Sunday, August 20, 2023

Looking Back

In the days when I was making work for stage, summers were a busy time, creating new work or re-rehearsing old work for free outdoor performances - at Jacob's Pillow's Inside / Out, Central Park's SummerStage, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, or at Wave Hill, Orchard Beach, or the Staten Island Ferry through Dancing in the Streets. There was a certain hot and happy quiet that I associate with those days - the breeze blowing into the big windows when we were in residence at PS 1 in Long Island City; the cool/warm smell of the Berkshires at the Pillow; a dance studio on Duane Street in NYC where I lived for a summer while preparing Hold Me for Dance Theater Workshop - in 1978 !!!

This summer I've worked intermittently on a project with one dancer at a time, one a month, on a series of masked solos. In May, Yvonne Rainer as Rabbit; in June, David Thomson as Horse; and in August Arthur Aviles as Pig. It's happened on a rebound from a long-planned and ill-fated duet I had intended to make with Yvonne & Valda Setterfield, initiated soon after Valda's husband David Gordon died in 2022. Scheduling of the first rehearsal continued for almost a year while health shifted, teeth were extracted, housing was renovated.  Provoked by an email from Yvonne who wrote that she'd pictured herself arriving at Valda's 541 Broadway studio in a rabbit mask, I sourced 4 random animal masks from the internet, arming myself with what I hoped might be an ice-breaker for the task of working with these two formidable women.

However, in early April, ever elegant, Valda called from the hospital to say she wouldn't be able to make that week's long-planned rehearsal after all. Frustrated again, I vowed to get up at sunrise, grab the Eagle mask and be soloist and cameraperson at the Hudson River. Believe me: only great disappointment could persuade me to record myself dancing after so many years avoiding the camera. A response much greater than mere disappointment struck a few days later when I learned that Valda had died.

As of now, I've recorded and edited 4 solos, each with a mask, without music, each in a different setting. I've shared the drafts with friends and we agree there's something mysteriously compelling about them - a richness of metaphor, maybe even what Yvonne would call radical juxtaposition.

The whole is not quite ready for public consumption, so you'll have to settle for this composite of stills. Nor is it a dance film. Uncategorizable, doubtless -  which is the story of my life, whether in the summer of 1983 or the summer of 2023.

Meanwhile, in a digital version of those summertime, outdoor, free events from my early years, my dance films are on tour.  Regina Lissowska from Short Waves Festival, remembered Where Love Leads and thought that its "vibe" would be perfect for a open air, family-friendly, free-entry event in Mechelen/Belgium. And Roxane Hultman from International Dancefilm Festival Brussels invited 890 Broadway to show on the rooftop of BOZAR ("BeauxArts"?) in a program whose theme is the city.   

Wait, both in Belgium - yet otherwise unrelated to each other? Is this a sign? More likely, it's evidence of long relationships with each festival: both Short Waves and L'art difficle de filmer la danse have shown Renzi work many times in the past decade. 

Happily, the two Cork projects begun in November have both premiered months later - Cork Journal at the Mobile Dance Film Festival and 3 Windows at Dance Camera Istanbul.  

But still ... you call this a career?

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