Last weekend, Disjecta presented a modern improvised dance performance featuring choreographer Tahni Holt—the first piece in three-part modern dance series In Site. The dance series shares a name with Karl Burkheimer’s large-scale installation that serves as its platform (both literally and figuratively, because the installation is a wooden platform). Culturephile’s review initiated a discussion which touched on a couple Big Questions about dance, and in a broader sense, all performance. Perhaps most notably:
What role does narrative play in an improvised performance? And is it helpful, or unnecessary, to have a work be “about” something, and to imbue gestures and space with intentional shows of specific emotion? Culturephile confessed a preference for narrative, and Holt weighed in on the other side. (Hey. It’s art. It’s subjective.) Nevertheless, our interest was so piqued for the next piece, we jumped on Youtube to search out Kathleen Keogh (of Woolly Mammoth Comes To Dinner) and found the following example of her prior site-specific work:
Huh. This particular piece ups the ante, from “narrative” to full-on “narration,” relying heavily on the words of the backing music to create a context for the performance. There’s no hinting here; rather, the two dancers are literally embodying Sting’s lyrics, by “taking steps” while “watching you.” The work establishes an intimate atmosphere and a hint of humor as primary tools that, arguably, upstage the movement itself. Of course, when Woolly Mammoth comes to dinner, you never know what to expect—so this may not be the type of work that Keogh will present tomorrow. However, for the sake of variety and discussion, we hope that some level of narrative will come into play.
The In Site series presents Kathleen Keogh on March 12 and Linda Austin on March 19. Performances start at 1pm. For more about Portland arts events, visit PoMo’s Arts & Entertainment Calendar, stream content with an RSS feed, or sign up for our weekly On The Town Newsletter!