Last night, I was invited to a final rehearsal of “Dancing-On-View,” a four-hour-long series of modern dance pieces created by choreographer and former Twyla Tharp muse, Sara Rudner (who shows herself in one piece here to be, still, an amazing dancer). The performance, which will be this Sunday, May 13, from 5 to 9 p.m., is very low-key and informal — guests do not have to stay for the entire four hours but may come and go as they wish. And, because it takes place in a studio (at the Baryshnikov Arts Center) and audience members sit in chairs and cushions set up along a back wall, you really get the sense that you’re eavesdropping on a rehearsal — on real dancers taking the floor and performing a solid routine, but also just relating to one another, joking around and even bickering with each other, in the way dancers do.
The dancers — about 15 or so and all women — take turns taking the center and performing a routine, practicing at the back barre, speaking and laughing with each other on the sidelines (and sometimes in the center as well), and even sitting on the floor and taking a small class in, for example, facial expressiveness. At points, several of these things are happening on the floor at once. That “Face Clinic,” for instance, happens in one corner of the stage at the same time as a solo is being performed on another part, and a duet in yet another. The “face clinic” instructor tells the students, all making very amusing faces by the way, to pay no mind to the dancing, just as the soloist, commanded from a director on the sideline to “invade the circle,” begins dancing right into the students. It’s hilarious!
I made it about 3 1/4 hours — it’s hard to sit for 4 hours straight — and most of my favorite pieces came around hour three (the playbill breaks the pieces down by Hour, instead of by Act). In addition to that “Face Clinic,” I liked Laurel Dugan’s sharp, nimble turning moves in “Circles,” and a fun solo, “Crazy,” performed by Rachel Lehrer, a very fast-moving, humorously expressive dancer. Another dancer who caught my eye was Megan Boyd, who I thought was just a great mover and reminded me a bit of Dana Caspersen of William Forsythe’s company.
My favorite piece came at the end of Hour 3 and was performed by Rudner herself. Rudner took the center and begin making these beautiful, fluid, continuous turns all around the floor, while talking a bit about what it was like to work with Tharp “back in the day.” She then asked people to ask her questions. Hesitantly, audience members did: who were Rudner’s favorite dance teachers, where else would she live if she couldn’t live in New York, what was her first memory, how would she describe the next few steps she performed, etc. And as she completely improvised the answers, her movements would reflect and inform those answers. For example, when she gave her “first memory” as “swimming,” she made swimming-like movements; when asked where else she would live, she stopped in her tracks and stared — she’d never lived anywhere besides NY and never would…
After attending this, my curiosity piqued, I read up a little on the event and found a blurb in The New Yorker Magazine saying that Rudner organized her first such Dancing-on-View in 1975 when she was still herself dancing for Tharp. Her purpose was to “break down the distinction between dance as performance and dance as a way of life,” says the blurb. (Read more here.) Yep, it certainly does make you think about that. It’s a really unique experience. Tickets are $15. For reservations and more info, call 212-674-8194. Go!