Living in between two places, I feel as if I were caught up 35,000 feet high in the jetstream between New York City and Tampa, Florida. I keep imagining myself more at home high above the ground in the airplane than in either city at this point: NYC being a rollercoaster I am only half on and Tampa being a dreamy, sleepy vacation-land where I spent my childhood and left before my formative adult years. Having decided to leave NYC for an extended hiatus, I made the decision to create this journal of performance to take wherever I go on my travels, be it Florida or elsewhere. Feeling rootless somehow has necessitated a desire to have a stable, long-term project, something that keeps me focused and which, even if grounded in an ephemeral medium, feels more solid than some of the other current things in my life. For this particular blog, the focus will be on others’ work, with some of my own notes on what I am currently working on as well as I do not consider myself a critic but rather an artist/writer/performer who happens to want to share my own perspective to someone, somewhere out there in this vast sea of 1’s and 0’s.
Over the past week I have been privileged to see several different dance theater projects at the Ybor City Festival of the Moving Image in Tampa. Some of the works were from Tampa based artists and some from NYC based performers who are in the bay area. One of these artists was Claire Porter/Portables, whose work I had seen at the DanceNow/NYC 2007 festival at Dance Theater Workshop. Her work, Portables, is composed of movement based monologues which combine elements of dance, spoken-word, and a type of comedic movement coming from vaudeville rather than mime. I attended both evenings of her work, one of them a montage of various short movement-monologues, covering everything from philosophical concepts such as space+place to more socio-political ones situated at gala evening at MoMA and at a tele-fundraiser, respectively. The second evening, Portables: Part 2, was a 45-50 minute movement monologue based completely on the study of muscles, the nomenclature of the body and the process of language.
While I enjoyed both evenings, I found Part 2 memorable in its exploration of post-structuralist concepts of signifying systems, particularly in relation to the body, through the translation of languages and the naming of parts of the body. This was framed as a poetry reading by a professor of anatomical nomenclature, or something absurdly similar to that. With each “poem” the character, Nickie Nom, described different muscles in the body and how these muscles move, live, breath, and effect other parts of the body while moving into various positions. (Porter herself is, according to the bio in the Dance Ybor playbill, a Laban Movement analyst, so if anything she is very knowledgeable about the body and movement). The complexity of this piece was hidden underneath the clowning elements. Performing anything comedic is not a simple feat, but creating a dance piece which can simulateously satisfy both adults and children (albeit, she doesn’t hold back on obscenities though they are only briefly whispered) is a sign of a gifted performer.
Porter has a very strong presence on stage and she’s very aware of the body and its own language. Her small monologe “Interview” involves her as a potential employee in front of a board of potential employers and while interviewing, she examines various work-related phrases such as “jumping through hoops”, “bending over backwards” and “a variety of positions” through movement positions. Yet watching her move on stage and grovel for the job, the audience realizes the socio-political commentary of the piece . . . the irony of the interview and of office-related cultural and social cues, in particular the language used in the office. Being currently unemployed myself and going through (or, rather actually avoiding) this ridiculous process we call “the interview”, I recognized through Porter’s Interview piece the absurdity of this ritual, and in essence, the absurdity of life.