Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People

June 6, 2006

Miguel Gutierrez in
Retrospective Exhibitionist
Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People
Dance Theater Workshop, NYC

June 6–10, 2006

Reviewed by Wendy Perron


Nietzsche called that very rare person who can handle uncertainty an “übermensch.” In the same vein, or so it seems, Gutierrez is calling his group the “powerful people.” They are the ones who “dance on the edge of the abyss,” who do not depend on what’s known or familiar.

In Retrospective Exhibitionist, Gutierrez strips the layers of artifice to reveal a raw state of mind/body. At one point he slowly dropped to all fours and vibrated his entire being, letting out a sound that was a cross between a howl and a wail. On the next exhale, the guttural noise emerged from his throat with a slightly different blend of yearning, hurt, puzzlement, and terror.

At another point, he aimed a tiny video camera at a stash of snapshots of his younger self. On the screen his fingers drew across these pictures, simultaneously loving and dismissing his earlier self.

As searing as these moments are, the movement sections are equally compelling. Like Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A, but triple the speed, they have no visible connectedness between the movements, so each transition instantly empties the body of what came before. In this way Gutierrez brilliantly shifts from a wiggle to a grand stubbing leap to a happy sashay.

The abruptly changing impulses of this hour-plus solo project a sense of anarchy. But the sections are well ordered and nothing rambles. Gutierrez uses deliberate devices—like doing the opening section in the nude except for sneakers and baseball cap—to psyche himself into a state that goes way deeper than mere exhibitionism. The experience is intense and satisfying.

The following dance, Difficult Bodies, began with three women in glittering black dresses. They rolled languidly toward us, emerging from their dresses, and by the time they got downstage, they were wearing only black bras and briefs. Anna Azrieli, the dancer in the center, was pregnant but unfurled her clothing as smoothly as Michelle Boulé and Abby Crain. Julie Alexander, in T-shirt and briefs, replaced Azrieli and began lip-synching a song, fiercely exaggerating the movements of her mouth. The women danced till exhausted, yet somehow retained their sexiness and defiance.

The lights were hot white on the audience for a good portion of the evening. Toward the end, Gutierrez and the women chanted robotically, “I am perfect and/You will love me and/Everyone in this room is in this f—— dance.” We couldn’t and wouldn’t try to escape. See www.dtw.org.