I am partial to performances by Danspace Project at St Mark’s Church. One of Manhattan’s oldest churches, St. Marks has doubled as a center for experimental poetry, dance and theater for decades, pressing the boundary of what can activate a space without transgressing. Nudity has been commonplace over the years. Blasphemy has been uttered over and over. Anything goes. A piece titled i like penises: a little something in 24 acts is great way to kick off Danspance’s season.
Materials I read earlier in the week (and not the program notes) described Kimberly Bartosik / daela’s piece as “a choreographed investigation into value and exchangeability,” and the idea is certainly woven into the 24 sections mentioned in the title. Why the piece is named after the particular body part I am not certain, but it does have something to do with things that are a little more replaceable than body parts -- cheap dollar store finds.
i like penises, is performed by three veteran dancers-Joanna Kotze, Marc Mann, and Edmond Russo- along with one visual artist-Jonathan Allen. The piece questions the role of objects in our lives and our relationships. It advances by solo, duet and group work featuring the dancers, separated by acts which involve an additional cast of plastic ketchup dispensers, silver hair ties, socks, and a host of other items bought by the dancers at dollar stores. Jonathan Allan, the artist, creates a new work , which begins as a blank canvas stapled onto a rolling platform. By the end of the hour, a artwork is finished, creating a tangible object influenced by the previous hour’s goings-on, and it can be purchased at his representative gallery, Lu Magnus Gallery.
All three dancers are clearly working on some sort of value creation through movement. The clearest moment of this abstract idea was when Edmond Russo circled the wooden floor, saying he was “a yes” and “a champion”. This created a rush of energy for the audience, seated in the round. Right before he stopped running, he froze his position while the lighting changed to half-light. “You are a chicken,” he said, placing a sliver of self-doubt into the mood. I found myself
"I like to be introduced into the creative thinking process...there was certainly a great deal of thought put into the concept.
Why not explain this to your audience who might walk in off the street with little knowledge of your work?
I feel dance suffers from this obfuscation... Deep readings of dance should be encouraged, especially ones which are named after controversial body parts."
playing his last section back in my head. How could just one sentence erase so much confidence? I wondered if the rest of the audience felt the tinge of self-doubt.
Another notable moment came when Marc Mann and Joanna Kotze performed a duet borrowed from So You Think You Can Dance. Technical marvels in their own right, legs flying high and all lifts ending in embrace, they danced their hyper-emotive duet like it would be done on that show. I pondered the point of this vignette compared to some of the other sections, thinking about its emotional overplay compared to the more subtle sections, where technical prowess is under the radar. Was the point of that brief pop culture reference to reveal how commercial dancing can mask what is really going on deep inside?
As i like penises progresses, Jonathan Allen’s artistic creation starts to take shape. The dancers more than influence the work, especially when Joanna Kotze steps onto the rolling canvas, walking down a purposefully paint free horizontal portion. After a moment she calls out, “Edmond,” and Marc Mann comes to her aid. (This is one of the only moments of incongruence I noticed. I wonder if this was a cue for the order of future events.) When Mann arrives, Kotze strikes a familiar arabesque, but while in a kiss with the artist, Jonathan Allen. Kotze becomes the vision of Pygmalion, and she can be seen in that moment as the piece of art, an artist or the muse.
For i like penises’ last image, Jonathan Allen places his final product onto Joanna Kotze’s shoulders -- leaving the rolling platform void for the first time since the beginning of the night. He lies down onto the platform and pedals backward making one final oval on the dance floor for the last image. In the end, the art-work is exchanged to make a place for the artist, and I ponder the individual worth of the artist vs. the item created.
i like penises: a little something in 24 pieces left a great deal of room to evaluate our individual worth in a world of consumption, but I wonder if Bartosik left her program free of notes because she did not want to give the audience such a close “reading” of the piece.
I like to be introduced into the creative thinking process, and because the 24 pieces were crafted, rehearsed and linked together, there was certainly a great deal of thought put into the concept. Why not explain this to your audience who might walk in off the street with little knowledge of your work? I feel dance suffers from this obfuscation,which is different from the visual art world, which demands an explanation for the creative process through artist statements and has a tangible object left to view and purchase if desired. i like penises even created a work of art during the piece, and because of this the dancing seemed less tangible than Allan’s piece which will live on beyond the hour of the evening’s performance. I believe Bartosik was calling attention to this. She put care into the construction and design of this choreographic event. Deep readings of dance should be encouraged, especially ones which are named after controversial body parts.