Nicole Bindler / Body-Based Performance Choreography ~ Improvisation ~ Site Specific Performance ~ Movement Education
“When We’re Older” performing “Invisible” at How Philly Moves, 2008. Photo by JJ Tiziou.
Artist Statement I am a body-based performing artist, inspired by my studies of new dance, dance-theater, Contact Improvisation, and Butoh. I'm also a bodyworker and use Somatic practices, such as Body-Mind Centering (BMC), Yoga and Feldenkrais as a source of creativity, inspiration and physical training. My somatic-based dance practice synthesizes biomechanics and poetics into a movement form that serves the dancing body while maintaining a space for mystery. As a politically minded artist who interrogates theatrical conventions and the very notion of beauty, I embrace the complexity of a practice that demands constant research, attention, questioning, curiosity and delight in the unknown. I research extended movement techniques which yield a unique dance vocabulary individual to my particular body. I also develop teaching methods to help other movement artists find their own personal vocabulary of extended techniques. My performance practice broadens the possibilities for dance virtuosity beyond the development of athleticism towards an embodied, intelligent, performance presence. Performance is a social art form and I am a promiscuous collaborator. I have a voracious appetite to learn and grow from working with peer artists. I embrace the challenges and potential conflicts that arise in collaborative processes. My work is always site-specific in that I seek to activate and enliven all spaces that I perform in, whether they are theaters, studios, homes, places of business or the outdoors. I also seek to connect audience members to their own embodied, corporeal experience with the immediacy and spontaneity of performance.
Press “Bindler and Haworth took turns, long limbs leading in linear shapes which dissolved, collapsed, and rebounded into structured forms again. A shared glance linked them across the distance, the first of a few rare moments of connection in their plain-faced duet. The tenuous connection persisted as they picked up bits and pieces--little jumps, energy states--from one another’s movement. These moments of synchronicity evolved into a satisfying end with the two swirling toward another, a pair of gyroscopes meeting.” --thINKingDance, 2013 "Hay’s principle instruction to all participants is to “invite being seen.” Bindler gets this. In I Think Not, even her eyeballs don’t mind being looked into. She touches Hay’s invitation to invite being seen lightly, deepening the already powerful yet humble presence I’ve seen in one other piece of hers." --Chris Dohse, NYC based freelance journalist, 2012 “The most compelling emotional dynamic of attraction and separation visible in Pia Mater was in an early, entrancing duet danced convincingly by William Henry Robinson and Shelby Lynn Joyce. The two began in close, weighted, caring contact, heads nestled into the other’s neck. They gradually widened their mutual distances while circling each other, maintaining constant eye contact of ambiguous meaning. The slow circling evolved into runs, and at one point was punctuated by sudden leaps high into each other's bodies and embracing arms...” --thINKingDance, 2012 “She twisted herself into awkward shapes that often made her fall and always made her look grotesque. Yet there was something strangely touching in this dance of anti-beauty.” --Broad Street Review, 2012 “Gabrielle Revlock and Nicole Bindler’s exuberant, brash, crowd-pleasing, insidery, rambunctious I made this for you demands its own space. It was showy, it was sprawling, it literally blew the doors of the space open.” --thINKingDance, 2011 "I Made This for You, by Nicole Bindler and Gabrielle Revlock, was a shameless, shocking and on-target rebuke to the very idea of making artists compete against each other. Are they gladiators or are they dancers?" --Broad Street Review, 2011 This is fun, almost as much fun as a stadium full of screaming football fans. As we leave I have one question: how could I have gone this far in life without seeing the fun in dance? --Main Line Media News, 2011 "...refreshing originality, brilliance in conception and raunchy entertaining fun" --Broad Street review, 2011 "Where most of dance artists make use of improvisation as an aspect of broader artistic explorations and choreography, Nicole has focused a majority of her career on exploring