American Realness

300 words on Realness: Commentary=not thing

300 words on Realness: Commentary=not thing

by Lydia Mokdessi
Published on: January 12, 2014

Juliana F. May’s Commentary=not thing is a rigorous “dance play” that somehow manages to maintain an intensity level of 10 for its duration. Kayvon Pourazar, Ben Asriel, and Talya Epstein gallop in angular pathways, gesticulate manically, spin like dervishes, and emit gasps and high-pitched yelps that later turn to aimless bickering. Their physical language is sharp and assertive while their verbal communications are circular and inane — they perform both sets of tasks with equal conviction. Relationships start to appear but blur away before a narrative can form; Asriel slams his head between Pourazar’s legs from behind, Epstein backs away, pumping her elbows inward like a victory dance before pivoting in place with jutting hips and slicing arms. Everyone is suddenly naked, and Pourazar and Epstein argue cryptically (“this was supposed to be fun. why don’t you tell me what’s going on!”) while Asriel stalks around the furniture, singing about nothing.

The work’s most memorable episode has the three performers joining up to stride in tandem as a small herd. They march open-mouthed, hands positioned as if calling a timeout, and progress from casual contact to smearing sweat across each others arms and backs to full-bodied aggressive groping of chests / butts / genitals. It’s a troubling situation on paper, but somehow personal space and bodily privacy have lost relevance in this environment.

Having exited and re-dressed, the dancers take the stage one at a time for a series of rigid and directional solos. They are austere and assured, their vector-like pathways punctuated by circling wrists on outstretched arms that might be making a grand entrance or casting a spell. There’s a new script, first between Pourazar and Asriel (to me the most interesting and volatile of the short-lived pairings), that again doesn’t quite add up to a conversation (“why are you being so nice to me. I want something personal. In the fucking airport.”) They rip off each other’s shirts or pants (one at a time in this version), brawl, giggle, and slam each other into the metal garage door.

They are never still and they never slow down; Commentary=not thing exists solely in a heightened state. It proposes its own system of logic. It is both emotionally specific and absurd, simultaneously primal and formal.

image: Ian Douglas