“Realness” sounds like one of Stephen Colbert’s words, akin to truthiness. It came in handy recently in a dense, satisfying festival called American Realness, organized by Ben Pryor of TBSPmgmt, which coincided with APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters). While the term realness comes from the LGBT community, where it pertains to one’s ability to pass as the opposite gender, it was expanded here to apply broadly to life and creating. Who knows, maybe it will become an “ism” for a some of the performance that’s currently being done in the US that defies categorization.
Zoe|Juniper performed a segment of A Crack in Everything. Zoe Scofield’s choreography carved shapes and snapped into place, using the body to trap or release space. One of the four dancers turned upstage as they moved ensemble, adding visual interest. All of them, including one man, wore pale silk tunics, lending a formal touch to an otherwise feral attitude.
Watch a video of their performance:
An excerpt from Luciana Achugar’s Franny & Zooey utilized the Abrons Theater’s inviting aisles. A dancer ran through the house and beached onstage. Video played of her in a studio, accompanied by the cats in the title. Several women in denim shirtdresses did laps around the house while confronting our close gazes. Much of the sound was ambient, adding to the mundane atmosphere created by the video. The first woman, wearing just a t-shirt, walked backward toward us folded at the waist, so her bare lower body became an abstraction. The others formed a circle and collapsed, rolled around like human tank tread; they then stripped and danced joyously up the aisle.
In Layard Thompson’s piece, cUp—pUck…, a constant drizzle of tossed plastic bags floated to the audience from the mezzanine, reminders of gravity’s inexorable pull, and the accumulation of material goods that at first seemed insignificant, yet built alarmingly during a half hour span. Thompson, pantsless but continually pulling down his tank top in a sham nod to modesty, vogued down the aisle with a pink shopping bag over his head. He barked and squeaked consonants which, repeated, formed surprise words: you + me = yummy. Another drift of bags onstage spilled from a garbage can. Thompson put on briefs and stuffed them with the bags, forming grotesque bulges. He wiggled into a Mardi Gras-worthy cape and head piece (created with Machine Dazzle), made of tiers of cardboard and plastic cups, and was joined by several others, also lumpen with stuffed bags, in a grand tableau of trash and misguided fashion.
American Realness also included performances by Miguel Gutierrez (the epic Last Meadow), Jack Ferver, and Ann Liv Young. Sadly, Jeremy Wade was to offer a segment of a new solo, but travel problems prevented him from arriving in time—not realness, but reality.