improvisation as a unique form, and has amassed a particularly celebrated roster of musical collaborators." --Bowerbird, 2010 "A fixture in Philadelphia’s experimental dance scene... ...Nicole Bindler is known for riveting performances." --Philadelphia Weekly, 2010 "I'd heard Bindler was a good dancer from MacArthur "genius" awardee Liz Lerman, but there was more performance art than dance in Sand in My Soda Pop. In a pink helmet, but fully nude for parts of the piece, Bindler simulated sex with a man's jumpsuit (clearly a reference to Nijinsky's Afternoon of a Faun), dived behind umbrellas she had earlier propped on stage, held Annie Wilson aloft and then lit sparklers for an explosive finale." --Philadelphia Inquirer, 2010 "Nicole Bindler created Mama, My Legs Are Too Long in homage to her Haitian nanny. Lip-synced French songs with contrasting movement demonstrate Bindler's performing chops. Spanning childlike bounciness to adult despair, Bindler lets us trace her feelings, if not their causes." --Philadelphia Inquirer, 2010
"He steadies her, time after time, with a few close calls where the other members of the troupe gasp as her head comes close to bashing into the floor or wall. It’s incredibly graceful despite the free-fall force... ...I’m hypnotized." --Philadelphia City Paper, 2009 "Nicole Bindler is a frequent contributor to the avant-garde creative energy of Philadelphia." --Teresa Shockley, Director of the Community Education Center, 2007 "It takes a certain kind of dance group to have members improvise a performance for five hours. Nicole Bindler... ...is the mastermind behind such a company." --South Philly Review, 2006 "Nicole Bindler’s “Print” is the most engaging – if most confounding – performance on the docket" --Philadelphia City Paper, 2005 "The festival's most stirring performance... eerie intensity" --Signal to Noise, 2004 "among the most extraordinary things I've ever witnessed" --Cadence, 2004 "hilarious... caused a small uproar" --Distortion Music Magazine, 2003 "Nicole Bindler’s name is ubiquitous in the local dance community as an active organizer of dance events as well as a freshly innovative performer" --The Jewish Advocate, 2002 "One of the most impressive young women on the local scene" --The Boston Herald, 2002 "...solid technical facility, a postmodern sensibility, a fondness for minimalist music and a strong sense of the theatrical... hypnotic" --The Boston Globe, 2001
Bindler performing free improvisation, 2005. Photo courtesy of the High Zero Festival.
Nicole Bindler, Philadelphia based choreographer, improviser, educator and bodyworker, is a body-based performing artist whose work ranges from personal and political commentaries to abstract explorations of form. She has choreographed over twenty original performance works and has performed over 200 improvised dances since 1999. Internationally, Bindler has been presented in Canada (Shawinigan Street Theater Festival), Argentina (multiple venues 2004, 2009, 2011 & 2013), Berlin (Kule Theater), Tokyo (SuperDeluxe), Beirut (Irtijal09'), Mexico City (Segundo Festival Internacional Cerro de Arena) and Quito, Ecuador (La Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana). Her work has been shown throughout the United States: in New York (Performance Mix Festival at the Joyce Soho (2006 & 2012), DraftWork at Danspace Project, ThirdBird at Abrons Arts Center, Center for Performance Research, Chez Bushwick, The Bridge Series at WAX), Washington D.C. (The Kennedy Center, Dance Place, D.C. Improvisation Festival, The Dance Exchange, The Warehouse) Baltimore (High Zero Festival, Transmodern Age Festival, The Theater Project, The Creative Alliance), Seattle (Fireside Festival), Chicago (Links Hall, Silverspace), throughout Massachusetts (Hampshire College, The Somerville Theater, Mobius, Berwick Research Institute, Lesley University, Green Street Studios, The Dance Complex, X Fest), Austin, TX (Mercury Hall), and Marfa TX (The Crowley Theater). She has been presented in Philadelphia by Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, Live Arts Brewery, nEW Festival, Bowerbird, CEC New Edge Mix, First Person Arts, Philadelphia Dance Projects, the Arts Bank, International House, Nexus, Slought Foundation, Angler Movement Arts Center, Shofuso House, Highwire Gallery, Pageant Soloveev, thefidget space and Mascher Space Cooperative. Her work has been supported by Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (through Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts) and