MGutierrez_Age&BeautyPart2_PhotoBy_Eric McNatt

Gutierrez throws down the dance gauntlet

MGutierrez_Age&BeautyPart2_PhotoBy_Eric McNatt
photo by Eric McNatt 

by Lewis J. Whittington for The Dance Journal

Dancer – choreographer Miguel Gutierrez returns to FringeArts with his dance piece Age & Beauty, parts 1 & 2, his ‘queer suites’ in which he delves into topics that are usually only hinted at off-hours over the 3rd martini, like his feeling about being “an aging gay choreographer” and other dancer “mid-life anxieties” such as fending off creative burnout.

As heady as these themes sound, they are never more than a few steps away from Gutierrez’s signature wit and whimsy. How many 44 year old male dancers are confident enough to wear a pink singlet onstage?

Gutierrez described the development of Age & Beauty which sounds like a survival guide as Miguel leaps past the expected dancer retirement age of around 42 at the very latest. Gutierrez’s has written the text for the piece and he also sings during the dance and has composed the electronica score, with vocals, recorded and live laced in.

“It’s partly about being a dancer,” Miguel explained in a phone interview from New York last weekend, “… but also about someone who makes dance and performance, and realizing once you are in your 40s there is crisis of relevance that crops up for a number of artists. I see a lot of peers who fall of the beam at bit- either stop getting funding, or stop being presented. It’s really terrible.”

“You are no longer the sexy emerging person. And the idea that you are firmly established is a bit of a fiction now,” acknowledging that no matter how accomplished a dancer is, there is no real “inherent stability in the field.”

In Part 1 of Age & Beauty ( subtitled Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/) Gutierrez partners with 25 year old performer/dancer Mickey Mahar, who represents the choreographer’s younger dancer self. He choreographs the sections with “precise unison dances to an irreverent and celebratory corruption of orderliness.”

Gutierrez wanted to be honest about his life as a dancer- but with a critical aesthetic distance. He welcomes input from his collaborators and didn’t want them to hold back telling him when he might be lurching toward any ‘whining’ or devolve into myopic excess.

“I’m basically playing myself, but I realized I didn’t like feeling so close to the material. Something didn’t feel right.” He hired Sean Donavan, a dancer-actor in New York to become his understudy and the perspective became broader and more objective. Gutierrez also secretly recorded session with his manager about his body of work over the last 14 years. From those recordings he devised a script, ala A Chorus Line.

Part 2 (subtitled- Asian Beauty @ the Werq Meeting or The Choreographer & Her Muse or &:@&). Part 2 is a composite retrospective of his choreographies over the last 14 years and an appreciation of his creative relationships with his longtime collaborators choreographer Michelle Boulé, arts manager Ben Pryor, and lighting designer Lenore Doxsee.  

But it also contemplates the daunting and dodgy realities of the industry. “It speaks to the larger cultural reality… where what’s new, what’s hot is all that matters. And I get caught up in that too, but artists are faced with the chose of being aesthetically honest or edgy. What happens to us in this country as we age? On a personal note I question what is my worth now. Is a true reflection of what my interest is or am I responding to what I’m told my work… is expected to be. “

“When you are younger, you have this privilege of ignorance, people not knowing about your work-there is this great sense of possibility and invention. And when you’re around a while you get branded. And then you deal with having an older body and that dancer conundrum of having more information in your body, but dealing with more pain and changes in your physique.“

“We’ve done it enough places for me to see that it seems to resonate with a lot of different audiences. Certainly it resonates with artists and performers who identify with the questions of what it’s like to stay in this field. How you navigate a sense of relevance. A lot of people, who are not, particular in Part 2, have told me that they identify with parallels in their own lives and professions.”

Gutierrez garnered a strong fan base at the 2008 Fringe Festival with his breakout dance- theater hit “Everyone” a mosaic of communal angst that bloomed into group happening that included the audience aka The Powerful People. “The audiences in Philly are so great,” he is quick to add.

Gutierrez’s continues to break down the lines between performance and spectators. He noted that most of Age and Beauty is set but he maintains “an aura of improvisation.” After the Philly run, his troupe heads to France to perform Part 3 of the piece, which he plans to, unveil in Philly next year.

AR2015_MiguelGutierrez_Age&BeautyPart2_PhotoByIanDouglas_75X5822
photo by Ian Douglas

For performance times and tickets check www.fringearts.org
Age & Beauty Part 1, Nov 10 & 11, 2015
Age & Beauty Part 2, Nov 13 & 14, 2015

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