New Kid On The Block

Management for downtown dance-theater/performance artists (we really may need to just make up a term that covers this; suggestions? I guess Na’vi is already taken…) is not a simple thing. It’s obscure, there is very little money in it, and in a financial climate that threatens both artist funding and the capital that goes into keeping New York’s handful of downtown venues in operation, the future just doesn’t seem very bright, or steady.

But one man is about to take up the torch of what often feels as much like a social cause as it does an artistic industry. Ben Pryor (full discloser: we’re kind of BFFs…), who has been working to represent artists with Pentacle for the past two years, has decided to strike out and start up his own management endeavor, tbspMGMT. Yay!

Pryor’s first act/action as an independent rep. is AMERICAN REALNESS, a curated festival of contemporary dance artists (Gelflings?) that is being held at Abrons Arts Center (a venue that now can be counted on to present New York City’s edgiest artists), which coincides with APAP and The Public Theater’s Under the Radar (UTR) festival, a festival that has built a solid reputation for presenting excellent emerging theater work, but one that has also drawn criticism for under representing NYC’s dance community.

For AMERICAN REALNESS, Pryor has managed to assemble what The New York Times’ Claudia La Rocco might term “the cool kids” of downtown dance (Uruk Hai?), including Jeremy Wade, Miguel Gutierrez, Jack Ferver, and our very own Ann Liv Young. Specifically, though, these artists all seem to share an outlook that engages the body in performance in ways that are gritty, explicit, passionate (or its opposite, dispassionate), and generally queer.

I emailed Pryor about American Realness and his decision to go it alone as an artist representative, and these are some of the things he had to say…

Counter Critic (C.C.): What the fuck are you doing?

Ben Pryor (tbsp):

Re Defining American Contemporary Performance

trying to sell the work of these artists who are pushing, reshaping and erasing the boundaries of dance and theater.

Starting my own management entity with a bang.

Showing some amazing work, and maybe some tits and ass.

C.C.: How are you doing it?

tbsp:

By the seat of my pants.

Blood sweat and tears

C.C.: Need more info about AMERICAN REALNESS.

tbsp:

I love under the radar, which has been the best platform for contemporary work during APAP, but it doesn’t show dance.  It became a dream of mine to create an “under the radar fordance”, if you will.

I am marketing the whole thing as a festival because it is a better way to put the work out there than a showcase. The goal is selling the work, but I am also trying to reshape international perception of american work. somehow they don’t really know the contemporary stuff is happening, not in a big way. I am trying to give attention to that. I am also trying to challenge american presenters (outside the 10 that do present contemporary work) to get with it and show some good shit!

This is also sorta the launch of tbspMGMT. I haven’t clearly established relationships with everyone, but I am trying to make it an organic progression.

Why these artists?

Cause these artists give me chills when I see what they do.

I love the way they think.

That they are reshaping contemporary work and it is not being seen outside new york and that is CRAZY.

Cause who doesn’t like calling out a whole industry of your peers for being lame and old fashioned.

Cause I like making a splash and so do these artists.

American Realness begins Friday, January 8 @ Abrons Arts Center and runs through January 11. Tickets to shows and a full festival schedule can be found here.

SHAMELESS HOLIDAY SELF-PROMOTION: But what’s new around here?

Mx. Justin Bond and the Pixie Harlots, photo by Michael Hart

Sorry that the C.C. vibe has atrophied in recent to a mere drizzle of self-promotion. But I HAVE to! “It’s in my nature.” So without further apology…

First: I’ve had the immense honor (and enormous pleasure) to assemble the opening musical medley for the illustrious, lustrous, and lustful Justin Bond’s “Christmas Spells” opening tomorrow (Wed, Dec 9) at Abrons Arts Center. The show runs through Satruday and features Mx. Bond and the Pixie Harlots in a transtastic rendition of Kate Bornstein’s “Dixie Belle.” Get your tix, go,  and let the pixie dust and ferocious glam cast an Xmas spell that no stupid awful ignorant relatives will be able to undo.

Last: On Thursday, Dec 10 (I know it’s overlapping, but you’ll just have to adjust your schedules, darlings), I will be participating in a short improvisatory performance during a concert at the Mannes College of Music. The recital is the culmination of a classical improvisation class taught by composer Noam Sivan. It’s free and should be lots of fun. It’s fairly unorthodox for a conservatory to push improvisation (I don’t think Mannes offered the class when I was there). So come out and support what amounts to exercising physiological freedom within one of the most physically strict traditions of artmaking.

