American Realness

Michael Portnoy

Relational Stalinism – The Musical

Co-Presented by Abrons Arts Center & Gibney Dance


Friday, January 12, 7:00pm
Saturday, January 13, 7:00pm
Sunday, January 14, 10:00pm
Tuesday, January 16, 5:30pm

Run Time: 80 minutes

Abrons Arts Center, Playhouse, 466 Grand Street, Manhattan
Single Tickets $25 / Abrons Festival Pass $20

Single Tickets Festival Pass

Dancers in museums moaning and leaning against walls, pestering visitors with boilerplate philosophical questions and busting their knee caps on punishing concrete floors. This was the thorn in the side which inspired Relational Stalinism – The Musical, a maximalist showcase of the many ways in which language and movement can combine to disorient us. Mixing micro-choreography, exhaustive feats of reading in 7/4 time, operatic luggage handling, call center language-bending games, and wicked satire of the Immaterial Turn, this absurdist show commands you to “enter the rumbling chiasmus between the real and the ideal.”

Relational Stalinism – The Musical was originally commissioned by Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam in collaboration with A.P.E (Art Projects Era). Residency support provided by Gibney Dance.

Photo by Rob Battersby

Directed by Michael Portnoy
Choreography Michael Portnoy in collaboration with original Dutch cast: Thomas Dudkiewicz, Jimmy Guacamole, Margo van de Linde, Keyna Nara, Evelyne Rossie, Loveday Smith, and Gerrie de Vries.

New York Cast: Chris Braz, Sean Donovan, Ruby McCollister, Keyna Nara, Michael Portnoy and Kirsten Schnittker
Lighting by Scott Bolman

Michael Portnoy (b. 1971, Washington, DC, USA) is a New York-based artist. Coming from a background in dance and experimental comedy, his performance-based work employs a variety of media: from participatory installations to sculpture, painting, writing, theater, video and curation. He has presented internationally in museums, art galleries, theatres and music halls, including recently Akademie der Künste der Welte, Cologne, Germany (2017); KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany (2017); Playground, STUK, Leuven, Belgium (2016); Witte de With, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2016); Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, UK (2016); the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2015); Donaufestival, Krems, Austria (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2014); Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2013); The Kitchen, New York, USA (2013); dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel, Germany (2012); Beursschouwburg, Brussels, Belgium (2012); 11th Baltic Triennial (co-curator), Vilnius, Lithuania (2012); and the Taipei Biennial, Taipei, Taiwan (2010).

“The title says it all: a deliciously smart, imaginative and, at moments, catty takedown of the dogmatism and self-regard of certain well-known practitioners of what were erstwhile considered ‘radical’ or ‘engaged’ performative practices. Somewhere between Andy Kaufman and Monty Python, Relational Stalinism … is hilarious if you enjoy that ticklish uncertainty of not knowing whether you are being laughed at or laughing along with.”
– Chris Fite-Wassilak,

“Originally plotted as a kind of progressive theater at Rotterdam’s Witte de With, Portnoy’s Relational Stalinism: The Musical reveled in an elasticity both physical and semantic, his performers spinning mesmerizing half-truths out of seemingly incomprehensible combinations of words, gestures, slogans, synchronized blinking, and Skype calls to Citibank. The speed-of-light scripts were sprinkled with satirical digs at overly ambitious press releases while openly checking the art world’s reluctance to embrace theater the way it has choreography. “If your disgust for being in a theater becomes too unbearable, in the blackouts you can imagine you are walking from one cool gray room to the next in a contemporary arts institution,” Portnoy teased the audience. Those who appeared too engaged in their own thoughts were singled out of their seats and treated to private performances (presumably corrective in nature).”
- Kate Sutton, Artforum