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IMPRESSIONS: Simone Forti & Friends' That Fish is Broke

IMPRESSIONS: Simone Forti & Friends' That Fish is Broke
Brittany Beyer

By Brittany Beyer
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Published on December 3, 2012

Walking With Judson Now

IMPRESSIONS: Simone Forti & Friends

That Fish is Broke

Danspace Project Presents PLATFORM 2012: Judson Now

St. Mark’s Church, New York

Thursday, November 8th 8:00pm

Performed by Simone Forti, Brennan Gerard, and Terrance Luke Johnson

December 3, 2012

Brittany Beyer for The Dance Enthusiast

St. Mark’s Church is set up in a manner that’s even more low-key than usual. The lighting is basic - very little color wash. The seating is unrestricted with pillows placed unpretentiously in a semi-circle. The whole set up calls to mind the workshop beginnings of the Judson Dance Theater, the movement in art history that is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary and re-examining its legacy as part of Danspace Project’s Platform 2012: Judson Now.
Judson Dance Theater challenged the modern dance tradition as defined by the early dance pioneers. The artists involved boldly stripped movement creation down to its essentials, playing with pedestrian movement and everyday activities, working in alternative spaces, improvising, using film, collaborating in performance with other artists and with non-artists, and finding the aesthetic pulse in the non-virtuosic. Sometimes the work was tightly choreographed; sometimes there was specific score or list of movement objectives; sometimes it was total improvisation.
Tonight’s performance is an improvisation reflecting on current events: the 2012 Presidential Election, Hurricane Sandy, and the attachment each artist has to these events unfolding in their lives.
Simone Forti; Photo © Ian Douglas
The artists Simone Forti, Terrence Luke Johnson, and Brennan Gerard are planted in the audience ahead of time, Forti is talking with a handful of the audience who look like they have been friends with her for decades. Forti, part of the original Judson Dance group, attended Robert Dunn’s composition classes (starting in 1960) and performed with Anna Halprin, the West Coast inspiration for this movement.
That Fish is Broke consists of gentle internal contemplations that are maintained by each performer as the improvised- yet lightly structured- score moves forward. Most of the movement consists of simple walking and running; although Gerard’s crawl on his knees around the floor, in which he takes great care to carve a pathway with the inside of his wrist, is mesmerizing for its detail.
That Fish is Broke; Terence Luke Johnson, Brennan Gerard and Simone Forti; Photo © Ian Douglas
The lightheartedness of the space settles as Forti steps onto the wooden floor and commands attention. She speaks about the moon, the spiral of time, making a name for one’s self, and the connection to New York she felt the week prior while still in LA. Her earthy wisdom is espoused as she presses forward through space, walking on a strong diagonal from the back area of the room. She switches to a spiral pattern as she speaks of lunar properties.
A stack of newspaper comes into play during the piece and Gerard sets up a well used score where each step he takes can only be on a piece of paper. He describes an image of the President right before the election as he skates around the space on the newspaper.
The strongest opinions come from Terrance Luke Johnson, who rounds of the trio with a personal and theoretical exploration of the recent election, much of it recited while walking in a circle backwards, as if hindsight is all he is afforded. Citing correspondence between Carl Schmidt (master philosopher yet a Nazi Sympathizer) and Rabi Jacob Taubes. (who cared for some of Schmidt’s theories but could not reconcile that with his support of Hitler’s regime) Johnson makes the point that sometimes one must travel from a stance that is known to be “right” to one known to be “wrong”, in order to capture an ultimate glimmer of truth.

That Fish is Broke; Brennan Gerard, Terence Luke Johnson, and Simone Forti; photo ©Ian Douglas
A good portion of any contact between performers occur with Forti and Gerard, he taking care of Forti with a gentleness, an openness, which is present throughout. The accomplished and time-wizened performers, Forti and Johnson, command respect. They are at home in their bodies, both comfortable running through the space. Although a touch of energetic or emotional difference might have existed in this piece nicely, it was not necessary. The tone -internal, accessible, intelligent - was enough.
That Fish is Broke, in the end sits as an exploration into ethics and personal positioning. It also gives us a look at where the Judson movement has led us. We see that, if allowed, art will bring the “stuff of us” forward in a manner that is thought provoking and meaningful, even if the art consists of only the simplest walking pattern.
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