That’s all, I think. For now, at least. One never knows…

xoxoC.C.

UPDATE

I almost forgot! There’s also a hot new exhibition of photography–“In Conversation: MTA and DNA”–by Mathew Pokiok at Dance New Amsterdam, with an opening reception Thursday evening at 7pm (OMG, triple overlap!!!). The exhibition is of photographs from Mount Tremper Arts‘ most recent summer season, which included a little show called SCARLET FEVER (which you may have heard of). The exhibition opening will be followed by the opening of Aynsley Vandenbroucke Movement Group’s “A Number of Small Black and White Dances” (runs Dec. 10-12). Xmas just came early!

Kanye Drops In On PS122 Songfest

So things got extra hot and spicy last night at PS122. Apparently Kanye West dropped in on “Why Won’t You Let Me Be Great!!!”, Neal Medlyn and Brendan Kennedy’s tribute to the pop culture demagogue’s latest album 808s & Heartbreak.

MTV reports on the meeting of the auteur with the motley assemblage of downtown artists, giving this account of the performance offered by our very own Ann Liv Young:

“The evening became tense and uncomfortable when notorious (and buck-naked) performance artist Ann Liv Young confronted Kanye personally, shouting that she didn’t think 808s was his best work, all the while grinding barbeque pork into her naked crotch (and then eating it). We all know Kanye is no stranger to confrontation and controversy, so perhaps Liv Young was paying tribute to that? In any case, the audience reacted with absolute horror during her “interpretation” of “Love Lockdown.” To Kanye’s credit, he barely flinched. (Liv Young rather shrewdly ended her performance by shouting, “I love your work with Common” before gathering her clothes — and pork products — and scurrying offstage.)”

In all seriousness, this is quite a touchdown for downtown performance, which competes daily against an assumption that  its work and interests are marginal, unmarketable, and doomed to obscurity forever.

It’s hard not to knock Kanye for being an egotist (which may ultimately be a superficial way of appraising an artist who is clearly–even importantly–influential) since, in a way, you could argue that vanity helped him fall into the trap of the homage. After all, it is the quintessential daydream of the homage-making artist that his offering will be noticed and and heralded by the artist whom he seeks to honor (or lure).

But props to Kanye for being one of the few, if only, mainstream artists who have responded–in person–to the downtown, high-art shout-out of a generation of performance artists who have made it their project to forge meaning out of a relationship with popular culture that is too often dismissed as empty, compulsory, and heartless.

Also props to Ann Liv Young for calling shit out.

TO DO: DTW Lobby Talks

Lobby TalkLobby TALKS

The New Media of Dance

(not in performance)

Photo: Ed Rawlings

Jun 9 at 7:30pm
Dance Theater Workshop

219 West 19th Street, New York, NY

Organized by Chase Granoff

“As the internet continues to develop and mature into a powerful platform for communication, marketing, networking, and criticism, we will look at how these technologies have influenced dance. How has this development challenged and changed the landscape of dance journalism and criticism? Does print media remain relevant? How are dance artists and companies utilizing social networking and other Web 2.0 technologies?

“Panelists: Caleb Custer, Director of Marketing, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet; Marlon Barrios Solano, creator of dance-tech.net & DANCE TECH/The Program; Andy Horwitz, Founder & Editor, Culturebot.org; Claudia La Rocco, Performance critic, WNYC’s Art.Cult blog; Kristin Sloan, Founder, The Winger, Director, New Media, New York City Ballet; Ryan Tracy, Counter Critic; Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody blog, Body and Soul podcast; and Chris Elam, Artistic Director, Misnomer Dance Theater.

“Lobby TALKS creates a forum for open and in-depth discourse on contemporary issues in dance and performance. Organized around specific themes, each meeting uses as a starting point one or more of the artistic investigations, methodologies, and motivations that can be seen in performance today. Subjects will be investigated, challenged, and considered by an invited group of artists, critics, and theorists, and is open to all who would like to join the conversation.”

TO DO: “Pussy Faggot”

pf_tote_eblastTONIGHT @ The Delancey, ubiquitous downtown producer Earl Dax is throwing a birthday bash for himself, which doubles as a fundraiser for Dixon Place’s HOT! Festival of queer performance.

