For anyone interested in getting an in-depth understanding of the performances at The Joyce Theater and contextualizing the works within broader intellectual movements and artistic interests, The Joyce Theater Dance Talks provide an excellent opportunity. The talks highlight the creative process, the personal interests and intellectual inquiries of the artists, and offer multiple viewpoints on the works as they complement the artists’ views with audiovisual material and invite the audience’s participation.
Last Monday’s talk on the work of Lucinda Childs, with the presentation of Patrick Bensard’s documentary and a discussion with the artist herself, was astonishing in how it enriched the experience of watching Childs’ DANCE at The Joyce. Bensard’s film pointed to the connections between Childs’ interest in minimalism and broader intellectual and artistic movements (Dadaism, the art of Marcel Duschamp, Wittgenstein’s concept of ordinary language and how it can translate to dance). In behind-the-scenes sequences the film also revealed the creative process itself, the degree of heightened focus and concentration required of the dancers currently reviving the piece as they prepare to go on stage having to trace their way through the often a-rhythmical music of Philip Glass.
But even more than that, it was having listened to Childs herself, her beautiful voice, graceful and austere presence as she answered the audience’s questions, that immensely added to the experience of watching her performance. She explained her fascination with choreographing on repetitive or non rhythmical music patterns that allow her to explore pure, abstract movement; her process of scoring these choreographies with movement cartographies and beat sequences; her interest, in her current work, in exploring the boundaries and collisions between movement, music and text as they allow her to create “fragmented yet coherent narratives.”
Watching the footage of her work on her latest solo piece Largo (part of the current Joyce presentation) an audience member asked Childs how she sees her work changing with age. She simply answered that if she were to put it in words, she would rather dance it. And, true, watching Childs dance Largo on Tuesday evening was the most eloquent answer, of a body exploring space and the possibilities of movement, in gestures that are restricted and hesitant yet in command, a beautiful, beautifully aged body seeking and affirming its place in space.
It was a fortunate meeting, between artist, audience, documentation and the work itself, that made the performance of DANCE a full experience – intellectual, personal, artistic. I am looking forward to the next Talk on Orbo Novo.
The next Dance Talk, which focuses on Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s Orbo Novo, will take place on Monday, Oct. 12, 6-8pm at Joyce SoHo (155 Mercer Street). Admission is free. Please call 646-792-8377 to reserve your place.