Impressions of :Trajal Harrell
Impressions Of: Trajal Harrell
Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made-to-Measure) /Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (M2M)
October 11- 13th, 2012, at Danspace Project St. Marks in the Bowery, New York City- part of PLATFORM 2012: JUDSON NOW
Performers: Rob Forderyn (Friday), Trajal Harrell, Thibault Lac, and
Ondrej Vidlar (Thursday/Saturday)
Costumes by Complexgeometries
Sound Design by Trajal Harrell
This Impression covers the performance of Friday October 12, 2012
Christine Jowers for The Dance Enthusiast
“Post-modern dance of 1963, meet the voguing ball scene in Harlem.”
What if it could have happened- 1960’s meeting the 1980’s?
“Greenwich Village rebel artists eschewing glamour and fantasy to find the essence of movement, here are the drag walkers of the runway who create ballroom fantasies as a means of survival and liberation. Now, talk amongst yourselves.”
What happens when worlds collide?
Trajal Harrell marries keen intellect and an expansive imagination to break apart and re- align the subjects of his artistic vision, and (oh, thank the muses) in the process gives contemporary dance a much-needed “werk” out.
The House of Harrell has whipped up six choreographic creations in various sizes: from XS to L (and is in the process of creating a seventh X Large size) that play with the possibilities of this impossible artistic encounter. All the productions, with the exception of this past weekend’s M2M, speculate about Harlem voguers traveling downtown to meet experimental artists. Made-to Measure, (the first piece in the epic that I’ve seen) was created especially to fit Danspace Project’s JUDSON NOW 2012 Platform. Unlike its predecessors, this work meditates on the journey of 1963 postmodern dance experimentalists upward to Harlem, toward a disco pulsating promised land. Perfectly tailored for St. Mark’s sanctuary, it is a spiritual journey hearkening a dance revival.
I read that Harrell is thinking of post-modern dancers and voguers, but I can’t help but imagine that Isadora Duncan, the mama of modern dance, is present in the house this evening. Couldn’t she be the mother referred to as Rob Forderyn chants in various syncopations, “Mother says, don’t stop the dance”? (Harrell’s big historically improbable imagination inspires mine)
The cast of three male dancers draped in contemporary flowing tunics of sheer black chiffon call to mind modern day representations of Greek mythological graces, muses, or even all grown-up, male, punkish Isadorables. They could also be monks, or acolytes; we’re in a church after all.
Video from Trajal Harrell's Bessie Award Winning Antigone Sr./ Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church - L
As the dancers enter the space they are set up in a triangle. Harrell and Thibault Lac sit on chairs lined up one behind another on one side of the floor. Forderyn is perched erect on a piano bench opposite. Action at the beginning is barely perceptible. It is as if the three men are empty vessels letting the spirit of this evening slowly overtake them.
Harrell, the slight black figure sitting on the back chair, is the most pained, his furrowed brow indicates that he is dealing with the weight of the world. The other two thin, very white, tall men appear stoical and mannequin-like. Harrell begins singing with soulful pleading voice,“Don’t mess with me, have mercy on me.” Forderyn whispers without expression, “Don’t stop. Don’t Stop The Dance.” Lac gently sways, eyes closed, cheekbones, right now, his most prominent attribute. The Trinity’s minimal activity builds in waves and shifts of song, moaning chanting. Even when the men are motionless their profound connection is unmistakable.
Before long the lights dim and, ready for business, it’s time to sashay into the wind machine, tunics flowing.
Pose, pose, strike a pose, “Werk it. Don’t think it. Werk it, don’t think.” The contemporary Greek friezes take the runway on their toes, strutting to show off their hips, chins out, chests up. The sibyls stare at us, reminding us of their importance, then rapidly àla supermodel, they spin on their heels, allowing us to enjoy their sauntering retreats.
Consumed by the holy beat of the music, struts become gyrations and pulsations, scattering and testing the space. Body parts vibrate, arms splay wildly in the air, and feet dig into the ground. The soloists move in a feverish trances, dancing for their lives.
The fashion show becomes a spiritual revival meeting and Harrell, now the animated preacher, is testifying, yes, he is testifying to all of us in this holy dance space that, “Conceptual dance is dead.” Most of the audience- dancers, choreographers, and fans- are moving along to the music in their seats. Concept can imprison dance, and an art form may lose its soul.
Not so with M2M. Here Harrell and his beautiful team expertly crack colliding worlds open, allowing the spirit of dance to fly into the room and welcome us into its deep beating heart.