BWW Reviews: Claire Porter's PORTABLES - Dance is a Verb Among Other Things
Claire Porter's Portables acted as "grammarians," joyfully drowning in their words. Sen-tence, created by Porter et al, explored the syntax of language structure at Joe's Pub Friday, April 25th, 2014. In five vignettes, Porter's ensemble dedicated themselves to the most basic and yet often most important words of everyday vocabulary: prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs, and pronouns. As Ms. Porter's librarian character admonished the audience, "What would we be without...without. Or, over, under, next to, behind, during, and between."
With Marla Berg, Porter explored the highs and lows of romantic relationships via prepositions. Ms. Berg sang streams of vocabulary that Porter elaborated upon physically and verbally. If there is a way to make grammar sexy, Porter definitely embodied it. Breathily uttering "during, during...during," she despaired a long lost lover and her body rolled across the stage. Audience members chuckled with images of what "during" might be. Another song of Berg's, "Inside My Body Breathing," considered all things "under and over" such as "under my skin, under my breath" and "over with."
The spunky Maria Piedad Paredes L. took the stage for a Latin dance spoken word exposition on conjunctions. Paredes preached the power of "and" as a connector; she pointed out different audience members and draped their hands together as a flirtatious sign of connection. She swayed and clapped and stomped and shimmied in her red velour dress in between her ode to "and."
The stage at Joe's Pub completely filled with Witnessing Adverbs as the Portables held court. Witnesses spun on and off a lone swivel chair as they were questioned one by one about an incident by an elevator. As the Portables illustrated in pronounced -ly descriptions, a lot changed between how something happened and how it was explained. They devotedly contrasted adverb choices as evidence of how one observes the world and all that happens in it. Porter's mesmerizing slow-motion and in-reverse style of movement strongly suited the drama of adverb court. Her movement vocabulary united the very diverse cast containing college students and professors, writers, musicians, and dancers trained in varying movement forms.
Paredes and her red dress returned for a Spanish language version of how to say everything and nothing all at once, or as the program lists the dance, But. A friend once told me to consider everything said before "but" a lie, e.g., "I really like you, but...I really studied, but..." Paredes showed a strong preference for And, conceding a few things to But, such as a funky salsa jazz square.
The bulk of Porter's ensemble returned for Pronoun Emergency. A bit of a "Who's on First" shtick, the harried group sought to identify hierarchy, belonging, and relationship with their references. Is it better to be they or them? How does they become we? They appeared to be seeking safety and wound tightly into one unit, pushing and pulling against each other. Their wrestling subsided into a gentle swaying as their identity issues resolved; whoever they are, they now belonged together.
Photo by Jennifer Jones