Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones but Crutches Never Hurt Me
A Mini Review of "Body Remix, Goldberg Variations"
I once thought of dance performance as a place of meditation. It was my third year of college and i had just seen a show at the Getty that seemed to do nothing but clear room for thought. Maire Chouinard and her dance film Body Remix, Goldberg Variations had just the opposite effect. In fact, i found myself unable to relax, perplexed by its beautifully grotesque complexity. I've been a fan of Compagnie Marie Chouinard since i first saw her in Budapest where i had been living in 2003. She blew me away, quivering in my seat after an hour and a half of gyrating movements, e animalistic and overtly sexual choreography. However, this time around the experience was quite different. On the surface level, the piece seems to question the issue of disability and the challenges of physical handicap. Of course, when perfectly fit and exceptional dancers run around in wheelchairs and crutches, creating movement difficult enough without prosthetics or point shoes, it seems that the finger is pointed back at the audience. Are the tools of disability being used to explore the relationship between movement and hadicap or inadvertently take them to a new dimension, replacing the sub with super? In a way, it reminded me of the Lyon Ballet where an entire ballet company did an hour length piece in fat suits, a mind fuck to say the least. In Body Remix, the challenge is more getting used to the fact that what appears to be an examination of disability is really of reinvention of impairment. Instead of causing immobility or disadvantage, each prop, whether a crutch or point shoe, takes the body to a new level, adding a mechanical element that, as the title implies, remixes the limitations of two legs, two arms, and a spine. Unlike the usual animalistic movements of Chouinard's work, the choreography was more human, almost alien, than anything else. Poles protruding from the mouth or spine, belly or pelvis become a sort of third arm, an out of context artistic statement of man as art meets man as machine. On a purely aesthetic level it was a mathematician's wet dream, a sort of visual orgasm of the geometrically obsessed. For a moment i was convinced she had tapped into the choreographers trap of body as beautiful: here is the body in its most perfect form. But the more i watched, the less convinced i was of a purely aesthetic examination. There was innovation and contradiction that went beyond any presentation of perfection. It was not a piece of subconsciousness or surrealism but a hyper-electric invasion of thought; a bedroom of existence in the middle of the freeway. i could not contemplate or loose myself in this piece, there was hardly room to take it in. The usual playfulness of Chouinard's work was replaced by stomping sexuality, whether it was a man with a pole attached to this penis, ecstatically banging it against another pole for a minute or a couple on strings attached to the ceiling, coupling and contorting in positions that made kamasutra look easy. And then suddenly all the heaviness and intensity, the poles and the crutches, the butt fucking and mind blowing is lifted, literally in the air, where all we are left with is a single dangling dancer, a yellow glowing background and wheelchairs hanging from strings like some sort of angelic graveyard of the impaired. As a dancer myself, i try not to search for meaning in movement. Powerful choreography creates commanding images. In body Remix, I found myself alone in the midst of these images, no meditation or room for thought, just an empty wheelchair where movement had once been.