Lights up on the Audience
Dance Conversations at the Flea
Once a month at The Flea Theater, the stage lights dim, movement halts, and music is silenced; the audience comes alive. Dance Conversations at the Flea, a free monthly performance curated by Nina Winthrop, presents works-in-progress performed by artists unafraid of experimenting with new ideas and forms. There are four mini-performances each month—followed by a discussion between the moderator, the choreographers, and the audience.
This October, the first piece—a quartet choreographed by Molissa Fenley—was a traditional modern composition with ballet undertones and a large focus on turns and balance. The graceful and delicate foundation of the choreography was contrasted by the dancers’ sharp, blade-like arm movements, which gave the sensation of space being carved and sliced apart. It was fascinating watching Fenley perform alongside her company, although at times I found it distracting. Her dominative presence gave the other company members a rather sophomoric air. Fenley’s familiarity with her own choreography let the audience know that she owned the movement and that certain members of the ensemble were merely borrowing from a great.
Fenley’s classical piece led into the more experimental work of Tatyanna Tenenbaum, the youngest choreographer featured in the collection. Moderator Cherylyn Lavagnino marveled that there was “very much something about Tenenbaum’s own generation that embodied her work.” I had to agree. As a fellow member of Generation Y, I found the piece spoke to me directly. Its relatable element had something to do with the clear, sparse prose that ran though the work. The spoken phrases, combined with Tenenbaum’s singing voice, gave the movement a soothing backdrop. This layered performance fit nicely within the greater collage of the evening. The movement, poetry, and singing were all inspired by a letter Tenenbaum had received from, perhaps, a former love interest.
The two works that followed Tenenbaum’s incorporated spoken word, and further blurred the line that separates performance art and dance. Julie Troost acted out, through dance and limited speech, the death of her grandmother. A moving spectacle: a trio, performed by herself and two other ensemble members. The entire segment took place in her dying grandmother’s hospital room, which was clearly represented with a bed and visitor’s chairs.
Jody Oberfelder’s piece also incorporated voice; the dancers shouted out phrases relating to their movement and interactions. The company, known for its athleticism, humor, and risk taking, brought to the table a dynamic performance filled with complicated lifts. As a whole, the choreography displayed great potential and Oberfelder commented that it had been completed only earlier that day.
The show in its entirety felt textured but a little rough around the edges. Missing were the formal transitions between mini-performances, technical lighting, and wing exits. However, the lack of glitz and glamour was at times profoundly refreshing; it allowed for the majority of the focus to be placed upon technique and choreography. The Flea traditionally serves as an actor’s theater; this intimate environment made the venue perfect for the viewing of works-in-progress. And in this city filled with crashing markets and general economic distress, who can resist free art? Especially when it comes with a side of discussion.
The November performance will commence on the 18th at 7pm. It will be moderated by Reggie Wilson and includes work by Donna Scro Gentile, STRONGERCircus, Rebecca Lazier, and Sasha Welsh & Siri Peterson.
Simone Larson is an Evanstonian living in Brooklyn.
Singing in Unison:
Artists Need to Create On the Same Scale That Society Has the Capacity to Destroy
JUNE 2022 | Art
Rail Curatorial Projects is proud to present Singing in Unison: Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, a multi-venue series of exhibitions that aims to foster social unity in light of the recent political climate and the COVID-19 pandemic. The works shown in these exhibitions exemplify the breadth of the creative world, with artists who are taught and self-taught, young and old, and hailing from every corner of the globe. Singing in Unison is a timely endeavor that celebrates the power of art as a public site to stage programming, including poetry readings, music and dance performances, panel discussions on the subject of democracy, and cooking performances by Rirkrit Tiravanija. All of this is done with the aim of enhancing the art of joining in our various communities and to bring people together.
Keith Haring says every audience member is an artist because they create the meaning of a piece of artBy Jon Sands
APRIL 2021 | Critics Page
Jon Sands is a winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, selected for his second book, Its Not Magic (Beacon Press, 2019). His work has been featured in the New York Times, as well as anthologized in The Best American Poetry. He facilitates the Emotional Historians writing workshop, which you can learn more about on IG at @iAmJonSands.
Cultivating Wildness: Supporting the Creativity of ArtistsBy Yayoi Shionoiri
MAY 2022 | Critics Page
The artist is the star soloist of the performance, and any arts worker who works in an artist studiowhatever position they holdmust understand that the crux of their job is to give the artist an environment at center stage to be free and creative. There is a certain intangible origin of the imagination from which ideas emerge and crystallize into artistic production. Such a birthing process requires the artist to harness the possibility for expression, free of constraint or limitation, and, in doing so, perhaps tap into a pure, unadulterated version of themselves.
Erika Doss’s Spiritual Moderns: Twentieth-Century American Artists and ReligionBy Daniel Kraft
MARCH 2023 | Art Books
Through case studies investigating the role of religion in the lives and works of four 20th century American artistsJoseph Cornell, Mark Tobey, Agnes Pelton, and Andy Warholand through a short closing chapter discussing Christian imagery in more recent art, Doss demonstrates how reductive this dismissal of spirituality really is.