Experimental Dance at Skirball
September 18, 2017
Last Friday evening, AUNTS and its many acts took overNYU Skirball Center for thePerforming Arts for an immersive underground dance happening, transforming Skirball’s lobby, dressing rooms, hallways and backstage area into performance spaces for several downtown artists. Audiences were seen wandering all over the venue, encountering one act after another.
Although this event was a new and bewildering experience for many, AUNTS has been organizing such dance events since2005, when it was founded byJames Kidd and Rebecca Brooks.It aims to enliven the most atypical spaces through experimental and offbeat forms of dance. However, that is only part of what it accomplishes.
While each performance at Skirball was distinctive in its own way, all of them managed to exhibit the surprising in the mundane and the reflective in the indifferent. In another otherwise common dressing room, an audience intently watched Alexandra Tatarsky as she walked back and forth hurriedly, panting, before clinging to the wall and inventing a conversation between the vent and the cupboard. In that moment, her body, movement and voice created an intriguing dialogue between the real and the imaginary.
In another performance, Nia Love moved artfully between two laptops kept on either side of her. On each one, she had her friends on webcam. While they sat at home, lying in bed or eating a snack, she would move her body tactfully and continue talking to them. Atone point, she asked them to keep moving their hands in circles until she could feel it. In no time, the audience became participants, some even coming to lie down on the floor with her as they moved their hands.
Jahmal B. Golden’s performance, however, was slightly different from the other two. Sitting on the floor, in a flood of sugar and spices, Golden moved cautiously, with a peculiar kind of silence. Taking off their clothes and dipping their necklace into their mouth,Golden ended their piece by lying on the floor with a slow,almost practiced caution. Their body spoke of a different movement — unconscious, yet startlingly controlled.
In another dressing room, a dancer, with his face painted black, lay down, gagged, with his body wrapped tightly in a black cloth as he stared blankly at a laptop screen playing YouTube videos on loop. The room felt eerie, with everyone’s eyes fixated on the seeming quietness of his body.
Walking out of Skirball after the event felt strange. AUNTS not only managed to pull off a showcase of surprising dance performances, but also managed to communicate how one can be a better witness to one’s environment. By taking audiences on a journey,one grounded equally in stillness and movement, the event fused the language of the body with the language of the scene. It managed to showcase one’s possession of the body alongside one’s dispossession of another.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 18 print edition.
Email Devanshi Khetarpal at [email protected]