she has been awarded six Professional Development Grants from The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage’s progam Dance Advance. Her piece "I made this for you”, created in collaboration with Gabrielle Revlock, was a 2011 finalist for the A.W.A.R.D. Show! Her new collaboration with Revlock, “The Dance Apocalypse” was awarded a Planning Grant from the PEW Center for Arts and Heritage. Bindler holds a BA in Dance and Poetry from Hampshire College, a degree in Muscular Therapy from the Muscular Therapy Institute and certificates in Embodied Anatomy Yoga and Embodied Developmental Movement and Yoga from the School for Body-Mind Centering (BMC). She has studied with many dance masters including: Judson luminaries Barbara Dilly and Deborah Hay; Contact Improvisation masters Karen Nelson, Chris Aiken, K.J. Holmes and Felice Wolfzahn; and Butoh masters Yoshito Ohno and Katsura Kan. She has taught New Dance, Improvisation, Contact Improvisation and Experiential Anatomy throughout the U.S., Argentina and at Contact Festival Freiburg, Germany. She has taught Somatics, Yoga and Improvisation at the University of the Arts, Therapeutic Bodywork at the Massage Arts Center in Philadelphia, and "Anatomy for Asana" for Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga teacher trainings throughout Philadelphia. Bindler has performed in the work of Linda Diamond, Brenda Divelbliss, Jennifer Hicks, Debra Bluth, Ju-Yeon Ryu, Leah Stein, PIMA Group, Willi Dorner and Katsura Kan. She has also worked with many experimental musicians and visual artists. She is currently the Programs Coordinator at Mascher Space Cooperative where she curates FALLS BRIDGE: new movement, improvisation and performance festival in collaboration with Curt Haworth and University of the Arts. In 2012 she toured to 5 different cities with Deborah Hay's solo "I Think Not," which she learned at the Solo Performance Commissioning Project in Findhorn, Scotland, 2011.
Selected Performance works (tech requirements available upon request) The Dance Apocalypse, 2012 (60 minutes) Choreographed by Nicole Bindler and Gabrielle Revlock in collaboration. Premiered at Danspace Project, NYC. (Photo by unknown, 2012.)
Video excerpt: https://vimeo.com/56576257 A Directors' Commentary, pairing projected footage from "I made this for you" with project-specific video, live annotation and wild fight choreography. I made this for you, 2011 (40 minutes) Choreographed by Nicole Bindler and Gabrielle Revlock in collaboration. Premiered at the A.W.A.R.D. Show! Philly, PA. (Photo by Jano Cohen, 2011.)
Video Excerpts: http://vimeo.com/33297869 http://vimeo.com/36195127 (password: circus!!) A raucous, playful yet earnest dance about audience engagement and community building. “I made this for you” challenges notions of competition and conventional forms of beauty by using biting wit and playful commentary. I Think Not, 2011 (20 minutes) Choreographed by Deborah Hay. Adapted and performed by Nicole Bindler. Premiered at the Dance Exchange, DC. (Photo by Andrew Bossi, 2011.)
Video Excerpt: https://vimeo.com/35613183 An intimate solo performed in the round that poses the questions: “What if how I see while I’m dancing is a means by which movement arises without looking for it?” and “What if my perception of the space within the circle, changing as I move through it, enlarges the experience of my dancing?” Improvised Performances I approach the dance as music and pay close attention to my relationship to time. I also draw from the stimulus in the space-the architecture, lighting and audience, developing a spontaneous, non-linear narrative of corporeal experience, composed in real time. My use of breath, stillness and focus allows the audience an opportunity to drop into their own sensations. It is my hope that through performing improvised dance that I can draw audiences closer to their own sense of body-time. Solo: https://vimeo.com/34277449 Duo with Curt Haworth: https://vimeo.com/59679793 Duo with David Dove: https://vimeo.com/59634134 Duo with Andy Hayleck: https://vimeo.com/59698336 Duo with Dan Blacksberg: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FieHRh8Ebv4 Duo with Gene Coleman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuHB2jOoKJ0
Pia Mater, 2007 (45 minutes) Choreography/Composition for a large ensemble, 17 dancers, 5 musicians. Premiered at Mascher Space Coop, Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Paul Santoleri, 2007.)
