IMPRESSIONS: 2024 EstroGenius Festival: EXPAND at La MaMa, a Bi-Coastal Evening

IMPRESSIONS: 2024 EstroGenius Festival: EXPAND at La MaMa, a Bi-Coastal Evening
Henning Rübsam

By Henning Rübsam
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Published on April 1, 2024
tidbit collective in Ellen Stewart Lobby. Photo: M. Riker

EstroGenius Festival 2024

Dates: March 14 - 30, 2024

Reviewed on: Tuesday, March 26, 2024
Producers/Curators: Melissa Riker and maura nguyễn donohue
Guest curator: John C. Robinson
Artists: Carolina Marin /Kescena (Chile, by way of Seattle), Vanessa Goodman (Vancouver, BC) and tidbit collective (NYC)


An annual celebration featuring femme, non-binary, non-conforming, and trans womxn artists, the 2024 EstroGenius Festival: EXPAND inhabited various performance venues in downtown Manhattan as well as Brooklyn, from March 14 to 30, 2024. Dance-makers, playwrights, experimental performers, teens, musicians, burlesque performers, noise artists, filmmakers, and dj’s make up the potpourri at the creative core of this perennial that started out in 2000 as a short play festival.

I had the good fortune to catch a Tuesday afternoon performance by various dancers who inhabited and travelled through different non-theater spaces within La MaMa’s building on East 4th Street.

Seattle-based Chilean artist Carolina Marin opens the program moving inside a long, voluminous meshed tube called an Arrurrú (which also serves as the title of the work.) Made of what looks like torn-up plastic bag remnants, the contraption’s elasticity allows the dancer ample non-restricted movement. The program explains Arrurrú as a performative wearable device, designed to be and inhabit, whose main characteristic is to contain and provide security. Marin’s grace, and the meditative ease with which she moves the apparatus, make the work transcend the prosaic setting. Arrurrú, subtitled surviving to change skin, becomes a malleable sculpture, dance partner, and home.

Carolina Marin in Arrurrú. Photo: Melissa Riker

A door to a stairwell opens and a performer in turquoise overalls dreamily ignores the audience that moves around to watch her. From the program notes I learn that Vanessa Goodman's Between the Landings is simultaneously presented in New York and Vancouver. NYC performer Dorchel Haqq explores all the crevices of the industrial staircase with its spacious mezzanine level, which seems to serve as a storage space for a collection of moveable columns. Whatever surface she treads, Haqq varies her footing with purpose. She climbs over a railing. She percussively runs up and down the stairs, and she reclines while she slowly stretches and extends her long limbs as if to measure the space around her. She whispers to herself and her intensity quietly captivates before she unleashes one leg straight up with her back bent perpendicularly. Through the progression of her mesmerizing solo journey, the audience ultimately travels with her up the stairway. I feel uplifted by Haqq’s commitment.

Dorchel Haqq in Vanessa Goodman’s Between the Landings. Photo: Melissa Riker

Another door opens and the audience finds itself in the lobby of the upstairs theater at La MaMa. Sabrina Canas, Olivia Rousey, and Taylor Woodie form the tidbit collective. Created by the performers, the gap appears to be lighter fare since it is accompanied by familiar music by the likes of Olivia Newton-John, Aretha Franklin, Deee-Lite, and others. Yet the mood shifts and the retelling of a fantasy about a random person on the subway (who instead of spending a lifetime with you gets off a stop too early to fulfill your daydream )turns the tale into a touching trip of three individuals who support one another through thick and thin. A bench anchors the trio; and whether they explore together or two sit watching while one takes a solo turn, the movement invention, the wit of phrasing, and the all-out physicality of the performers make me cheer their tremendous efforts.

While voices tell stories, movement divulges feeling and fantasy. The tidbit collective convinces with nimble fluency.

the tidbit collective. Photo: Melissa Riker

To connect three such varied segments so seamlessly is a wonderful feat in itself. Congratulations to the creators, performers, and curators for a thoughtful yet entertaining performance that dared put dance that matters in unusual spaces. Dance is all around us, and lives within us wherever we are.

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