Last Friday was a big day for me at the TBA festival.
So my friend Aaron Scott wrote a lovely review of Miguel and Nora here at Portland Monthly. So I’ll skip giving long detailed examples of what exactly happened and focus on what I got from it. or something…
The first performance I went to was Miguel Gutierrez “Heavens What Have I Done”. I saw Miguel a few years ago for his piece “Last Meadow” and his “DEEP AEROBICS” workshop and was totally inspired and lit up by the craft and passion put into the exploration of character, “realness”, theatricality and endurance necessary to dance those narratives. His DEEP AEROBICS class goes down as one of my top 10 rituals I’ve ever been to EVER. So, I came to his current show with a little expectation. He came out in clown drag face and skinny jeans asked us up on stage and talked to us about the process of making this piece filled with sassy quips and monologues tangentially spiraling from his mouth while he made a complete mess of the stage as his “set”. I don’t want to write off the first 1/2 of the show by reducing it as only a monologue. For me it me it was more. It was an invitation to understand the hyper analysis he imposes on his dance craft and performance making. It was an invitation to the personal complete with pictures of him and his ex-bf after a drug binge, a live clothing change (he’s often quick to perform bare or in his undies), a gym workout routine, and a sexual recover plan. He was also dropping books like little bomb-nuggets of potential clarity… I mean he literally pulled out books he says he’s been reading (but never finishing) that have influenced this NOT-SUPPOSED-TO-HAPPEN-PIECE. I sat there in the front row in a very well lit room, cramped together with a bunch of other folks who were not expecting to be cramped together.
**NOTE** Kind of like in PERFORATIONS! In fact it was the SAME STAGE we were cramped together in only one was well lit and offered a lot of entry into the subjective qualities of the work while another was in the dark… almost completely.***
Miguel eventually moved into hyperbolic performance mechanisms, loop pedals, song, translation, noise, fierce tantrums, some tango and a very sweet and sexual thank you.
I could readily identify and get excited about a lot of this work. His lipstick smeared cheap Marie Antoinette wig. His willingness to utilize his personal vulnerability and history as a texture in the work, direct and caring eye contact. All of this felt like an invitation to get to know a very sophisticated and crafted personality created to perform. And also on the meta I felt this piece was unfiltered. I felt I could have been watching this on webcam live streaming while he practiced/rehearsed this in his room/studio. I felt he was inviting me/us into his private rehearsal complete with live sing along to his favorite DIVA Cecilia Bartoli, a tantrum, dressing down to undies, dressing up in drag, reminiscing about past love and achievments… There was a moment though that felt very audience necessary. He said “I never finished college so I walk around feeling like a stupid person.” All while translating French and telling us a story about his achievements. That’s kind of like putting on a hot shade of lipstick and saying “I just don’t feel KISSABLE right now…”
well MG. Pucker up.
In contrast Nora Chipaumire’s “Miriam” was dark, dense, mysterious and difficult to translate. It’s been a few days since I watched it but I did take notes, and I can remember being gripped with tension during a lot of her show. Darkness defines her. While light moved like entities across the stage. A ritual in darkness, the mystery of womanhood vs the knowledge and illumination of patriarchy. There was a LOT to unpack. Sexuality, self-hatred, colonialism, translation of visual aesthetics into narrative. We are making up what we think we see. It was tense. Working so hard to attempt at seeing. Eventually 2/3’s of the way through I gave up and allowed myself to witness the shadow and light play, the sound passion of her gutteral body, sharp bird like calls… light as affectation, light as enemy, light as adversary. Dark, dark as body, dark is woman, dark is mystery, dark is holy, reflections the doubling of the woman’s spirit in the dark. My favorite moments was when both actresses/dancers would dance together just off step from each other… one in high heel wedges the other barefoot and in deep contraction for the majority of the piece. This provided me with one of my only entry points to readily identify with the characters. I know what it’s like to try and dance with someone in heels… IT SUCKS. I made up the story that High femme civilization Miriam was dancing with indigenous spirit animal woman body Miriam and the constraints of being femme in the world made it impossible to connect with the mystery and earthy power of the grounded other woman. Conversly… the strength and raw vulnerability of non-civilized woman, the connection to the earth, the water, the body… made it almost impossible to PASS as what we create femminine ideals to be. PASSING/TENSION/SHADE.
At the end the lights went out and no one clapped for almost two minutes, until the lights came up.That was a fucking rush for me! Cause, and I’m sorry but PDX y’all have a problem with clapping to ANYTHING and giving an easy standing ovation for anything that claps and dances to a tune. So, this piece, WHICH YOU COULDN’T SEE MUCH OF, prohibited that and that’s exciting for me.
So. Miguel… serves a lot up for me to readily eat. Queer Buffet.
Nora serves up a meal for me I had to work for, to go searching for, hidden in the darkness yet achingly beautiful when I’m able to expand my palette to savor it.
So far out of the shows I’ve seen at TBA Nora’s “Miriam” takes the cake as the most beautiful and engaging while still being challenging to watch.
(While Perforations takes the cake as being challenging and instigating discomfort)
My favorite transgressive rage beast CHRISTEENE.
Y’all know I LOVE her. And yes she is (buzzword) PROBLEMATIC. She is triggering, she is aggressive, she is loud, she is all kinds of trouble. AND SHE’S UP FRONT ABOUT IT IN HER PRESS! I don’t have time to unpack all my feelings about her… and there is a lot… I’ll just say she scratches a dark and dirty itch I know many MANY of us (faggots and not) carry with us. The need to see someone embody the taboo, rant and rave the inappropriate, and show off their hairy NAYNAY to some phat beets and sick rhymes. I saw a bunch of queer PDX show up and fill in the front rows at WHS for CHRISTEENE that night. I also got dressed in my favorite baby-boy-pretends-Leigh Bowery realness excess costume complete with Ghede glasses and drawn on hair.
I’m realizing the theme for FRI was entry points and identifications. Miguel I could identify, with “Miriam” I searched for a way into her world, and with CHRISTEENE I her entery point was a few feet from my face on display for all to see, in all its hairy glory, and sweaty shame. (NO SHAME).
Christeene’s schtick is to shock you while being a complete sweet heart. To spin into a state of catharsis and engage the sins of our hypersexualized and queerphobic culture. Her two gorgeous back up dancers are a real treat to watch because they are committed to some intense choreography, carrying Christeene around on their backs, being slapped, rimmed, spit on and pranced around like dressage ponies. There are a few moments that you can see how transcendant they are, their faces twisting into manic grins like excited little girls… or meth’d out synchronized swimmers. Either way it still hurts to watch, but you can’t look away.
She ended with African Mayonaise which I personally think is the theme song for our media drenched numb and searching at-risk-youth-of-today.
photos by Wayne Bund