Flynn stage over the years (Trisha Brown, Paul Taylor, Lucinda Child, etc) but with an added heart and soul of how it feels to live in the present today. His large questions about life and philosophy that he sets out to answer, will only add to the collaborative process with various kinds of artists, and these components together will surely give his work a full visual and emotional feel.
Wesley Mech: Extremes carom off boundaries and often smash through them to a wall-less room. Performing artist Guttor Bust covered his body in grey paint with a thick black swath running down his center and went for a walk. These real physical situations are for metaphysical dancer, Miguel Gutierrez, the experimentation in “hereness” that is dance. Boundary defiance is home to Miguel who danced 24 hours in 2008 in his studio in Freedom of Information in response to the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, a feat of enduring transcendence.
Miguel is a Brooklyn based artist, having returned to New York, his childhood home after several years spent in San Francisco where he was involved in Gay activism, studied dance, and taught aerobics. He is the originator of DEEP Aerobics, Death Electric Emo Protest Aerobics that coaches the hypnotic fascism of an aerobics work out to a more worldly blood thudding cognizance. He started his collaborative work with other dancers, the Powerful People, in 2001, once he became established in New York’s dance world, dancing for a time with the John Jasperse’s company. Miguel incorporates song and the spoken word into his pieces as sound is summoned from dancing in the body. His work is a blending of Broadway theatricality and lyrical philosophical mediation that delves into vast murky human topics of war, sexuality, personhood, and death.
He assembled six Powerful People for And lose the name of action, a piece commissioned for The Walker Art Center of Minneapolis, Minnesota, which premiered in September 2012, and is now touring about the country with a stop in Burlington. Work on the piece began for Miguel when his father underwent a series of neurological complications, spurring an investigation into neurology, 19th century spiritualism, and the traces movement leaves on the body—its adumbrated presence and absence—that compose a human being. Jorgen Leth’s 1967 13-minute The Perfect Human, a mock anthropological documentary of human plasticity and depth, has furthered inspired his work. And lose the name of action is a séance prowling along human boundaries of language and death, palpitating the paranormal to arrive at the human.
Miguel wrote an article in The Movement Research Journal entitled The Perfect Dance Critic, the first sentence of which is the daunting proclamation, “The Perfect dance critic does not exist.” That would seem to be the end for one in my position. However, one of his last descriptions of this impossibly perfect critic, “The perfect dance critic gets excited when she sees something that’s different, unusual, challenging, or thought provoking, rocks her world, and writes about it with accompanying vigor,” is a sliver of hope. It is ambitious to walk into the Flynn with the goal of slitting the veil between the performers and the audience to enter into Miguel’s world, though behind the illusion of complete immersion, sometimes on leaving a performance, there is a vigorous feeling of unsettlement, a rocking world. As a critic I hope for my experience to be pervious to his work, but more than anything, on Thursday evening I hope he sets my conceptions of dance askew.