In one scenario, two women crouch like runners at the starting line, but the cable to which they're tethered ensures any progress made by one will come at the other's expense. In another, a young girl in white turns her father, mother, and fiancé away before serenely embracing her culture's insane superstition—and her own blood sacrifice. In a third, the raised arms of two men form arcs suggesting an infinity symbol: an emblem of their eternal love.
These are scenes from Company Wang Ramirez's Borderland, RIOULT Dance NY's Women on the Edge, and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company's Concerto Six Twenty-Two, three works at this year's American Dance Festival. Taken together, they indicate that gender and politics are on a number of international choreographers' minds, as they are on ours in North Carolina.
Over the next six weeks, these dance artists' deliberations will be as subtle as Rosie Herrera's Carne Viva (Open Wound), which examines power's roots in our conceptions of faith and romance, and as overt as Mark Dendy's Donald Rumsfeld impersonation in the 5 By 5 showcase. Other works this season further flesh out a broad spectrum of viewpoints.
For sixteen years, Sara Juli's solo shows have helped us look—and laugh—at big things we don't really discuss. Right now, she knows we need to have a political discussion about bathrooms, but it's not the one you're thinking of. After having two children, Juli experienced postpartum depression and urinary incontinence. Guess which one had more impact on her basic mobility in the world—and which one was easier to talk about.
"In Europe, the government pays for pelvic floor rehabilitation after childbirth," Juli observes. "Here, it took me four years to discover it even existed and that I needed it." In Tense Vagina: an actual diagnosis (June 22–24, Motorco Music Hall), song, dance and stand-up comedy help demystify a condition that needlessly isolates millions of women.
Choreographer Pascal Rioult is aware of voices he can't hear. They're the cries of women from Greek mythology: the scapegoated Helen of Troy, Iphigenia, and Cassandra, who represent "the silencing of lessons not learned," in Rioult's view. As Helen's memories resurrect a battalion of soldiers on a beach in Rioult's Women on the Edge (July 18–20, Reynolds Industries Theater), his compelling redemption fantasy retains a bitter bite, after Iphigenia embraces the executioner's knife and the pyre.
Rosie Herrera came to a disturbing conclusion while researching Carne Viva, which is part of 5 By 5 (June 28–30, Reynolds Industries Theater).
"When you revere something, you're being oppressed," she says. "You're both dominant and dependent." The piece investigates the influence of religious iconography, including that of Herrera's own Catholic background, on our ideas of romance and love.
"To fully invest in one spiritual practice, one person, one anything is a negotiation of power—a negotiation of surrender to something bigger than you," Herrera says. "But we have an equally strong desire to be in control. Both are moving inside us at every moment, and I'm fascinated by that."
These are important messages that resonate far beyond dance circles, and ADF is making an evident push to get them out into the wider world. After free spring showings by LMnO3 and Eiko Otake at the ADF Studios and in public spaces around the Triangle, look for shows in unconventional venues including Motorco, Duke Gardens, and 21c Museum Hotel in the Out-of-the-Box series. And the festival goes even further afield in what it's calling its "first New York season," with a week of ADF performances at the Joyce Theater right after the close of the Durham season.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Power on Pointe"