Marcel Williams Foster doesn’t have the most convincing English accent, but it says something about his charm that within the first sixty seconds of his #JANEGOODALLDRAMA he has the entire audience performing a chimpanzee pant-hoot with him.
This is in Kensington, on the closing night of Mascher Space Cooperative’s Microfestival of Stubborn Occasions: a set of performances described as “a space where choreography is given permission to exist in the in-betweens.” Two shows are on the docket for tonight, Foster’s and Christina Gesualdi’s MY NEBULOUS SOLO.
GOODALL is referred to as a “burlesque drag,” though its burlesque is abstracted and this ain’t your old fashioned drag, with song, dance and racy jokes. Foster’s Jane is, for a drag dame, pretty tame, except for the chimpanzee rain dance, in which she throws chairs and proclaims theatrical analogies in heightened, poetic language—but according to Foster, the real life Goodall does this too.
Foster (and his new organization Performance Hypothesis) proposes that performance is as legitimate a mode of understanding as science. They strive to create performance art based in, and presenting, scientific concepts. His Goodall is trying to do the same thing, proposing to us through lecture, dance, and an eventful puppet show that her colonial prejudices do not invalidate her once-lauded scientific discoveries—as post-colonial theorists have suggested.
Foster has many many performative ideas to present; watching him, you pass back and forth between wishing that his point wasn’t so cluttered and blithe delight at each new invention. He has constructed an intriguing lecture-performance hybrid. He has deconstructed burlesque into something more civilized than what we expect it to be; he’s done something respectful and thoughtful to drag; and yet he’s shameless with his dramatic structure. He’s presented science with puppets. We cannot follow every point; there is a sense that we are watching something unfinished, but which is burning with inventive fire.
The next act up was the humble and hypnotizing MY NEBULOUS SOLO by Christina Gesualdi: a “digestion” of her duet piece, Our Nebulous Motor, which also ran in the Microfest, and in a slightly different form during the 2013 SoLow Fest.
For SOLO, Gesualdi has made a few changes; among other things, she has stripped out the walking and the hallway. Anyone who saw Motor will understand that these are pretty big cuts; MOTOR could be described in short as slowly walking up and down a hallway.
Stripped of the major action and setting—like a Hamlet production without the duel or “to be or not to be”—Gesualdi discovers a shockingly lively reduction. Remaining are these swiveling arm-dances, where she pumps and swirls her arms, her hips, her knees, bouncing almost like a child and almost like a steam engine, bobbing toward a resolution and then passing it, repeating and revising the cycle. Remaining are the face-dances, similarly unresolved half-smiles, distant gazes and near-lip-syncs. Newly discovered is a wobbly bit where she writhes on the ground and attempts to stand up.
The “stubborn occasions” in this piece are the occasions which repeatedly don’t happen; in her revision (reduction? dissolution?) of Motor, Gesualdi creates an unsettling suspense while struggling mindfully toward a moment which doesn’t exist. November 15-17, 2013, mascherdance.com.