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By Albert Lee
Copyright 1999 Albert Lee
Sunday at Danspace Project
at St. Mark's Church, David Gordon and his Pick Up Performance Company
presented "Autobiography of a Liar," an evening-length retrospective
of eleven of Gordon's "new and used" dance pieces. For a viewer
who had never been there, it was an evening that invited everyone
to share in memories of the seminal Judsonite's career. Lola Pashalinski,
with microphone and sneakers, emceed in the role of Gordon himself,
tying together bits and pieces of remembered dance with wry storytelling
about Gordon's professional ups and downs.
On "Chair" (1975): Can
a chair be a muse? "A chair interacts and doesn't ask why."
On "Mannequin" (1962-63):
"I started this piece sitting in the bathtub waiting for the lice
body liquid" -- could I have misheard this? -- "to do its job."
On "Sleepwalking" (1971):
East Village junkies played the muses. "How far off-balance can
a semi-conscious person be?"
On "The Matter" (1979):
Everyone had been asking about the Paul Newman movie: "What's 'Hud'?"
"I wanted people to ask, What's 'The Matter'?"
What I love about postmodern
dance is its humane gentleness, its calm rhythm, its trust in the
intelligence of limbs and hips and necks to carry their own meaning
and do their own job, to move simply without being simplistic. All
of this was in evidence Sunday. It was an evening of tremendous
aplomb and grace, thanks to Gordon's dancers -- Wendell Beavers,
Hope Clark, Scott Cunningham, Karen Graham, Paul Langland, Eli McAfee,
Brendan McCall, Cynthia Oliver, Lucy Sexton, and Valda Setterfield,
Gordon's longtime companion.
Pashalinski offered other
insights. In the days when Duncan and Denishawn were revered, Gordon
took Sophie Tucker and Milton Berle as his idols. On his esthetic:
"My peers aspire to art. I aspire to vaudeville."
On the inevitable evolution
of his company: "They're turning into caterers, therapists, traitors!"
On his new dancers: "They
keep getting younger!"
On Yvonne Rainer: "Yvonne
Rainer is the muse of seriousness."
On Steve Paxton: "Steve
Paxton is thoughtful."
On Arlene Croce: Is Valda
your muse? she asks Gordon. No, he says. You are. (Here Setterfield
walks softly by, her mouth a perfect "O.")
On Croce: "You are the
goddess of What-if."
On "Trying Times" (1982):
He loves "Apollo." He watches it with Baryshnikov. He sees it many
times. He loves the Stravinsky, and uses it in his own interpretation.
On Sunday, in the hallowed space of St. Mark's Church, Gordon and
Setterfield dance the poignant pas de deux.
"Twenty-one Minutes Some
Odd" (1999), presented in its entirety, is the next-to-last piece
of the evening. Richard Einhorn's minimalist score is all pulsing
agon and strings. The most meaningful images for me: In unison,
the dancers face the audience and crouch, assaying the terrain;
lean back with an outstretched arm and scrunched faces; then crouch
again but this time in readiness, in expectation. And also this:
A serene, Butoh-like Setterfield stepping out and back toward the
center, her mouth agape, and surrounded by younger dancers -- a
gorgeous nucleus of postmodern dance. 'Is she bequeathing a legacy?'
I wonder. 'Is this the future?' It is exhilarating.
On his company: "The
dance company is family, and the family is muse."
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