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Flash Review 1, 11-13: Palpable Acuity
Forti Fills the Danspace

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2001 Chris Dohse

NEW YORK -- Simone Forti filled the Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church on Thursday night with a quality that is hard to describe. It's something I once called "palpable acuity." Can you learn this? I doubt it. But perhaps, after a lifetime of mindfulness, it can be acquired. Each of her phrases is made immediately and just to her liking. In her first improvisation, "Logomotion," she asks for three words from the audience. Since we are sitting in the middle of dance history, Jackson McLow says, "Cold." Someone else adds, "Threw" (or "Through?"). Lastly, "Falcon." So Forti makes up poems from aleatoric actions and she sort of tells little stories while she's at it. Memories, recollections of the heat and the hawk. Dreams and fears and curious whatnots. The lighting instruments hum as she pauses and the hum becomes a world, as Carol Mullins tweaks a level or two to accommodate the dance.

The score of "Illuminations," Forti's thirty-year-old ongoing collaboration with minimalist composer Charlemagne Palestine, features an incessant hammering of piano keys that becomes the tintinnabulation of bells. A little nauseating in its intensity, actually. Gut-churning. (Palestine didn't attend the performance due to fear of flying, so the score was a recording made last week in Brussels.) Forti circles and circles; she is open to everything, making us aware of what there is to be open to. Too much, most of the time in real life, but Forti makes order of plenitude. She escapes the habits of her body; she becomes her hologram. (A 1977 hologram of Forti called "Angel," accompanied by Palestine's "Schlongo!!!daLUVdrone," was on display before the performance.)

Returning to the center as the piano dwindles, Forti's articulate body crawls, a human flak suit. She stands swaying, arms idly flinging. I realize I won't be able to remember accurately anything that just happened. Forti is an ephemeral trickster who defies capture on the page.

A third improv, this one a frisky and somewhat ribald collaborative version of "Logomotion" with Danny Lepkoff, is less successful. Still it is a pleasure to be allowed to watch these two compadres enjoy each other.

P.S. Since Mina Chremos gave her wonderful Forti reminiscences last Friday, permit me to add one of my own as a postscript.

In 1978, I was taking Modern Dance 101 at Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio. Patricia White, my beloved first teacher and a person with great foresight, brought Simone in as a guest artist for a week. At the time, my ideas about dance focused on wearing shiny unitards and kicking my legs as high as possible. All we did for a week in Simone's workshop was walk in a circle, around and around and around the perimeter of the dance studio. (She's still walking in that circle, meditatively now.) I believe she talked a little about holograms.

Twenty years or so later, at the Judson's memorial performance for Bob Dunn, a man who touched my dancing life deeply, I approached Simone and cheekily told her that I had learned nothing that week in 1978 (explaining of course that that was because her ideas were so far ahead of my limited understanding). We shared a hearty chuckle, for she swore she had never heard of Wright State University and could remember nothing about being there!

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