Too Much Talk and Not Enough Action
by Kate Dobbs Ariail
The American Dance Festival always includes at least one evening of works that cannot be described as traditional dance in any respect. Sometimes these are challenging and transgressive, subversive in the positive sense of offering an artful alternative to dominant paradigms and passé rules — a truly fresh and useful way to understand something of life. Sometimes they are bad, and when they are bad they are horrid. Such a performance opened in Reynolds Theater on June 19. Private Parts could have used a subtitle: Not Private Enough. It was "theater" in the manner of the narcissist: Enough about me, now let me tell you about me. It may work best for the blog generation, with its questionable belief that everyone's uncrafted writings are of interest and value.
Sara Juli's "Deep Throat," which opened the evening, was not, as I had hoped it would be, actually about fellatio, sex workers, or even the passing of government secrets — but about ordinary gossip. It bore far more resemblance to a stand-up comic schtick than to dance, though it did include several silly movement breaks between the talking sections that were actually amusing, if not particularly artful. Worse, it depended on interaction with the audience horribly reminiscent of grade school, and on in-jokes for those involved with ADF.
Juli's "mission statement" says that her "mission is to explore her own personal struggles through the medium of performance..; [she] is hopeful that others will understand an aspect of her personal turmoil, and be able to relate it to their own." She does not say why we should care in the first place about her personal struggles (nor yet why a full-grown woman is still struggling with the rights and wrongs of gossip) when she can't be troubled to take them out of the realm of the personal and into a more universally meaningful realm. And, frankly, my dear — I don't give a damn.
The evening's second act, "Retrospective Exhibitionist," by Miguel Gutierrez, started out well before devolving. Gutierrez, in a bleach blond wig, ball cap and red high-top Nikes, appears on a stage stripped bare to the back wall and wings. He totes in a mirror and some barbells and several pieces of audio and video equipment and plugs them up, and — like a roadie or backstage tech — ignores the audience. Removing the wig, hat and shoes, he does a few reps in front of the mirror — and just when you think he's going to dance nude, he puts on clothes, comes downstage and starts talking. What a disappointment.
It was all downhill from there, except for the rare bursts of amazing movement. I don't know what was worse, the me-and-my-media bits with the video camera and the audio loops, the campy, faux-erotic sequences, the snide attitude, the self-aggrandizement posing as self-mockery, or the childish thrashing and screaming. I didn't actually doze off as I had with Sara Juli, probably because the noise level was too high, but I barely endured this adolescent acting-out until its end.