Video Excerpt: https://vimeo.com/33432125 Latin for tender mother, “Pia Mater” is the anatomical name for the innermost layer of connective tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. “Pia Mater” is inspired by both the anatomical image and the idea of a tender mother. The piece takes place at a party and explores social anxiety, intimacy and alienation.
Mama My Legs Are Too Long, 2010 (14 minutes) Choreographed dance-theater solo work. Premiered at Mascher Space Cooperative, Philadelphia, PA. “Mama, My Legs Are Too Long" is a solo dance-theater work honoring the life and death of Nelly, the woman who raised Bindler for the first 10 years of her life while her parents were at work. Nelly was a Haitian refugee who fled to the U.S. in the 60’s with her husband, Jacques. Although Nelly spoke Kreyol, she taught Bindler French and “Mama” explores this tension between French colonialism and Haitian Kreyol. “Mama” also questions the role of grief in the loss of a nanny, who is like family but is paid to be a mama.
The Drought, 2006 (12 minutes) Choreography/Composition duo created by Nicole Bindler and Andy Hayleck. Premiered at the Community Education Center, Philadelphia, PA. Video Excerpt: https://vimeo.com/59701409 Inspired by J.G. Ballard's book of the same title this piece is about a worldwide drought. The movement, choreographed and performed by Bindler, is inspired by butoh and contemporary dance-theater. The music is composed and performed by Andy Hayleck, playing bowed metal, electronics and invented instruments.
Sand in my Sodapop 2003 (16 mins) Choreographed solo with sound score by Diane Ray, Dntel, Andy Hayleck. Premiered at Links Hall, Chicago, IL. Video Excerpt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzPFvzso9j8 A woman has an unrequited crush on the lifeguard at the beach. He doesn't even know she exists. Will she drown herself to get his attention, or will the world be destroyed by nuclear war before she gets a chance? Sand in My Soda Pop is a tragicomic dance-theater work that is funny, subversive and full of surprises.
Ceiling Fan in Philadelphia, 2002 (9 mins) Choreographed dance duet with original sound score by Bhob Rainey. Premiered at Green Street Studios, Boston, MA. Video Excerpt: https://vimeo.com/55059428 Two lovers encircle one another as if tethered by an invisible string. They are both tied to one another and repelled. Their passion devolves to a sibling-like rivalry and the only way out of the holding pattern is to cut the string.
Master Classes Each of these workshops can be formatted as a single class, a weekend or a full week residency, culminating in an informal workshop showing. Contact Improvisation CI is a partner dance form using physical contact, weight sharing and human connection as the impetus for the dance. The point of contact is used as a fulcrum for movement not physically possible in a solo dance. Using gravity and momentum the dance unfolds in unexpected ways. As an improvised form, there is an emphasis on being present and open to the unknown.
