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Johanna Boyce, out of the Ordinary. The Kitchen (October). Johanna Boyce's recent dances are hailed as a revival of the '60s because she uses untrained dancers, recalling the days when choreographers such as Steve Paxton, Elaine Summers, Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti, et al. featured non-dancers as performers . Using the spontaneous wiggles and twitches of untrained dancers, including a spectrum of size and weight, choreographers in that era were allowed to re-insert a subjective human content the body emanates (the body can never be wholly abstract) while retaining the geometry of minimalism. Boyce's use of untrained dancers serves a different purpose. Like Peter Pan's troupe, there is more of a sense of play as a lifeenhancing activity. She takes the narrative structures of the '70s-such as those employed by the Grand Union-and eliminates their emphasis on process, stylizing their interaction into smaller units; she retains some of their use of language, however. (Performers talk during the performance, make sounds and name objects they are using.) Boyce also relies on older American traditions such as folk dance and forms of precision dancing from the Rockettes to water ballet. Her dances are a picaresque sequence of episodes strung together in a manner similar to the small islands of information /story found on television, especially commercials. The short skits are flawlessly programmed in a casual style that belies their split-second timing. The performance begins with a Super 8 film, A Weekend Spent Filming, that superficially resembles home movies (camera by Holly Fisher and John Schnabel). The "story" begins with a boat trip to an island. In a snowballing effect, glimpses of 48 people frolicking on the shore appear at an ever-accelerating pace. Ordinary gesture is isolated and parsed, truly capturing the meaning of vernacular movement as dance. In contrast, the often comic live performance has more of a stagey air. It decontextualizes everyday events and reconstructs them for performance in what is, at times, a bedroom ballet. Starting with the basically comic image of men and women clad alike in boxer shorts, many of the "ordinary" events involve a clown-like preoccupation with clothes (costumes are hung on the wall providing the only scenery). The mechanics of getting dressed and undressed are used as tasks that, with their own built-in movements, become a natural form of dance, much as musical comedy often slides into song from ordinary conversation. Simple props like coins provide a wide range of activities. The performers hold them up like magicians, toss them back and forth, and finally tape them on to the soles of their shoes, transforming them into tap shoes. Each performer then entered into a solo that ranged in style from a strolling soft shoe to a virtuoso tapping. The demonstrations of individual style and personality break with the more tightly scripted sections where the performers are treated as a gestalt. In these moments of individualistic display, recalling American folk dances such as clogging, etc., when each dancer takes center stage to show off their prowess, Boyce's performers create striking kinetic self portraits. Ann Sargent Wooster ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
p. 48
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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