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1, 2-15: A Smorgasbord of Sex
Investigating the Erotic at Judson
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse
When is dance
erotic? When is eroticism sexy; when is it sensual? Monday night
Diane Torr, a.k.a. Danny Drag King, presented four artists whose
work she finds erotic at a Movement Research Studies Project event
at the Judson Church. This is a space whose walls have witnessed
thirty years of dance experiments, many of which have been more
salacious, at first glance, than these divergent projects.
The first two
soloists, Daria Fain and Paul Langland, channeled sacred shapes
and energies. Fain subtitled her piece "Practice V" (accompanied
by vocalist Lee Ann Brown and musician Drew Gardner), a "homage"
to her Indian Dance background. She began her improvisatory material
with a formal, architectural structure, then relaxed into a tactile
deliciousness, tensing and releasing through positions that resembled
yogic asanas. She maintained throughout a quality that was as sensual
as the shimmering pink sheath that covered her.
dug deeper into violent or ecstatic realms, as he used breath and
presence to enter what looked like the "kriyas" sometimes sought
by certain meditation practices, moments when the body is moved
spontaneously by awakening kundalini. His excerpt from "Almost Rapture,"
a collaboration with Brendan McCall, alternated from gluey bonelessness
to a defiant possession of territory.
How do either
of these works function within what dance scholar Ramsay Burt, recently
a visiting professor at New York University's Department of Performance
Studies, called during the evening's panel discussion the "social
context of sexuality and eroticism"? Clearly each performer was
experiencing, at various levels, intensely personal, sensually driven
realities. Were they doing it for us, offering us voyeuristic pleasures,
or simply allowing us to gaze upon their private rituals? Onstage,
each had a full array of volumes and biological systems available
for experiential choices. However, the organ through which we, as
audience, primarily experienced the work was our eyes. How can a
performer bridge that limitation?
a British performer in her NYC debut, pandered to the audience's
visual pleasure in her solo "Homeward Bound." After inflating a
small life raft, Spanton mounted her tumescent partner and shuffled
through a series of poses from vintage beefcake magazines. The fact
that she is a biological female wearing a traditionally homoerotic
sailor suit complicated her voluntary objectification.
A duet by Eric
Dunlap, from his S&M fairy tale "Gion: The Sense of Skin," moved
the heat of interaction from the audience's gaze through the performer's
interiority and placed it between himself and dancer Sarah Plummer.
Plummer, a Circe of curves and angles, bewitched Dunlap into a tussle
of submission and resistance. This vocabulary came closest to what
our culture might perceive as "sexy"; their violent foreplay certainly
evoked fetishistic triggers, yet, like the earlier soloists, their
liquid quality was the real turn on.
Torr, like many
sex-positive, gender-nudging artists, seeks a presentation of the
erotic as "a source of energy and power that needs to be celebrated."
Her Valentine's Day smorgasbord presented an appropriate multiplicity
of contemporary investigations, without consensus.
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