AGE & BEAUTY, parts 1 & 2 (Miguel Gutierrez/ FringeArts): Choreographing the harsh realities of being a working artist

Photo by Ian Douglas.
Photo by Ian Douglas.

This three-part series by Miguel Gutierrez explores the difficulties of the performer’s life and career. Recent performances of parts one and two at FringeArts gave Philadelphians insight into the harsh realities of being a working artist.


In Part 1, Gutierrez along with performer and collaborator Mickey Mahar explore the dynamics of the body throughout time, and its relation to acceptance and performance. The two, Gutierrez (43) and Mahar (24), both trained dancers, take the obedience of their bodies and deconstruct the expectation of performance. Highlighting the dominance of a choreographer over a performer and the expectation of a moving body: how it should move and what it should look like.

Gutierrez is alive and dead simultaneously. The habits and training within a dancing body is said to die at a certain age, but the soul of the dancer still remains. We see one body perceived to be in its prime for stage use, next to it we see a body that “should” be done performing this type of work. Seeing these two bodies in unison, Gutierrez expands what a dancing body “should” be and what a mid-career, middle-aged gay man’s role in performance is. We see Gutierrez as a capable body in space next to the prime career, tall and slender Mahar.

We see both bodies break the mold of training and physical accuracy. No longer dancers in a limiting and structured way, we see them as vessels of experience and sensation actively accessing their history, desires and frustrations in front of us. Their actions shatter the designated social norms of their age, race, and expectations. Constantly they create a safe place for their existence, a new queer to the designation of norm. A fantasy of a queer existence is solidified all while the reality and power of the norm previously established beyond the theatre doors still remains as a destructive anchor. In the end, we leave and nothing has really changed, our system is still designed with designated values and perceptions.

In Part 2, Gutierrez breaks down the spectacle and fantasy that was established in Part 1. Instead Part 2 is a literal manuscript of many conversations between Gutierrez (played by Jaime Maseda) and his manager Ben Pryor about the process of trying to make AGE & BEAUTY a reality.

The original idea, a duet between Gutierrez and Michelle Boulé, is overtaken by the process to fund, organize, and create the work. This unexpected element became so pertinent to not only the process but also the content that it became necessary to perform.  Gutierrez, as one of the most successful in his style of work breaks down the inevitable façade that comes with success.

Structurally in many ways Part 2 is incredibly transparent. Our focus is pulled toward the conversation between Pryor and Maseda all while long time collaborator, Boulé, performs various works from the past 14 years of working with Gutierrez. We focus on every detail of the conversation while having to remind ourselves of Boulé’s existence. Even when performing captivating solo work, Boulé seems to fade into the background. The audience struggles with deciding what to pay attention to, much like Gutierrez did in the process of funding and creating this work.

This brilliant dichotomy of performance polarizes our attention creating a platform of decision making that is both incredibly frustrating and a harsh realization of the world we live in. A world structured for linear thought regardless of how many non-linear thinkers actively push against it. [FringeArts, 140 North Columbus Boulevard] November 10-14, 2015;

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