Bindler Teaching Improvisation in Rosario, Argentina, 2010. Photo by Peter Kozma
Performance Practice / Improvisation In Performance Practice we work with composed and improvised movement scores to carve out our edges as performers. We will work with the building blocks of composition: Space, Time, Shape, Movement, Emotion and Story to create dances spontaneously. We will investigate use of the eyes, head and breath to develop subtlety and nuance within our performance. This workshop broadens the possibilities for dance virtuosity beyond the development of athleticism towards an embodied, intelligent, performance presence. BMC® Yoga is the study of anatomy and developmental movement, experientially through the practice of Yoga. We will explore our different body systems (muscle, bone, connective tissue, fluids, organs, endocrine, breath, nervous) their different qualities and functions through yoga postures and movement. We also explore our ontogeny through a revisiting of our primitive reflexes, senses and perception, embryology and basic neurological patterns from the first year of life. This class emphasizes a sense of curiosity and play as we find our unique alignment within our asana practice. Anatomy for Asana This is a course for Yoga teachers, teachers-in-training and experienced students who want to deepen their personal practice and broaden their teaching skills. There is an emphasis on direct applications to teaching Yoga from an anatomical perspective. This course can be taught as the 12 hour requirement for Anatomy and Physiology for Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher Trainings. This course can also be offered as an extended 48 hour advanced training for Yoga Teachers. Somatic Aesthetics: composing from within Somatic practices can inspire our artistry and deepen our performance practice in solo, contact and ensemble dancing. I seek intuitive dances that are both viscerally driven and rigorous within form, time and space. In this lab-like environment I hypothesize that there is a connection between kinesthetic desire, embodied impulses and spatial consonance and/or dissonance. There is no one answer, nor a singular goal. Let's research together! Moving Monologues: solo movement / text improvisations We will use text/movement improvisations as a practice to learn more about who we are as performers and to gently push ourselves further. We will ask ourselves how can we be articulate in both media? My personal interest is not in finding a direct correlation between the movement and text, but in using one to unlock habits in the other. Blood, Sea: salty, fluid dances This class delves into the spiralic, rhythmic, oceanic nature of the blood to find momentum, gravity and flow within our contact dances. Tuning in to the fluid movement within, we will expand our dances beyond the musculo-skeletal body and we will dance with heart.
Residency Testimonials "During the spring of 2005 I worked with Nicole Bindler in a workshop of dance improvisation in Fundación El Ciclope, Córdoba. The workshop consisted in two days of intense work. The workshop gave me important information for further investigations in my dance. I strongly recommend Nicole as a resident artist because she is a person who never stops searching and looking for new things, and most of all, is a generous artist. I think it is very important to find a teacher who can offer and share her knowledge, and also is open minded to learn from others. -- Griselda de Elejalde, Dance-Theater Artist, member of KAO performatic theater, Cordoba, Argentina. "Nicole Bindler has seriously revolutionized my relationship with my knees, my plié, and thus pretty much my entire upright dancing self." -- Annie Wilson, Dancer, Yoga Teacher "I met Nicole attending my first yoga class. Her dedication of learning shines through in all her ways of teaching. She has a beautiful intuitiveness of reading people and applying just the right needs for them. Her body moves as gently as she speaks, her teachings both spoken and silent remain with me all throughout the day. Her expansive knowledge and experience of the body teaches us about its movements, and all its interconnectedness with ourselves and the world, and allows us the opportunity to apply these practices in various ways. Her efforts in learning and sharing have allowed me to apply greater consciousness and intention in all my actions. It is truly a pleasure and a gift to take a class with such a talented and enthusiastic mentor." --Blaine Pirareo, Contractor Nicole is a very gifted teacher. In her somatics classes, I have always experienced my mind-body connection deepen, and my physicality and spacial awareness open up through deep exploration of the anatomy. She also has the ability to tune into every single person in the class, and to create a space where everyone feels safe, open, and playful. Her strong yet sensitive leading skill makes her class easy to observe, and the materials expand in many directions. --Rebecca Lloyd-Jones, Dancer, Massage Therapist "Nicole seemed to see into our bodies and know what we needed to improve on. Her acute body awareness helped her to understand our weaknesses and push us to explore and strengthen them. Our entire group feels that we benefited greatly from her gentle and directed instruction. Zaitoun recommends her as a talented, patient, and conscientious instructor." -- Bonnie Toland, Founding Member of Zaitoun Dance Troupe
“The Aquatic Uncle” Performed at the D.C. Improvisation Festival, 2003. Photo by Enoch Chan.
