Wednesday night I went to Urban Lounge to see Five Days New. As the name suggests, everything in this group show was supposedly made in the first five days of 2011. Erin Haley, a local artist and provacatuer, gathered about ten artists for the experiment. They were mostly musicians, a few illustrators and a few dancers.
The greatest thrill of the evening for me was Juan Aldape’s solo performance. Aldape explored his own relationship to Mexico, as an identity, a possible home, a foil to America, a place to go or not to go. Set to a score that sounded to me like sampling from local Mexican radio stations, a lot happened in this solo that couldn’t have been more than ten minutes long. There was a beer-fueled Tarot reading, a deconstructed Macarena that reminded me of early Trisha Brown, and a rearranged version of Ginsberg’s “Howl”, addressed not to Moloch or America, but to Mexico, where the artist was born.
I wish Aldape would post his performance text on the internet so you could read it and I could read it again. There was humor and urgency as he mused on the Mexico’s problems and broached his desire to one day live there with his wife. He also noted that the couple were about to go not to Mexico but to Europe instead. He promised to bring Mexico back secret knowledge from the 400-year-old city of Belgrade. Although he was quoting Howl, the experience was really a lot more like another Ginsburg poem “America”, part love-song, part appeal. The joking and the witty referential humor was rife, but there was an undertone of seriousness, a sense that these were things that Aldape needed to find a way to say these things out loud to this particular audience.
I’ve been watching Aldape’s dancing for many years now, since we were both in high school. I also saw his acclaimed show last year at the Sugar Show. In this five day old solo, Aldape found something I’ve never seen in his dancing or choreography before. There was this tremendous informality about the way he carried his body, a kind of sexy, skinny sloppiness that reminded me of James Dean. He’s embraced this great sense of comic timing that he’s always had that has sometimes been subdued within his more formalist dancing. Aldape was also playing to effect on the simultaneous familiarity and exoticism that Mexican pop music has for white boys from Salt Lake like me, who comprise the mainstay audience of a place like Urban Lounge. In short, his dancing offered an excellent, thought-provoking beginning of a self-portrait.
There was another, less successful integration of music, spoken word and dance that included University of Utah trained Ashley Creek and Bayeshan Cooper and another woman who I didn’t recognize (anyone know her name?). The dancing was strong, but suffered at the hand of bad Beat-era nostalgic text offered by the musicians. Also worth mention from a live performance perspective was Alison Martin’s musical performance “She”, a haunting evocation of a dead family member that for me became a sort of hyper-honest musical-spectacle. Martin’s emotion on stage was refreshing, and while I wasn’t sure how much of it was real and how much was put on, I found her way of approaching that dichotomy to be quite interesting to watch.
I’m looking forward to seeing Haley’s next curatorial endeavor. Sometime in February she’ll be lighting a fire under a few more local procrastinators to make something for an evening at Kilby Court. Let’s hope dance is represented as well at that event as it was at this one.
Sam Hanson is finishing his B.U.S. at the University of Utah