The Quiet Ones

April 19, 2009

Maybe quiet is coming back in style, or maybe quiet is alluring exactly because it’s never in style. But silence can be a break from other dance performances, a chance to really concentrate on what is going on. A breather, a pleasurable exile. Recently two events brought this to mind: Simone Forti at the Museum of Modern Art, and Vicky Shick at Danspace.

     Simone showed a sequence of minimal works from 1961 as part of a “performance exhibition series” at MOMA last month. Coming to the museum gallery and seeing it from different points of view reminded me of the 60s and 70s, like for instance Trisha Brown’s Floor of the Forest, where you have to walk around and look under things to see the action.

     Projected on the wall were videos of Simone swinging like a polar bear and videos of polar bears. Both had a black-and-white timeless quality. All ages of curious people milling about became part of the event.   

     She did Huddle (which I came in too late to see but I’ve have always enjoyed the tactile camaraderie, whether doing it or watching it), and a piece called Platforms when two people each get under a huge box like an overturned canoe and just whistle. And then she herself stepped into a hanging rope and performed Accompaniment for LaMonte Young’s “2 sounds.” She was wound and unwound in the rope but then was mostly still. She had explained that she would be listening to the two sounds. But watching Simone listen is like seeing the Mona Lisa thinking. Her face was so pensive and yet sensual, a face that goes back through the ages. Because she was still, in my memory it was as if it were silent.

    Vicky Shick also partners with silence. Yes, there were a few snippets of music here and there at her Danspace concert, usually with a nostalgic touch. During her two pieces, Prologue and Glimpse, I got the feeling of a haven, separated from the usual noise and mirrors of choreographers trying to figure out how to appeal to an audience. I remember at one point when she was bent over, elbows pinned behind her, eyes looking straight at us, with Eva Karczag just upstage of her. From the look on her face I just knew we were in for a little surprise. There was just the tiniest hint of mischief in her face. Was she going to stop dead, drop to the floor, turn and hug Eva, scamper away? None of the above. After the stillness, she suddenly crossed and uncrossed her hands over her knees going in-and-out  like you do in the Charleston. I don’t know if keying into that little surprise would have been possible if music were playing, because music takes you for a ride. I love that ride, but I also love being carried by thought and observation too. (Disclosure: I was asked to moderated a post-performance discussion with Vicky and the dancers.)

    Not every choreographer can come up with something that stands strong in silence. Maybe it has to have enough of an interior quality to invite us in to our own silence.