Dancers: Maria Bauman, Courtney Cook, Valerie Ifill, Audrey Hailes, and Alicia Raquel
Composer: Ganessa James
Videographer: Ryan Michael Tuerk
Pictured above: Maria Bauman, Audrey Hailes, Valerie Ifill and Courtney Cook. Photo: Scott Shaw
Not so often does one find one’s spine buzzing at the close of a dance. Mine was singing with gratitude as the lights dimmed on Maria Bauman’s dying and dying and dying. Equally unusual is how each MBDance company member performs as though the work came from their impetus. Not until the talk back did I know which dancer was Bauman. During the dance, I debated silently that the choreographer must be Courtney Cook whose voice and presence hit you in the gut or Audrey Hailes with her infectious personality.
So much to admire in this meditation on death and alive-ness: the pre-performance engagement of the audience, who were invited to choose an item placed on the stage that reminded them of an ancestor; the ritual around the photos of loved ones placed in the center of the stage; the circle of emotions expressed — reverence/reflection, love, grief, anger, release, and respect; the privacy granted for despair by baring the stage — leaving only a silhouette upstage of two dancers behind a scrim while we heard wailing off stage.
Bauman noticed that, “Black people are dying at the hands of police in overwhelming numbers and I notice how that makes me urgently aware of my loved ones’ mortality and of my own.”
Audrey Hailes and Courtney Cook; Photo: Scott Shaw
Footage of a dying bird caught on camera by Joseph Jimenez was shown on the back wall of the Gibney just when we were ready for it in dying and dying and dying.
The talk back also revealed how thoughtful is Gibney Dance’s Community Action program of which Bauman is the 2017 Artist in Residence. We heard about her workshops, being in cemeteries, and her prolific writing as she developed the work.
We need this process of digesting the mystery of death, of understanding how it affects us or to recognize that perhaps we have numbed ourselves, perhaps we have missed the opportunity to pull our ancestors into our space. This heartfelt work with such rich music, text, rhythm, and dance should be welcomed around the world.