Grants & Awards 2013 - PEW Center for Arts and Heritage: The Dance Apocalypse, collaboration with Gabrielle Revlock. 2012 - Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts, Project Stream Grant: Deborah Hay Solo Festival. 2012 - Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative: Mascher Space Cooperative Retreat. 2012 - Bryn Mawr College: subsidized Composition Workshop and artist stipend with Susan Rethorst. 2011 - A.W.A.R.D. Show! finalist for “I made this for you” in collaboration with Gabrielle Revlock. 2011 - Dance Advance Professional Development Grant: March to Marfa intensive with Barbara Dilley. 2011 - Live Arts Brewery, subsidized Kalari intensive and artist stipend with Jayachandran Palazhy. 2011 - New Stages for Dance Initiative theater rental subsidy support for the performance of Pia Mater. 2010 - Dance Advance Professional Development Grant: Deborah Hay, SPCP, Findhorn, Scotland. 2010 - CEC New Edge Mix grant: Performance of Sand in My Soda Pop. 2009 - Foundation For Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant: Travel to Beirut to perform in IRTIJAL’09. 2009 - Dance Advance Professional Development Grant: Dance Ranch Marfa, Lower Left Collective. 2008 - Dance Advance Professional Development Grant: Katsura Kan residency at Mascher Co-op. 2008 - Dance Advance Professional Development workshop and participant stipend with Deborah Hay. 2007 - Dance Advance Professional Development Grant: New Dance/Japan residency, Corrie Befort. 2006 - Philadelphia Dance Projects support to commission a work by Asimina Chremos. 2005 - CEC New Edge Mix grant: Performance of Wrong Boat.
Photo by Leila Simon.
Wish You Were Here: “Fresh Juice” Serves Up Age Old Questions In A New Vessel by R. Eric Thomas, October 28, 2011 Gabrielle Revlock and Nicole Bindler’s exuberant, brash, crowd-pleasing, insidery, rambunctious I made this for you demands its own space. !It was showy, it was sprawling, it literally blew the doors of the space open. What’s most fascinating, however, about Revlock and Bindler’s superbly constructed, intelligent piece is how well it meshed with the decidedly more subdued pieces that preceded it. !I made this for you, its proverbial tongue superglued inside its proverbial cheek, initiated a conversation about what dance “is”—played as a hyper-literal spoken exchange between Revlock’s self described “experimental postmodern abstract” dancer and Bindler’s American Apparel-clad hipster. !Bindler objected to Revlock’s loose-limbed, isolated movements, claiming that what she was doing was not dance. Or, I should say, Bindler’s character objected--with the heavy use of dialogue in this performance and its arch tone, the chasm opened up between each dancer and the character she was portraying, functions of the artifice. Aiming to please, Revlock’s character scampered off-stage and returned clutching a hula hoop. She galloped and twirled about the stage with a Toddlers in Tiaras-like air of desperation as Bindler looked on non-plussed, casually disrobed and proceeded to pour her limbs around the space with languid precision. Revlock’s character froze in a grimace that read shock, shame, anger and wonder. The dialogue ended: words failed on-stage as they do in this review and the artifice began to deconstruct itself with Charlie Kaufmanesque cleverness as the dancers descended into a rabbit hole of styles, intentions and meanings. The piece vacillated wildly between madcap references and earnest contemplations, with equally varying results. At one point a panel of judges was brought on-stage for commentary, a rhetorical gesture both annoying and thought-provoking. !Craig Peterson, of the Live Arts Brewery, rather hilariously deemed the piece a “vomitorium of styles” and “a dance apocalypse” with a level of snark that prompted one to wonder, “Is he playing a character, too?” Lisa Kraus, editor of this website, pointed out the potential disconnect. !“There’s a piece of me that’s not sure how to look at the performance aspect,” she said. “Is it well-acted, for instance?” !The query was left dangling, however, as Peterson took a cellphone call. For every step forward into an exploration of the larger intention, there was an equal step back into artifice. The latter increased in speed and frequency as the judges were quickly ushered off the stage and Revlock and Bindler commenced a series of sketches leading to their stunning final act. !There was an prolonged sequence when Bindler French-kissed an audience member while Revlock presented a yoga dance with a partner; there was a trapeze artist, a poll of the audience, a b-girl, a wrestling match, roller skating. !There was a moment when the piece broke open and dancers came out of the woodwork, tap-dancing, popping and locking, doing the salsa, capoeira and probably a dozen other kinds of physical performance. !The circus-like atmosphere spilled out into the house and dancers cajoled audience members to abandon their seats, their introspection and join them as “Kids” by MGMT admonished “Take only what you need from it. It didn't take a leap of imagination to see yourself on-stage at Mascher’s showy, heady “Fresh Juice,” and not only because that’s where the majority (though, curiously, not the entirety) of the audience ended up. ! Through experiments with form and content—and even redefinition—the evening of disparate, affecting pieces posed questions of being and belonging that lingered long after the impromptu dance party faded away.
