Dayna Hanson: Blur by Bret Fetzer Dec 1, 2006
Dayna Hanson's new piece is about blurriness. Between life and death; between everyday action and dance; between rehearsal and performance; between ending and beginning. As the audience enters, musician Dave Proscia and Maggie Brown are hanging out in the den that designer Etta Lillienthal has created; behind it is a ping-pong table, and across the room is a kitchen with a refrigerator—it's like a suburban basement unfolded like origami and spread out across the OTB stage. The phone rings; Maggie answers it; it's Dayna, who's running late, so they should start without her. Dave and Maggie amble over to where a drum kit, a piano, and various guitars are waiting, and they launch into some mellow indie rock. Dancers—Ezra Dickinson, Wade Madsen, and Marissa Rae Niederhauser—emerge offhandedly and stagger into some classic Hanson choreography, in which awkward movement accumulates into an oddly graceful whole. Voices (there may have been video that didn't function properly) begin to talk about near-death experiences, slipping out of their bodies and observing from the corner of the room.
The entire evening is suffused in this sense of informality. One segment flows casually into another; performers hang out in the den or kitchen, eating or cooking; the band banters casually as if in rehearsal, with no sense of being in front of an audience. The result of this loose, shaggy quality of time is twofold: It fosters the illusion that you are seeing and hearing something offhand and private—even when the dancers are in full motion, there's a casualness that feels palpably intimate. The other result is that the pace feels slack and monotone. Not monotonous (there's always something interesting to look at or listen to), but flat, lacking in any sense of rise or fall, any implication that the artist (in this case, Dayna) is in charge of giving you an experience.
This can be seen as indulgence, as a willful refusal to assertively shape the material at hand (near-death stories, dancers, indie rock songs, ping-pong balls) into something acute that will impose itself upon you and lead you to some kind of insight/catharsis/laughter/et al. But it can also be seen as a gentle respect, a decision to let the audience sort out their own responses and take whatever they want away from this loose orchestration of sensations.
For myself, being a person who spends a lot of time watching movies and listening to pop songs and reading magazines, I'm used to being constantly overstimulated by very aggressive media. So, though I was able to mentally appreciate Dayna's work as it went along—I particularly liked a moment when a bit of comic schtick turned into a sort of spiritual suspension, and the sinuous movement of Wade Madsen's remarkably long arms—I found it diffuse and unengaging until about five minutes before it ended, when I acclimated to it. My brain, until then irritated by the lack of structured input, relaxed and entered something like a fugue state, in which I stopped asking to be given something and just soaked up what was there. At which point the show seemed exceedingly lovely and thoughtful, and I wished I could have found this equilibrium much earlier.
And then it was over, and the audience lingered in the performance space for a long time, which is always a good sign.