Armitage Gone! Dance | Review

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Mei-Hua Wang of Armitage Gone! Dance in GAGA-Gaku

Mei-Hua Wang of Armitage Gone! Dance in GAGA-Gaku Photograph: Julieta Cervantes

If punk is bad breath, holes in clothes, shit hair and three chords (at most), then Drastic-Classicism (1981) by choreographer Karole Armitage is punk-as-costume. But you can’t be punk and be perfect by the laws of ballet; your stage smile has to be fake and you have to wobble a bit when you balance. To be punk in ballet is to proudly declare that you are good fucking enough. Self-satisfied becomes punk where anti-perfectionism is scandalous.


The ten members of Armitage Gone! Dance are good fucking enough in Drastic-Classicism and a new-old work, The Watteau Duets (1985/2009) and a recent work, GAGA-Gaku (2011). If they were any better, this triple bill at the MCA Stage through Saturday wouldn’t be as complex or as subtle. Live musicians—in Watteau, Talibam! (Matt Mottel and Kevin Shea) and in Drastic those two funny-as-fuck flying Quasi-Conchord Blues Brothers, plus Steve Gunn, Shelly Steffens and Mike Vallera—supply supplemental cred.


In GAGA-Gaku, the dancers wear origamish costumes by Issey fucking Miyake. The rest of the costumes which, in Watteau alone are like a runway’s worth for only two people, are pretty damn nice as well; they’re by Charles Atlas, Peter Speliopoulos and Karen Young.


Seen first and especially after the other two are over, GAGA is hard to swallow although its score—two tracks by Lois V Vierk—kicks serious ass. There’s enough going on between 300 years of French art and barely a century of ballet history in the U.S. to keep Drastic and Watteau compelling. Folding Noh theater, Balinese and Cambodian dance into the picture is a bridge too far and, besides, we should probably achieve cultural exchange first before punking it up as an intellectual exercise.




Armitage Gone! Dance performs through April 28 in the Edlis Neeson Theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art. At 2pm on Saturday, catch a conversation between Armitage, David Salle and Helen Molesworth, curator of “This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s.”



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