Dancing for dollars - JONATHAN M. STEIN - 05-24-2011 Spoofing the competition But for refreshing originality, brilliance in conception and raunchy entertaining fun, my winner in the entire series was Gabrielle Revlock’s I made this for you. Instead of pulling an earlier piece out of repertory, Revlock, with her co-choreographer Nicole Bindler and a large, boisterous family from the Philadelphia contemporary dance community, created a new event-specific work that courageously seized on and skewered the contradictions of the dance competition series itself. Finally, after six years, dancers responded to the manipulations of the A.W.A.R.D. Show with an intelligent take-off delivered through dance. In this jumble of a performance, Bindler came on stage to interrupt an initial duet by Revlock and Kristel Baldoz, containing quizzical, repeated head turns and clunky but precision-timed falls. Together, Revlock and Bindler interrogated the dance just performed (an “experimental judgment day dance”) and asked what is dance (a fiveletter word, “j-u-d-g-e”). The spoken and danced satire in I made this for you extended to the history of dance competitions in the ’30s (remember They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?). If the work contained its share of flat lines, that’s in itself an argument for saying more through movement and less in text. French kissing Revlock and Bindler spoofed A.W.A.R.D.’s audience participation voting gimmick, by having the audience vote on whether they wanted to see Revlock do her Yoga dance, or Bindler make out on stage with an audience member. To the sweet crooning of “Trouble Every Day,” the ballad sung by the Tindersticks, the audience got both: Revlock, with Sean Rosswell, created a strikingly balletic Yoga duet with Sanskrit signage for the uninformed couch potato set; and Bindler, joined by a chosen male audience attendee, shed clothing and smooched it up, assisted by “French Kissing” signage for the uninitiated. Like a well-designed manic comedy, the piece gained velocity as the identical twin brothers, Gregory and Stephen Holt, kicked off a twinning vaudevillian duet to klezmer music from Electric Simcha as well as a live trombonist, Dan Blacksberg, playing in the audience. The spirited and wild finale became a multi-ringed, Felliniesque circus of the breadth of contemporary dance styles and improvisation movement. The work ended with an endearingly cheesy shower of balloons and counterfeit money. Survival of the fittest It is a real pleasure to see artists like Revlock and Bindler using humor and irony so effectively— qualities too often absent in contemporary art. This rich imagination is evident in Revlock’s other recent collaborative work, such as the Hulachess duet video of Jennifer Shahade, shortlisted in the Guggenheim Museum international art video competition, or in her website video spoofs of popular music.! More potent than the introductory platitudes about generating community and togetherness was the joyful manifestation of real community in this Revlock-Bindler work. In stark contrast to the social Darwinist “survival of the fittest” ethos of the competition, I made this for you brought together two dozen disparate dancers from
across the local dance scene. In their joyful company, awards become distracting irrelevancies.
