Last week, UVM students in Clare Byrne’s choreograph class helped preview Miguel Gutierrez’s performance of And lose the name of action at the Flynn. Now that they’ve seen the show, they share their thoughts.
Michelle Marion: I walked into Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People’s show on Thursday night to see FlynnSpace transformed, in all white with seating surrounding the centered stage. The maître d’ told me to fill in the front row, and to not sit in the white chairs, but if I sit next time them I might have a “unique” experience. So I took her up on that offer, and sat right next to one of the sacred white seats.
The show started out with K.J. Holmes coming out in a gorgeous dress that flowed behind her as she walked and the audience became silent while trying to settle into their seats. The cast members filed out in various ways, wearing costume pieces in neutrals, with one woman in all black and one man in all white. They sat next to us, held our hands, and we all took a ninety-minute journey into the unknown together.
It’s hard to pinpoint any specifics on this show, as so much happened. There were beautiful costumes and many costume changes, multimedia, noise music, powerful lighting, minimalist set, and of course, amazing dancing. The white chairs were a constant throughout it; they were moved, used, reused, thrown, pushed, and carried. Even though all of the physical aspects mentioned were great, the best part of the experience was the emotion. Each dancer felt their emotion to the core of their being, which made me as an audience member feel it too. Michelle Boulé had a solo, where she ran around the stage frantically dancing, and running, and breathing the whole time. Her face, tired and concerned, matched her movement. On a different end of the spectrum, Hilary barely moved during a breakout sequence, but in her small movements had a hallow expression of pain, fear, and nerves that chilled my bones.
There aren’t enough words to describe how I felt watching this performance; I fell in love with the performance and the amazing attention to so many different details. I feel deeply moved by it and think Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People accomplished something great; they have brought emotion back into dance, and created something more than just another chair dance.
Wesley Mech: A white space empty of intent. Blank. Can you come to a dance devoid of expectation, free of intent? To take a seat in the gathering in FlynnSpace beyond the white curtain, the usher issued me specific instructions to sit in the front row, but not in one the white chairs, though the seats next to the white chairs were sure to be the best arrangement. Much speculation ensued among my fellow the audience members in the front row. The lady to my left suggested that the chairs were for the spirits, and the young woman to my right, busily taking notes on the back of a postcard, flipped it over, and pointing to a picture, in which the Powerful People are gyrating around the chairs piled and lifted above their heads, intimated to me that she thought that was what they were going to do with the chairs. The billet handed to me was fruit cake dense with accomplishment listings that never really tell you what you want to know about the dancers. How do they dance? There is nothing for it but to be resigned for the moment, toss away the absence, and await the séance.
K.J. Holmes alone on stage, reciting the confessions of an autodidact left an aura of human fragility in her wake into which the other members of the Powerful People entered to begin the séance. Audience members in the first row looked self-consciously askance at holding hands, while the dancers raptly chanted entreaties for presences from the other side to make themselves known. In the hushed intimacy of the séance room, the powerful people, their bare feet smudged with dirt of intent from the white floor, raw with sores, and toes wrapped in band aids, held dominion. For ones possessed they danced with haunting possession. Luke George’s wiry sensuality, Michelle Boule’s velvety offhand grace, Ishmael Houston-Jones’s urbane substance (the faux Roman chest plate seemed superfluous), K.J. Holmes’ meditative majesty, Hilary Clark’s emotional amplitude, synergistic-ally channeled into Miguel’s wildly gorgeous, suggestively vast, dancing. Along with the compelling individual distinctions in movement was the interactional quality of the dancing among them that was marked by a courteous casualness, from the conversational whispering with each other throughout the performance to Hilary Clark entering from a side door, and asking “Do you need help with the chairs?” That it was preserved even in the well scripted “fuck” discord was symptomatic of a deep esteem among them that was beautiful to watch.
And what was on the dancers sparked my curiosity for its inventiveness in simplicity, such as Michael Boule’s leg-exposing black dresses, Luke George’s variations on the theme of white body suit, and the endless possibilities of beige. Its prevalence was to me reminiscent of the Victorian daguerreotypes- bleak sepia eternity– and exhumed white linen, yellowed from the afterlife. The surreal Victorian world meets post-modern dance culminated in the appearance of ectoplasm, inching its way from Miguel’s mouth, pulled forth from the whirlpool concentration of shaking energy in the room. On leaving the performance, emotionally drained and walking uphill, there was Hilary Clark, standing in yards of a beige gown, hands uplifted, quaking out a quivering affirmation, “I am here.” Yes, indeed, you are here, and you have left traces in me.