In a corner, a woman dances. She is all lush curves with hard edges that slice through at unexpected moments. Meanwhile, another woman stares at you. "Fuck you," she says. She says it again, and again. She repeats it in permutations that drive themselves, quite skillfully, from a statement to a scream. Two women wrestle, and it is difficult to tell whether they are fighting or holding each other up. A man tells stories, just a fragment of each. A man undresses himself and dances with a woman, and it is such a magnified portrait of intimacy that it reduces everything else in the room to an almost suffocating hush.
On Wednesday, I went to the world premiere of "Please Love Me." The artists responsible for the evening are all people who I know and like and whose work I admire to the utmost. They are: Alex Ketley (choreographer), Les Stuck (musician/video artist), Christian Burns, Andrea Basile, Joy Prendergast, Kara Davis, and Malinda Lavelle (dancers, all). The project is partly an attempt to detach dance performance from its usual setting in a theater and wholly an examination of honesty and emotion. It provokes. It's not the kind of thing that you can settle back and just look at. It doesn't hand you a tidy list of rebus-like meanings. It demands that you converse with it, that you respond, that you see things through a lens of your own making -- everything filtered by your own emotions and your own history.
There were things that didn't work for me. For a piece that is meant to be mobile and seen out in the world as opposed to in the confines of a theater, I thought it was oddly sealed off from its surroundings. The particular space (a gorgeous room with black ceilings, pale walls, and narrow pillars) seemed to have no effect. Much of the movement was oriented toward a single "front," so certain things -- gestures, facial expressions -- made me feel like I was being left out.
But, mostly, it addressed things that I am mad about and crazy for. It moved dance, an art form that can be so refined and abstracted, toward a refreshing level of the human and mundane. "The meaning of life," says Kafka, "is that it ends." Isn't that cheerful? But if that's the case, shouldn't art rip you open? Shouldn't it ask you to feel something other than placid admiration? It should give you depth, since there's nothing it can do about length.
(if you want to go see this, and you really should, future performances are listed at the website)