Review: A Dance to John Cage’s Very Short Stories

Assessment: A Dance to John Cage’s Very Quick Tales

“In Zen they are saying: If one thing is boring after two minutes, attempt it for 4. If nonetheless boring, attempt it for eight, 16, 32 and so forth. Finally one discovers that it’s not boring in any respect however very fascinating.”

So goes one of many 90 tales, every a minute lengthy, in John Cage’s “Indeterminacy,” a rating he first recorded in 1959 on an album with the pianist David Tudor. On Tuesday at La MaMa within the East Village, the veteran downtown performer Paul Lazar, joined by six particular company, recited most of these tales — “minus a couple of I didn’t like,” Lazar mentioned on the high of the present — in random order, whereas finishing a nonrandom sequence of gestures and steps, a choreographed dance.

The “if one thing is boring” story arrived about midway via, and it drifted again into my consciousness when the work, “Cage Shuffle Marathon,” ended before I had anticipated. Granted, with the omitted tales, it clocked in at shorter than the marketed 90 minutes. However it was additionally the type of efficiency that rewarded affected person consideration, during which in some way, the longer you watched, the larger your capability to maintain watching.

Or possibly I used to be simply ready for extra to occur. Lazar — a founder, with the choreographer Annie-B Parson, of Big Dance Theater — has been performing “Cage Shuffle” since 2017, and the setup, which he defined with the simple familiarity that enlivened the entire night, is pretty easy. An earbud feeds him Cage’s tales on shuffle, so he by no means is aware of what’s coming subsequent, however the order of the dance, which he choreographed with Parson, is mounted. The casual-looking strikes embrace a squiggling elbow, a reducing to at least one knee, fingers tapping the soles of ft.

Within the spirit of likelihood, which formed a lot of Cage’s work, the alignments that emerge between phrases and movement are serendipitous, and noticing them turns into a type of recreation. On Tuesday, these included a caress of the sternum to the road “set your spirit free” and sneakers scuffing the ground to “the ft are just a little bit off the bottom.” Misalignments have been simply as pleasant, just like the mundane, plodding pivots that punctuated a dramatic query in a narrative about Cage’s grandmother: “John, are you prepared for the second coming of the Lord?”

For this “marathon” model, that includes extra tales than regular, Lazar has recruited a supporting forged of performers and writers, all treasures of New York’s experimental dance and theater scenes: Jess Barbagallo, Patricia Hoffbauer, Jennifer Krasinski, Brian Rogers and Sheryl Sutton. From their seats onstage, across the sq. of purple flooring that facilities the motion, every takes the highlight for a single story, giving Lazar an opportunity to relaxation. Parson additionally joins in briefly. That is the place I discovered myself anticipating extra: It appeared uncommon to collect so many distinguished company for every to contribute — in methods aside from silently observing — solely as soon as.

Their interventions introduced welcome variations in timing and power, past the shifts in pacing necessitated by tailoring every story, nonetheless wordy, to the area of a minute. Whereas the fabric match Lazar like a pair of worn slippers — to the purpose the place he might toss off intelligent metacommentary — the others have been simply getting comfy with it. The freshness of discovery crackled in Barbagallo’s comedian, emphatic supply of a narrative about an Aunt Marge (“You recognize, I really like this machine far more than I do your Uncle Walter”); in Krasinski’s shiny, darting alertness; in Hoffbauer’s mixture of focus and frenzy. Sutton and Rogers, each staying seated as they spoke, supplied notes of calm but vivid understatement.

Once they all began shifting collectively without delay, I anticipated the start of one other part of the work, my curiosity piqued. It was truly the top — a jolt again into a unique type of consciousness, after getting misplaced within the passing minutes.

Cage Shuffle Marathon

Via Saturday at La MaMa, Manhattan;

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