APAP Smear

01.17.14

Edgar Oliver, Helen & Edgar, 2013. Performance view, January 2014, Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival.


ONE.

“We began to engage in a strange duel of asceticism,” Edgar Oliver explained, if that’s the word, during Helen & Edgar, his monologue about growing up in Savannah, Georgia, with his sister and mother. If only. This show, part of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival, was the single best hour I spent during the orgy of excess at APAP, the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ conference.

Twelve performances, five production meetings, three showings, two conferences, one studio visit, and various miscellaneous networking and social happenings, concentrated in Manhattan with forays into Brooklyn and Queens: This was my weeklong 2014 APAP experience. Mild, really. I mean, I did it all without any hangovers, and I only attended one real party—by some standards I didn’t even show up.*

*In fact, I did show up for one other party—my friend and I made it to the door of an overflowing theater, stared in blankly for a minute, looked at each other and backed away silently as if confronted with a dangerous animal.

TWO.

I’m not sure what all there is still to say about this kudzu-like circus of festivals clustered around a weirdo outdated conference that no one I know even attends anymore, except maybe for one hideously early morning panel in a beige carpeted conference room on The State of the Field or some other illuminating theme you misguidedly agreed to speak on. More shows every year! Whole new festivals! Infinite pleas for spare change! Why not? So what if there’s already far too much to see? So what if much of what you do see is terrible, underfunded, and half-baked? So what if the artists—paid shameful, if any, wages, if they’re lucky enough not to pay themselves—subsidize the whole creepy shebang? Cheek kisses all around. #apapsmear.

It seems unproductive to be so cranky. It’s certainly tedious and predictable. No one, after all, is making anyone participate in this thing. (Well, maybe some of the interns are not here of their own accord.) The interesting thing, sociologically, is that pretty much everyone shares the above complaints. We’re all full of righteous (self-righteous?) zeal, while continuing to plunge into the fray. I mean, at least lemmings don’t buy tickets to jump over that cliff they’re forever rushing toward.

Heather Kravas, a quartet, 2013. Performance view, January 2014, The Kitchen, New York. Liz Santoro, Oren Barnoy, Jennifer Kjos, and Cecilia Eliceche. Photo: Paula Lobo.


THREE.

A.) The pop song is of course still in, very much in, as an ironic, or at least knowing, structuring device. Why is that, contemporary performance world?

“I guess TV was really in our blood—and like any blood you have to live with it, spill it, transfuse it, clean it, test it,” Tim Etchells writes in “On Performance and Technology.” “You don’t have much choice about your blood, but it always needs dealing with. A theater that won’t do this isn’t worth having.”

It may be that this is what is happening in all this work I’m seeing, and I’m simply too thick to see it. Perhaps I am the audience member who isn’t worth having. But but but … I don’t see it.

B.) “Want want want…” Heather Kravas. Dance therapy. Cheerleading, ballet, blue-collar: America, etc. They strip, the inevitable next step, but only to their skivvies. That’s how we know it isn’t the 1980s anymore. Repetition, repetition, and severity. Go further, go faster. Do more. If you’re going to spell out society one letter at a time with your bodies, spell the entire score out. I can’t help thinking that Sarah Michelson owns this territory—she’s like the NYU of the dance world, you look up and she’s the landlord.

I don’t think Kravas’s a quartet worked as well as The Green Surround, the last piece of hers I saw. That one had so much muchness to it—it was overpacked in its individualness. I remember thinking it didn’t push hard enough, but still I was grateful for what was there. a quartet … I dunno. It is clearly part of the bigger conversation happening between contemporary dance and ballet. (This seems largely a one-way conversation, contemporary folks turning ballet this way and that, like a precious but irritating bauble they can’t make fit into any jewel setting). But I want these works to talk about not just ballet, but the world as well. (Jillian Peña I think is doing this.) To move out and up and in.

The tutu faces the firing squad. Again and again and again. The tutu wins.

C.) Jay Scheib’s misogyny is unrelenting—and not in an interesting way.

Andrew Ondrejcak, FEAST, 2013. Performance view, January 2014, Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival.


FOUR.

“What would happen if I didn’t do APAP next year?” a dancer asked, after outlining the day’s pitiable remuneration. (The performers are the real collateral APAP damage.) The “to me” was implied.

A choreographer rolled his eyes while describing how several presenters had told him how sorry they were to have missed a show he did earlier this year, and asked whether he would be doing an APAP remount. He did; they all sent regrets.

FIVE.

“Fine,” said one of The Concubines in Andrew Ondrejcak’s FEAST. “I’ll just show you one boob and then I’ll take a little green curry and go.”

Fine.

Claudia La Rocco is a writer based in New York.