Ralph Lemon's No/Yes Mourning
No to turning crying into laughing; no to ending the piece with an amazing unforgettable flourish; no to starting with wonderful, appealing dancing; no to choosing a famous collaborator in music or visuals; no to dancers forming shapes and patterns that keep your eye involved.
Ralph Lemon’s How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? at BAM reminded me of the stubbornness of Yvonne Rainer’s No Manifesto of the 1960s. I loved her defiance then (though she has downplayed her statement of that time), and I love his stubbornness—or rather patience, now. A few people walked out of the performance at BAM because it wasn’t what they expected.
Yes, he did go fully into sorrow. (When Okwui Okpokwasili cried with her back to us, it was so real—and don’t we all have a river to cry?) Yes, his dancers were totally chaotic and alarmingly desperate, yet with a silver lining of humor. (David Thomson took my eye because he released so far off balance that he looked like he’d lose his head. They were all wild animals craving some unknown something.)
Yes to the animal comfort of pulling toward each other, flesh to flesh, in an incidental way. Yes to layering of sources (e.g. Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 sci-fi romance film Solaris; videos of Walter Carter, Lemon’s 100-year old muse shuffling around with his wife during his last days; and Ralph’s own account with his dying girlfriend.) Yes to understanding the devotion of love in different contexts.
No to making a “show.” Yes to making the contemplation on love and loss visible.
Ralph Lemon, Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy BAM
More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:
"Is your daughter the dancer?"
"Actually," I say, "I am."
"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"
"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."
Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.
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