Cassie Peterson unravels the many layers of self at work in Faye Driscoll’s newest creation, You’re Me, now at The Kitchen.
I met Faye Driscoll back in 2002 at some house party in San Francisco’s Mission District. In that cliché, small-talk-at-a-party way, we quickly discovered that our birthdays fall on the same date, but that she’s a Sagittarius and I’m a Scorpio; I’ve yet to sort out the logic in this “fact.” At the time of our first meeting, I was busy putting myself through college and she was busy finding herself after graduating from NYU and dancing in Doug Varone’s company for a stint. I was unbearably young and naïve and just beginning to take an interest in movement and performance practices. I was cobbling together my own amateurish understanding of dance history and was primarily engaging dance with a cool, cerebral distance before Faye swept in and introduced me to a whole new visceral vocabulary. Faye’s early-career, Bay Area DIY-style choreography was an unapologetic declaration of the depraved. Her work was and continues to be a modernist refusal of form, a postmodern refusal of narrative, and a post-postmodern reclamation of both and of everything. Her work gives space and permission for the grotesque. The bizarre. The unsayable. Faye showed me that a dance performance could leave me feeling cold and disemboweled. Assaulted. Seduced. And confused. She showed me that dance could actually reflect my personal realities, my identities, my own secret conflicts, and cellular vibrations. Her dances invite me to find myself in them.
Cassie Peterson discusses deconstructions of form in Joseph Keckler’s I am an opera.
The first time I encountered the enigmatic voice of Joseph Keckler was at the Chocolate Factory for an installment of the Catch Performance series. Nearing the end of the informal, cabaret-style show, Keckler quietly walked on stage to perform a seven minute excerpt from a performance-in-process called I am an Opera, the completed version of which will play at Joe’s Pub on July 8. I remember that I was sitting on a hard, tin bleacher. The artists from the previous performances were downstairs, talking loudly and working off their adrenaline by drinking cheap beer from a keg. It was loud, casual, a familial gathering. Keckler began his performance by addressing the audience in a very colloquial, nearly apathetic tone. He told us some mundane story from his day, chock full of minute, conversational details.
Keckler laughed as I recounted this moment over brunch recently and said, “I’m not afraid of being boring.” Which made it all that more surprising when, after that “boring” prelude, he opened his mouth and began to sing a breathtaking aria. He sang in low, bold Italian with English subtitles projected onto a screen behind him. Instantly, I felt like Jonah or Pinocchio being unwittingly swallowed by the whale. Keckler’s transition from the initial, improvised structure into a very formal, operatic structure was jarring to say the least. For the next seven minutes, he worked methodically to juxtapose and seamlessly combine the grandiosity of the opera with his more personal, pedestrian, and muted style of storytelling, something like the late great Klaus Nomi, but with a more understated, coy, and dry-witted theatricality about him.
Choreographer Tere O’Connor’s work is grounded in multiplicity. Cassie Peterson explores its implications.
“There are no simple concepts. Every concept has components and is defined by them. It therefore has a combination. It is a multiplicity…”
–Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy
“An ideology of multiplicity drives my aesthetic.”
In Peggy Phelan’s Unmarked: The Politics of Performance, she writes, “to attempt to write about the undocumentable event of performance is to invoke the rules of the written document and thereby alter the event itself.” How can one write about a performance without distilling it to a theme or reducing it to a moment? How can one circumvent language’s propensity for singularity, linear coherence, and causal reckonings? Writing about O’Connor’s work is an especially delicate task because of his work’s enduring commitment to multiple meanings and its resistance to the constraints of what he calls, “narrative resolution.” O’Connor’s choreographic processes are poetic investments in abstraction and a departure from the aesthetics of representation.