I saw Sarah Michelson’s show tonight at the Walker. Devotion. I’m not sure I have much to say about it, but if I were formulating a response for facebook (because that’s what you do in this day and age) I would say “Devotion: like meditating while watching the Olympics in lieu of Easter mass.”
Who am I kidding “would” – that’s what I will say when I’m done writing this blog and and I lose myself on facebook. But I don’t want to lose myself too much. I like this place I’m in- that strange high alienation that made me not want to talk to anyone after the show, that sense of otherworldliness.
I loved it. I wasn’t always sure during the show. It was a show that required patience. It was a show that required over two hours of attention. It was dense. But I found a state, much like my experience of L’Effet de Serge, of taking in, of absorption. Only unlike L’Effet de Serge, I was also viscerally engaged. I felt the exhaustion, the burn, the elation of the enduring performers. The intense, almost vicious repetition. I hit a point where I kept thinking “This is devotion. This is devotion.” The harshness, the dedication, the holy striving, constant giving and giving over. Endurance is an act of sacrifice. Devotion is a measure of burning away what is human to reach a more pure humanness.
The piece ended with a statement, in the midst of other rambling narrative, “We are perfect.” “We are perfect because we are not perfect.” (Or maybe “I am perfect because I am not perfect?”) The epilogue monologue was maybe the only thing I’m not sure I liked (or the only thing I seriously questioned) but it did underline that essence of the dance. The contradiction of human perfection. Adam and Eve had to be kicked out of the garden. Pain is evil, pain is necessary to understand bliss. And yet Eve has to imagine a ‘what if’ – never being kicked out- the impossibility of perfection.
This is a dance that will stick with me. It was whole. It was artfully crafted. It was a dance that had to be a dance. It was light and set and sound and mind and body. It was full of precise movement and inhuman feats and willowing text that distracted from the movement as the movement distracted from the poetry of the text. It wove and repeated- the phrasework itself, and the music, but also the chapters from the first long section of narration. I heard the story through the rest of the dance, newly, echoingly.
I remember the buzz that skittered around facebook when Charles Campbell quoted an bit from an interview with Sarah Michelson (as quoted on the Walker blog) on his status- “I’m trying to make dance that’s inaccessible, because the more you make it accessible the more it seems unnecessary.” A provocative statement that spun into many different interpretations in the wooly world of facebook opinions. But watching the show today, that quote came back, and I understood it in the context of her work. This show spoke to me. I understood something that I cannot understand, not in words, and maybe not at all. But something interstitial, something reaching for meaning and being meaning at the same time. A contradiction of beauty and humanity and all those words that floated through Devotion.
And that my friends, is why I love dance.