In light of Claudia La Rocco’s insightful piece on the negative impact capital campaigns and anchoring real estate ventures can have on the missions of small arts organizations, it’s probably more important than ever for us all to start giving money to venues like Dixon Place to support actual programming!

Plus, this party, colorfully titled “PUSSY FAGGOT” (here’s some fab background in the Village Voice) is bound to be epic, with the fiercest queer performers coming out of the woodwork to celebrate Dax and his return to the HOT! Festival. Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman are slated to be there, along with a host of other transient downtown artists.

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION ALERT: My very own Collective Opera Company will be doing an opera intervention/interactive performance of two excerpts from our upcoming project, SCARLET FEVER, an opera transposition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s iconic (and hilarious) novel, The Scarlet Letter!

Come out and support some hot Hot HOT performers while raising cash for ye old Dixon Place.

It’s here. It’s queer…That pretty much sums it up.

MONDAY, APRIL 6, ’09
Earl Dax Birthday Party + HOT! Festival Money Maker =

“PUSSY FAGGOT”

9PM-4AM

The Delancey Lounge
168 Delancey (between Clinton & Attorney)
Advance Tickets $16-ish with code “hotfest (must purchase in advance!)
Regular Advance Tickets $18 / $25 at the door.

Click through for fierce elaboration from Dax on what, exactly, “Pussy Faggot” is… Continue reading

TO DO: ACME, OHIO, and Arias

atonality-heartThere are a few notable affairs this weekend.

Tonight, the fab chamber ensemble, ACME, is presented by Wordless Music at Le Poisson Rouge. They will perform, along with former Shudder to Think frontman Craig Wedren, Lovesongs by Jefferson Friedman, which premiered last night at The Miller.

Saturday is the OHIO Theater‘s “Quantify Your Love Valentine’s Day Dance Party” benefit dance party to save their asses. If you’re free, around, and want to give the Ohio a bit of your own personal stimulus, tomorrow night’s the night.

And Sunday, if you’ve got a little passion left in your loins, you can check out two new arias composed by yours truly (aka, Ryan Tracy), for a proposed operatic adaptation of Edward Albee’s “Malcolm.” (Mm hmm, that’s right.) Singers Heather Meyer and Peter Tantsits try out the new material. Laura Poe accompanies on the piano. The concert is at Mannes, and includes music by other Mannes alumni and faculty. Admission is FREE, and things kick off at 1:30pm.

P.S.

I love you.

Moving On?

Wow…So…What was that all about?

Seriously, though, my campaign to take over New York City Opera obviously distracted me a little from covering other various important goings on in the world of the performing arts and criticism. I hope to bring you more main stream C.C. content from here on out. But, you know, sometimes when you catch a wave, you just have to run with it, ride it out, and see how far it will take you.

And while I’m still obsessed with effecting change in the culture of opera–and there are many ways to do this–the campaign is over. And we celebrated its passing at Chez Bushwick with an awesome screening of Dario Argento’s “Terror at the Opera.” (1987) For those of you who couldn’t make it, and haven’t seen this movie: see it now. Although, I would suggest watching it with a group in order to glean the most from the experience.

At said memorial service/screening, I also performed an aria I had composed specifically for the occasion: “I Wuz New York City Opera.” Heartbreaking, truly. We hope to bring you video evidence soon.

But there is definitely opera in the air right now, which is exciting. As if the universe has heard our fists pounding at the ceiling, it seems like our desire for a culture of new opera manifesting itself in the halls of downtown performance is suddenly materializing.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of catching Yoav Gal’s beautifully inventive “videopera”, Mosheh, at HERE.

Now there’s news that The Wooster Group is bringing a new opera deconstruction of Francesco Cavalli’s Baroque opera “Didone” to St. Anne’s this spring.

And to top it off, Richard Foreman and John Zorn have teamed up to create “Astronome: A Night at the Opera,” which opens this Thursday at the Ontological Hysteric, and runs through April.

It’s like a dream come true, only, without me being the director of the New York City Opera.

But for serious, this is all great news for new opera; and for anyone who believes a night at the opera can be a whole lot more than just another night at the opera.

Twilight of the Opera Houses

Amato Opera 1948-2009

RIP: Amato Opera 1948-2009

“The Christ in Me” and “The Bagwell in Me”: A comparative analysis

Below, you will find a post that I prepared weeks ago but didn’t get around to finalizing. It’s a revisit to Ann Liv Young‘s “The Bagwell in Me.” It’s a kind of mega-rant, full of twists and turns, perversities, theories, doubts, and, as always, criticisms. I know this makes me officially obsessed with her work, but whatevs.