Questioning Conventions, and Questioning the Questioning at Scratch Night by Becca Weber Audience members who were single separated from those in a relationship. A puppet show, a miniature poodle, a toy piano, Germanic-looking schoolgirl twins. Moderators who rode in on a blue motor scooter, indie rock ballads blaring. Cookies passed out instead of answers during Q&A. A drag queen dance party on stage as we exited the theatre. This Scratch Night was anything but the expected. Which begs the question, what do you usually expect when you go to see a works-in-progress showing? Is the feedback format after this (or more formal shows) meant to be more beneficial for the artists or the audience? ! These questions were foregrounded for me throughout the evening by the evening’s orchestration by our moderators, Gabrielle Revlock and Nicole Bindler. Their Dance Apocalypse opened with a short puppet show; Revlock and Bindler’s fists erupted through a screen in an awkward flirtation of small stop-motion flutters. Humorous interchanges (“I can smell your makeup.”/“What makeup?”) peppered the conversation as they popped up from behind the “stage” to smoosh their faces together or caress each others’ hair. This brief sketch (capped with Revlock stating “When I was younger--I didn’t know if I was a boy or a girl,” followed by awkward audience giggles, and a long pause from Bindler before her response: “Do you know now?”) was less of the “piece” they were showing for Scratch Night than their extended hostessing performance. Entering like superstars (complete with theme song) for the Q&A session following, Revlock and Bindler ran into the audience and asked questions of each other in “mock-audience” voices. Farcical responses were delivered as the two set up each others’ jokes, never actually answering the audience members’ queries. ! I’m laughing my butt off, but how much of what they said about their work am I supposed to take seriously? Why was I separated from my single friends? What did that have to do with gender and performance, the focus they asked for in their introduction? Cookies are our only answer; is that enough? Perhaps this is the zen koan of Q&A sessions... ...I admire their dedication to challenging a given structure, and the humorous way they shed light on our expectations and assumptions--our ways of viewing (and judging!) work in what is supposed to be an informal setting. But when this happens, it ceases to be a fun experiment for me, and starts to impinge on their fellow artists’ equal rights to traditional, informative feedback. And I wonder: can these two exist simultaneously? !! In Watson-Wallace’s Q&A session, our outrageous moderators appeared ready for a night out in sequined leggings and a cocktail dress, and instructed only five people to provide feedback--but they were required to come on stage and touch Watson-Wallace’s shoulders, arms, or feet while doing so. Their proximity made the whole exchange awkward as the respondents often interrupted themselves with acknowledgement of that discomfort. ! The shift in expectation--not taking this showing too seriously--is a refreshing change, and definitely highlights my own assumptions and expectations about these events, as well as some of the more problematic aspects of their structure. The audiences at Scratch night are offered beer and snacks, and in this looser environment, the freedom this hosting provides is more successful than I think it would be at another venue. But, even as I exit laughing at the tongue-in-cheek play of men in drag dancing us to a close, I leave feeling that I wasn’t really given answers or insight into the works I saw and that the value of instant, gut-response verbal feedback wasn’t available to the choreographers because of the talkback performance. Yes, they get written responses, and yes--just showing a work is enough to provide a wealth of information for the artist (and audience). But this Scratch Night feels like it was for the hosts more than the audience or creators. It leaves me with another question: who is this feedback process for? And maybe, that is the point they are making all along.
Above: “I Think Not” Performed at the Dinner Party, 2011. Photo by Andrew Bossi. Below: “Breathing Gym” Performed at Andrea Clearfield’s Salon, 2010. Photo by John Hayes.
“Moving Monologue” Performed at First Person Arts, 2007. Photo by JJ Tiziou.
”Sand in My Soda Pop” Performed at Mascher Space Co-op, 2009. Photo by Hannah de Keijer.
”Wrong Boat” Performed at the CEC New Edge Mix, 2006. Photo by Deborah Boardman.