Let me not forget A Convenient Woman, a dance-theater piece by Teresa Chapman and Leslie Scates. I went last Friday and quite enjoyed it. I will not give you the play by play because Nancy Wozny has already cleared the way for me. I just want to offer some freak applause where ol’ Nanc might be stitching things a little too tight.
First off, Frederique DeMontblanc produced some wonderful lo-tech visuals. I was surprised how much I enjoyed watching the cursor click thru different high-end websites like Barney’s and Nordstrom’s, pick out items of interest, save them, then push pictures of shoes and dresses side-by-side to test whether they “go.” Instead of making a (tired) point about the commercialization of femininity, this was doing something far more complicated and interesting: the process of “outfitting.” Shopping is a very complicated activity of discovery and assimilation. I was pleasantly suprised (and entertained) by the story of subjectivity playing itself out online.
Me and Nanc both enjoyed watching magazine cutouts of diamonds and rubies slide across the screen. I actually squealed when little paper hands scooped them around. How great is it to compare magazine-obsession with paper dolls? Why didn’t I think of that? Not long after that, I had another “Why didn’t I think of that” moment. We watch a giant headshot of Teresa Chapman’s big beautiful face staring into the camera (blinking, but being very still). Chapman’s intense expression is pretty great by itself, but slowly you realize that the image is changing, morphing actually, but you can’t figure out why. Bit but bit you see eyebrows getting dark, lashes heavier, eyes lined. It was subtle. It took me a while to figure it out. The timing of this thing is impeccable. By the end, Chapman is so drag-queened out, the intensity of her eyes takes on this really masculine look. She’s a man! Just add makeup! Yay!
I do hate going on about the video, since there were parts of the choreography that I also enjoyed. Admittedly, Nancy is right about the text/gesture in parts. Sometimes too robotic, sometimes too hippy. But I argue that terms like “unkempt” and “messy” and “rough around the edges” are exactly what this piece SHOULD be doing. If anything, concepts should be less defined, murkier, jerkier, more “stuck on.” Something that I kept looking/listening for: to hear and feel the exhaustion of the choreography in their voices. Ah, but no such luck. They timed little breaks between dancing to avoid such “messiness,” but I say BRING IT ON TIRED AND OUT OF BREATH. Thay mastered dancing in high heels but they never faltered. If I missed anything in this show, it was a faltering.
Enough with the criticism, tho. There were gestures that really stuck with me. One that I keep coming back to is this truncated shimmy that both dancers do. They shake the head and shoulders wiggly-like but don’t really loosen up, it’s like the movements of a little girl and an old woman at the same time. I keep thinking of that gesture. I do it at home sometimes trying to recreate it. It was totally female without being feminine. To me, this was the highlight of the show.