Can I Get Enough?
Can a person who loves dance ever see too much of it?
When I first began attending APAP in 1998, a BIG national annual conference dedicated to bringing presenters (those who present performing arts) and performing artists together for mutual benefit, I thought I needed to see it ALL.
My insatiable appetite was driven by the belief that if I just hung in there, I would find the undiscovered genius, just right and ripe for the SUMMERDANCE Santa Barbara festival. Like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, my partner in crime, Laurie Burnaby and I ran all over the city to different venues to see back- to- back 15 minute dance showcases from established dance companies, up-and- coming dance companies and trying- to- emerge dance companies. We would sit for hours in darkened studios at City Center viewing incredibly diverse (and often incredibly tedious) dance rosters. Evenings might find us at St. Marks Church in the East Village viewing edgier works that I believed would not find their place outside of NYC. Add additional performances at the Joyce Theatre and DTW and you begin to get a sense of the enormity of choices. On rare occasions, we’d find artists allowing me to believe there could be a “pay-off” for the time and energy I’d invested. The choreographers “discovered” at past APAPs included Brian Brooks, Aszure Barton, Mark Dendy and Larry Keigwin. So the lure of the conference remains.
Lest I complain too much, it’s a lot more grinding and grueling for performers, who have to perform at weird hours, in weird spaces and at multiple time during the days and nights of the conference. For them the pay-off comes in visibility and bookings, which are often elusive, particularly for those off the radar screens of most presenters.
Older, and hopefully wiser, I returned to NYC this year to attend some dance showcases that took place over last weekend at APAP. Now I’m like a strategic surgeon. I get in and get out. In under 3 hours. I had a chance to see Brian Brooks‘ Motor that premiered last summer in the pouring rain at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Initially viewing it under the worst of circumstances, I was delighted to see a portion of it in a dry room without the distractions that accompanied the performance at Lincoln Center, where I was constantly worried about the well being of the dancers performing valiantly through the downpour. Motor is the work of a mature choreographer, reaching a new level in his ability to explore time and space and structure, using a wonderful commissioned score and a fine group of dancers. Hooray, Brian!
I also got to revisit a portion of Kate Weare’s work, Bright Land , which I had seen initially last spring on a mixed program at the Joyce. Once again, I was delighted to focus on the intricacy of her work and the strength of her dancers. Monica Bill Barnes always strikes a humorous chord with me. I am left wanting to see more.
As I was about to leave City Center, the members of Paradigm dance ensemble were warming up. It’s always thrilling for me to get a glimpse of the elegant Carmen de Lavallade, one of the greatest female contemporary dancers of my lifetime, still performing at 80, with Paradigm. I first saw Ms. Lavallade perform at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 1970, and I still carry the memory of that performance. I simply had to slip back into the studio to watch her perform one more time.