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Mariaa Randall's Footwork/Technique - presented at the First Nations Dialogues 2019

by Robert Abrams
January 10, 2019
Performance Space New York
150 First Avenue
(Between 9th and 10th streets)
New York, NY 10009
212-477-5829
January 10, 2019 - 8 pm performance
(there were two other presentations of the same show earlier in the evening)

First Nations Dialogues
Catharsis. Finally.

Some Indigenous cultures are said to be 30,000 years old. Yesterday feels like 30,000 years ago.

Mariaa Randall presented a two-part journey into the unknown.

At first, before the show started, the audience assumed they would sit in seats and watch. Instead, at Mariaa's direction, we stood and introduced ourselves to each other. We drew pictures of our bodies of water. We each created our own simple repetitive movement flowing from that water. Mine was a touch of my foot lifted upward and a step, as if picking up a gravel and spitting it out (it is a movement my daughter's gold goldfish often does, which s/he taught to her albino goldfish). We each danced our movement in place. We danced it moving, not quite line of dance, more Brownian. We danced it connected to one other, one hand to another's shoulder. My partner of that moment wore a prim, forward-thinking school marm outfit, or maybe a librarian, with round eyeglass frames like I used to wear. We didn't quite know what we were supposed to be doing, but we, and every other pair, danced it anyway. Then we danced the same, more or less, but passed one partner to another, around the room, spontaneous, an improvised Indigenous Contemporary Rueda. Mariaa reconnected our hands, two hands now, one hand to a second dancer's shoulder, and the other hand to a third dancer's shoulder. We now all moved forward, as one if not quite, pulsing within the mass, movements different while responsive to the connected signal and so coherent. Otherwise it wouldn't move so well.

I think that was it, except I forgot to mention the black tape, which we put down on the floor after our drawing of water, extending from Mariaa's 3 home rivers. Maybe there was more. There might have been. You can't scribble when you are dancing. So you go the next time and tell someone.

Then there was a break while the crew reset the room.

We sat in a circle, on chairs, and some on floor cushions. There were proscenium chairs, but they were lonely.

Mariaa acknowledged the place where we were over time. She deposited piles of brightly colored powder at places around the center of the black tape waters.
And then she moved. Small movements. A foot on yellow powder, rising an ankle length, maybe a little more, up the inside of her other leg. And then the reverse foot. Small. Repetitive. Focused.

She moved around a medium space in the center bounded by an oval of bright light, and outside that, darkness. Painted a picture with the powder, like some giant flower, or a gradient map of the ocean or seascape (maybe a kernel density map). It amplified her movements and made them apparent. Which then brought to mind Diana Vishneva (Look for the photo with what looks like a long beaded hat in FLOW/Waters Flower). And that company that doesn't exist anymore who used a lot of powder. I will have to search the site for the photo later (I just looked it up, Notario Dance Company, the dance was called Traces). Another lineage, from this dancer now to others I have seen. An ocean of rivers.

Mariaa pulled up the tape, which had been covered with powder, but now, when it was gone, left a trace, quite visible.

Mariaa acknowledged all the people who helped mount the Dialogues, and then asked us, the audience, to stand and yann about what we had created together with her. Which we would have done had this been 30,000 years ago when there were no phones with cameras, but now everyone has a phone with a camera, so mostly people stood and took photos of the colorful art on the floor, rivers in oceans of powder and a few footprints still visible, seemingly solid but really effemmeral. The last word is probably spelled wrong. (Just spell checked it. It should be "ephemeral" but for some reason I like the misspelled version, so I will leave it.)

There may have been more and there was. At one point several audience members got up and also danced a little in the powder, because they were Indigenous and also confident. (Mariaa asked any Indigenous audience members who wanted to get up and dance.)

Could it have all been better? Yes: there will have to have been another show just like it but different and you should have been there but it is okay because you will have been there later.

This was a dance class, a process, a gathering, that might reconvene in Tasmania, a show, an ending, a gate.

Mariaa is spelled with an extra a. The extra a is for awesome.

There is more, but I can finally sleep. Maybe our albino goldfish is resting.

P.S. Some explanation that may put this review in context. I wrote the review on my phone while riding the subway home after the show. I was intending to post it the next day, and then life got in the way. The review as posted on 1/26/2019 is what I wrote shortly after the show on the way home, with only a little light editing. Mariaa's workshop-show was the best thing I could have done that particular night because my daughter's, and my, albino goldfish, Blossom (named after the Powerpuff Girl), had passed away the day before. Blossom had been living with us for about two years. Over the previous few days, s/he increasingly had trouble moving, maybe trouble breathing. Her death was traumatic, especially since there was nothing that could be done or could have been done. One might say, it is just a fish, but goldfish, or at least these goldfish, seem to have personalities, and certainly have distinct ways of moving, just like individual dancers, except under water and in three dimensions. Hence catharsis.

There was a second catharsis. Some years ago, I was supposed to see Rulan Tangen perform at the Battery Dance Festival in Battery Park (Manhattan). For various reasons, I couldn't make it downtown that day. So, instead, it proved easier to call on my contacts in the World Dance Alliance and have Rulan's company, Dancing Earth, reviewed in New Zealand. I was so intrigued by the report of her Indigenous Contemporary approach to dance that I have made an effort to have the style covered since then. I hadn't actually seen it myself, though, because every time Dancing Earth was performing, it was somewhere 2000 miles from wherever I happened to be at the time. Finally, there was a show in NYC of a similar kind, when I was also in NYC, but I only knew I was available to go to it at the last minute, and I couldn't reach anyone in the PR company or the theater to find out if there were tickets available. I took a cab there anyway since I needed to see the show as a fulfillment of this quest that had zigzagged across the planet. Fortunately, the theater staff was very helpful and let myself and the other person on the wait list in to see the otherwise sold out show. So, again, catharsis of a second kind. Between Mariaa's workshop-show and the dance class I observed (which I will write up later), I feel confident that I made the right decision to cover Indigenous Contemporary dance, now that I have seen it myself, and will continue to cover it.
Mariaa Randall and audience's collaborative creation

Mariaa Randall and audience's collaborative creation

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Mariaa Randall and audience's collaborative creation

Mariaa Randall and audience's collaborative creation

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Mariaa Randall and audience's collaborative creation

Mariaa Randall and audience's collaborative creation

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Mariaa Randall and audience's collaborative creation

Mariaa Randall and audience's collaborative creation

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Mariaa Randall and audience's collaborative creation

Mariaa Randall and audience's collaborative creation

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams

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