Fresh Juice 2016 at Mascher Space Co-op


by Tara Giangrande for The Dance Journal

When I walked into Mascher Space Cooperative for a showing of Fresh Juice 2016 last Friday evening, I was welcomed with a cup of freshly pressed apple juice.  Raw and unfiltered with frothy bits of apple, the juice bore signs of its transformation from a solid fruit into a liquid as it slid down my throat.

The space around me also bore signs of transformation.  An open, hardwood rehearsal studio had been prepared for performance, with stage lights lining the room and a black cloth drawn across the mirrored far wall.  Yet as I watched several dancers in sweatpants warming up at the side of the room, I was reminded that this conversion from rehearsal to performance space was not total or absolute. The performers had been inhabiting this space for months.  As an audience member, I was only a momentary guest.

This transitional atmosphere made Fresh Juice, Mascher Co-op’s annual showing of work by current artists-in-residence, a unique experience.  The evening’s performances revealed the intricacies of how the space had shaped each artist’s practice, as well as the significance that external observation brought to each work.

Brendan Tetsuo’s self-choreographed solo, Walk to Topaz, made brilliant use of the narrow depth of Mascher’s space.  The piece began in silence with the back of Tetsuo’s naked body shown to the audience.  Re-imagining a young person’s entrance to a Japanese internment camp, Tetsuo walked away from the audience with utter slowness until his body faded into darkness.  Subsequent sections expounded upon the legacy of this journey as Tetsuo continually transformed himself in costume and movement quality.  Evolving personas and histories emerged as Tetsuo’s recurring walks, directed varying toward and away from the audience, conveyed a grippingly conflicted determination.

Sara Yassky’s Wet Eyes: Lecture Demonstration (Version 1) boldly confronted the distinction between private and publicly acceptable forms of emotional expression.  Speaking from behind a table, Yassky delivered a lecture about their motivations for developing a personal “practice of crying” during their private studio time at Mascher.  Yassky then keeled on a blanket on the floor, preparing to demonstrate their practice for the audience.   Coaxing nervous breaths through subtle heaves, shaking shoulders, and audible sobs, Yassky finally released as tears began to drip down their face.  Evoking both discomfort and empathy, Yassky’s courageous exhibition prodded me to think about the ways I have trained myself to either produce or suppress certain emotions, and about how these tendencies reflect established social constructions of power.

What bodies have access to what types of emotional and physical expression was also a focus of inquiry in Shannon Murphy’s Hot Air, which featured dancers Patricia Dominguez, Marisa Illingworth, Megan Quinn, and Meredith Stapleton.  Wearing transparent rain ponchos that rendered their naked breasts visible, these four women exhibited an unapologetic femininity as they returned the gaze of the audience with relentless stares and tortured whispers.  From a distance, they moved steadily closer as individuals broke out in visceral fits of rage, manically screaming, convulsing, running, and throwing their bodies into violent slides across the floor.  Chaos in sound and movement swarmed, finding an uneasy calm in the blood that dripped slowly from the dancers’ mouths as they collectively slinked toward the audience.  Associating images of violence and desire with female bodies in subversive ways, Hot Air showcased women who asserted ownership of their own sexuality and capacity for physical force.

Vervet Dance, directed by Loren Groenendaal, closed out the evening with With the Round, a contact-based improvisation undertaken between two dancers and a single plastic hoop.  Groenendaal and fellow dancer Nathan Dawley responded to live music by Melinda Faylor, who improvised on electronic keyboard.  The dancers exhibited an intimate knowledge of each other’s bodies and a nearly infallible mutual trust which, with the added component of the hoop, provided for a good deal of visual interest.  Yet, in remaining largely withdrawn into their own partnership throughout the dance, they did not seek to engage the particularities of the space or the presence of the audience in the ways that preceding works by their peers had so thoughtfully done.

Saturday’s performances of Fresh Juice 2016 also included interstitial happenings by Nicole Bindler and Gabrielle Revlock of The Dance Apocalypse.

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