In living color
Get Ready! DD Dorvillier uncovers the sensual mind in dance.
Mon Jan 5 2009
Photograph: DD Dorvillier
DD Dorvillier is a cerebral artist whose innate, corporeal understanding of the body helps her create work in perpetual balance—if one side dominates the other, the equilibrium is lost. As she wrote in an artistic statement for the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Dorvillier is deeply drawn to the phenomenon of language, “and its subsequent breaks and failures. The body is the obvious and perfect bridge in those impossible gaps.”
In her new work, Choreography, a Prologue for the Apocalypse of Understanding, Get Ready!, performed at Dance Theater Workshop beginning Saturday 10, Dorvillier continues that exploration, employing some of the same structural ideas she used in 2007’s Nottthing Is Importanttt, which began with a dance in the light, progressed to a film and concluded with a dance in the dark. For CPAU, Get Ready!, her title in shorthand, Dorvillier has created a film, a speaking duet for herself and cast member Joaquin Pujol, and a dance.
“The three objects, or pieces, are in chronology—it’s dramaturgically deliberate and starts with a film that is an abdication of language,” the choreographer explains at a wine bar near DTW. “It’s not so important that it’s a film; it’s mostly important that there are words and that it moves through the notion of printed text and language. So it’s using words to say 'no language.’?”
On a personal level, Dorvillier is inspired by her teenage years in New Hampshire, where her parents ran a printing company. “We had a linotype machine,” she says. “I watched the process of lead becoming cold press, how that turned into text, flipped over and was printed so that you could finally read it on a flat
surface with black ink. So I went through this whole physical, sensual process and it turned out to be printed text on a white page. It was like a distillation of perfect understanding. To me, it was also really funny.”
At a certain point, her parents moved on to a four-color press, and Dorvillier became entranced with the color-separation model known as CMYK (short for cyan, magenta, yellow and key, or black). “They seemed so unnatural and so incompatible—four tins of really smelly color, which would be used to produce this lovely New England autumn scene,” she recalls. “My parents printed postcards. I would think, How does that become this? These chemicals and colors really stimulated a question: What were my technological boundaries? And they were very mixed with body even though it wasn’t like I was dancing in the print shop or something.”
In the new work, which progresses from black and white to color in both lighting and costumes, dancers wear CMYK colors. “I’m taking that material and transforming it into a dance, but I think I’m really referring to it in terms of my own personal interest about how we define an understanding of something,” she says. “To me, understanding is an endless process. Indirectly, I’ve been addressing this age-old dilemma: I don’t understand dance.”
In the new production, Dorvillier addresses the frustration with humor. To create the movement in the third section, she used a photograph of herself naked on a bed, placed a grid over the image, and assigned each box a number and a letter. Each square was given a value, be it an action or a count. She then applied that to whatever part of the body—say, an elbow—was found inside the square. “It’s really goofy, actually,” Dorvillier says.
For her, CPAU, Get Ready! addresses modes of cognition. “I’m interested in how we move between linguistic understanding and sensual understanding,” she explains. “With art, we have a chance to explore perception and the senses in a different way. I feel like a normal experience would be something akin to watching a television show. Everybody understands it. And it’s not because I want to be misunderstood, but I want to give myself, and others, the opportunity to experience different configurations of perceptual communication. And that’s why we do a striptease!” She snaps her fingers and laughs. “Just kidding.”
DD Dorvillier/human future dance corps is at Dance Theater Workshop Sat 10, Sun 11 and Wed 14--Jan 17.