Mar 29, 2009

"Yes We Can" be "Yessified"

Sally Silvers' new dance piece, "Yessified," links the body to the social frameworks that name it, interrogating our notions of "whiteness" and "blackness," bending and transforming any codified meanings of both gender and race. Wild bodily angles, lyric leaps, bent contortions, in ensemble gestures both grouped and alone, Silvers' choreographed piece is accompanied by an electronica soul music as well as a Bruce Andrews' live poetry reading from his work on dialectical "whiteness" (my favorite of his work to date). I am imagining that the title suggests that dance like poetry has now been Obamafied, in the time of a future, in which politics, like aesthetics, is released from rigid social-group stereotypes. Silvers' dance work suggests that this release can and will apply to gender as well as ethnicity and color.

Her dancers appear to tumble together, troubling divisive categories, and they separate to fight, come back together to love -- in angry and sensual movements and shapes -- both in group and in solo work. The solos include an astounding opening by the legendary Silvers herself, which she re-punctuates through her choreography. She takes comical risks (like crouching on the floor and sucking from baby bottles), but also shows her lyrical stuff. One admires the young dancers who perform these categories with such passion and humor -- Javier Cardona, Alan Good, Sara Beth Higgins, Takemi Kitamura, Alejandra Martorell, Miriam Parker, Julia Planine-Troiani, Keith Sabado. But perhaps the best treat for the audience is seeing Silvers herself in close bodily collaboration with Andrews' abstracted but all-to-oddly familiar dialectical "white" lines. They are lines, like those of Silvers' body, that make a strange sense, even as they de-familiarize narratives about language and its grammatical shapes. Their duo pokes fun at the linguistics that frame the body -- and a body that also can remake language on the spot as it moves. The illusion of race -- and its true hybrid form -- is played upon by the black-on-white costumes (including one for Andrews himself), and the black and white staging in the performance space venue of PS122 in NYC's East Village. Sadly, there is but one performance left of this event, tonight at 6:30 -- but let us hope for more from Silvers in the near future. -- LH

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