Between writing this text and now, I have had a dream that Ann Liv was trying to be my friend, and I was nervous that she wouldn’t like me because of all the shit I wrote about her work. But, in the dream, she was actually totally cool with it. Alas, it was a dream.

After the following, I’m sure we’ll never be friends. But who knows. If I can call L. Ro. “a dirty old dried up lima bean” and then still wind up solid BFFs, maybe there’s hope for ALY and CC…

Foreplay

So, I’m following up on my review of Ann Liv Young’s “The Bagwell in Me”, for which I delivered a somewhat abrupt opinion, even for little old C.C. This is one of the benefits of blogging, in that I can revisit a review almost immediately after publishing it.

One thing readers of this site may have noticed over in the sidebar to the right, is that the top two posts almost every day for the past few weeks have been the awesomely bad Christian dance team from The Way, and my very first review of Ann Liv Young.

And before I posted the video from The Way, which now seems to be sending about a hundred people a day to this site, my review of Ann Liv at Rush Arts was always one of, if not the top read posts daily. I’d also like to note that this particular review has received over two thousand hits to date.

So can we learn anything from this statistical realities? I mean, what common interest could The Way and the work of Ann Liv Young possibly share?

Some initial observations…

Gawker Nation

First, and most obviously, spectacle. And this is spectacle in the first order, the kind that astonishes, but does not fundamentally impart any real knowledge. When people consume the kind of viral videos that The Way seems to have become, there is a shared sense of agog, or communal ridicule, or, for the more heart-warming viral videos (like the one with the lion hugging those two hippies), shared pathos. But my criticism of these YouTube hits is that they allow people to believe they know more about the world than they actually do.

Take the sensation, “Two Girls and a Cup” (That’s right! There’s a Wikipedia page. Definitely NSFW, and I honestly wouldn’t recommend anyone to watch it, unless you’re actually, genuinely interested in scatological fetish: aka, poop sex). Continue reading

A Measure of Change: Or, What “Sleeping With The Enemy” and Goat Island’s “Lastmaker” have in common with the election of Barack Obama

sleeping-with-the-enemy-posterIf this election cycle has had any single theme that has dominated all possible themes, it was without a doubt: CHANGE. Not only did Barack Obama’s campaign coin it and stick to it, but John McCain’s campaign co-opted it in an effort to portray the McCain/Palin ticket as the real agents of change. It is clear, now, who the majority of Americans believed could actually effect change. Now, what exactly “change” will be, specifically, in Barack Obama’s presidency, remains to be seen as his administration unfolds. But already there is a powerful sense of change, for many of us, that has already taken hold, and shapes our view of the world with each passing day. What is this “change”, and how can it be measured?

Wednesday, I was watching Spike Lee give an interview on one of the cable networks, and at one point, he proclaimed that from now on, America’s history will be measured as “BB” (or “Before Barack”), and “AB” (“After Barack”). (The obvious pitfall of using “Obama” in this scenario is that “Before Obama” comes up as “BO”…) At first, I was skeptical of the idea. It borders on the verge of hubris, and is too analogous to how the world’s history is divided between before and after the birth of Jesus Christ: the last thing we need is more unfortunate Obama=Jesus parallels.

But then, last night, as I was walking to meet C.C. BFF Claudia La Rocco at PS 122 to see Goat Island’s final production, “Lastmaker” (a really excellent piece that I enjoyed but didn’t really understand), it occurred to me that it was the first time I had seen Claudia since Barack Obama won the election. I also realized that “Lastmaker” would be the first performance I’d seen since then.

When we met, Claudia mentioned this feeling as well. It is strange. Neither of us was really a crazed Obama supporter (if anything, my own support for Barack Obama stemmed from a strong reaction against Republican leadership in general, although I am optimistic–with a healthy dose of skepticism–that Obama’s presidency will have a largely positive impact on our nation), and yet Claudia and I were both moved by this inexplicable knowledge that something had changed and we had not yet shared an experience with each other since that change had happened. This seemed to be a clear measure of change.

As we discussed this before the show began, I mentioned to Claudia that there is one other moment that changed my life in this way: Coming out as a gay man. Interestingly enough, this sense of change manifests itself through cinema.

Here’s what happens: Continue reading

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