By Saturday, Fringe really felt like a full-blown festival. The parking was tight, the sidewalks were full, and the line at Java’s was long. Knots of people stood outside various venues, clutching programs and discussing the merits of a show they’d just seen or debating which event to take in next. For me, it was a day of ongoing dance. I caught more than five different performances, but still missed a few I’d been anticipating. Too many dance choices is a predicament I can live with, however.
At Rochester Association of Performing Arts (RAPA) on East Main Street, “Day of Dance” performances ran 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The best I saw was from Geomantics Dance Theater, led by Richard Haisma, a longtime professional dancer who, impressively, appeared with Rudolf Nureyev on Broadway, and is an expert in Laban Movement, a fundamental mode of analyzing movement. Haisma’s choreography demands immediate kinesthetic engagement while simultaneously invoking intellectual paradigms. I was especially drawn by the Rochester premiere of “Attempting Meditation” (2012), a solo danced by Yuko Hashimoto that felt pure and true, as if she were dancing her reality and allowing us inside. Her every movement was executed with complete conviction and it was rewarding to follow her journey toward -- as I understood it -- some inner peace or knowledge.
The choreography clearly depicted the joys and frustrations of self discovery. Hashimoto began seated cross-legged, hands lightly resting on thighs, in the classic yoga pose of preparation. As the piece progressed, her movements sharpened and accelerated her breathing became more audible until it seemed the sole power driving her slight form. We witnessed Hashimoto’s arms jerking and her body spasming as she fought to find her balance and overcome unseen forces. Eventually, her connection between outer and inner worlds appeared to mesh, her movements deepened and slowed, and her breathing calmed. I loved the trusting vulnerability of Hashimoto on her back, eyes closed, arms drawn in but legs scissoring widely side-to-side. I half-expected to see that image etched, like a snow angel, upon the studio floor when she rose.
Over at Rochester Contemporary Art Center on East Avenue, Bleu Cease, curator of the gallery, welcomed people to the ongoing exhibition “State of the City 2012: Whose Space? Our Space!” where dance/multidisciplinary performances from Rochester Contemporary Dance Collective were occurring. Marielys Burgos Melendez, an interdisciplinary artist pursuing a masters in dance studies at SUNY Brockport, presented “Here and There,” her multimedia and dance installation that included live performance, text and projections.
During the performance, Melendez moved in reaction to video projections of places of personal importance to her, places strongly enmeshed in her memory. She began by deliberately placing and then scattering cards with images of people, signs, buildings, etc. across the floor and then writhing about amongst them, slapping one against her face, holding another in her mouth, and so on.
As her artist’s statement read that the piece’s intention required “an active participation of their (the audience’s) bodies and minds evoking ‘presence’ as participatory act,” I found myself waiting, a tad apprehensively, for this to transpire. Yet, I observed no evidence of physical involvement on the part of the audience other than a few people shifting their seating (was I expecting too much?). The projections, however, did transport me -- and I assume others -- mentally. As an ex-New Yorker, I was especially affected by her images of New York City subway train interiors that she aligned her shadow with in the darkened gallery. Having spent a good percentage of my 10 years in the city enduring that mode of transportation, my sensory memories of the particular press of bodies against your own and the lurch and screech of starts and stops was indeed reactivated.
The next performance artist, dancer Mariah Maloney, a longtime member of Trisha Brown Dance Company and current graduate program director at The College of Brockport, claimed the audience’s physical involvement with her piece, "The Body Inside.” At her invitation and per her instruction, a surprising number of audience members sat, stood, or laid near each other for a period of two to 10 minutes, carving out and claiming their own physical space in the midst of a larger public one - a simple but powerful and successfully enacted concept. As I lay prone on my stomach against the gallery’s wooden floor, only observers’ feet and legs visible in my restricted peripheral vision, I did indeed feel an ownership of the space I occupied. And I was definitely more aware of the way in which my body filled that space. Remember hiding under the table as a little kid? You were the focal point to which all other presences connected back to, like lines drawn with a compass. Maloney’s piece re-established that concept for me, and marked the distinction between participant and observer. Rising from my position to rejoin the ranks of observer, I found my physical presence dwarfing as I receded from being a focal point.