In the Culture of One World Randy Gener

A Global Media Project | Arts Economy, Cultural Diplomacy and Critical Thinking

Performance review | Is “Pâquerette” penetrating, or merely a dance with penetrating elements?

NEW YORK CITY |  It’s difficult to talk about Pâquerette without going into graphic terms. François Chaignaud, from France, and Cecilia Bengolea, from Argentina, sit on the floor, as audience members file in and take their seats. Their attires, she in royal blue and he in golden fabric, make them looked regal and grand. Except that they sit on no thrones, and the floor space they occupy at Brooklyn’s Invisible Dog Art Center is bare and gleaming white.

François Chaignaud & Cecilia Bengolea in "Paquerette" | Courtesy of QNYI

François Chaignaud & Cecilia Bengolea in “Paquerette” | Courtesy of QNYI

In the theater we say that if nothing happens in the first 10 or 15 minutes, the rest of the show is never going to improve. That is certainly not the case here because of the big reveal that takes place soon after Chaignaud and Bengolea slither across the floor and squirm their bodies out of their drapey garments. At first there is a long and uncomfortable silence. The two dancer-choreographers make eye contact with some members of the audience. They smile some half-smiles. Later they moan and groan. Soon after, they crawl into awkward positions and trade places while sliding on top of each other’s bodies as they move upstage center.

Voila! They hoist their pelves onto the air to show off crystal sex toys inserted in their buttocks and shimmering underneath the bright lamp lights. After grabbing our attention, the piece moves through a languid series of exhibitionist displays that invite us to see how the intimate imposition of an external object affect male and female bodies in movement.

Is it a penetrating dance, or is it simply a dance with penetrating elements? Certainly Pâquerette is not complex as a work of choreography. It is more about picturing strain and sensuality, about laying bare the pressures and pleasures of penetrated dancing bodies.

In the program notes, Chaignaud and Bengolea state that Pâquerette delves into what they call “a reflection on the denial of the anus in dance.” These two dancer-choreographers have been working together since 2005. They had actually presented Pâquerette at Dancepace Project in October 2010 along with another piece, Sylphides, which prominently featured sensory-deprivation bags. Their pieces, in other words, deal with aspects of physical beauty arising from pain, confinement, ungainly struggle or some form of limitation on freedom.

François Chaignaud & Cecilia Bengolea in "Paquerette" | Courtesy of QNYI

François Chaignaud & Cecilia Bengolea in “Paquerette” | Courtesy of fotoechen.com

In Pâquerette Chaignaud and Bengolea work very hard to execute their dance-movements effortlessly. They could have gone down the path of blatant eroticism, but they do not. They don’t mine the sexual humor either. Instead they go at it seriously: affectionately exploring ways to interact with each other, touching upon the levels of sensations that their bodies can accommodate, and inviting audiences to pay attention to their own relationships to a part of the human body that is surrounded by powerful taboos.

Presented within the framework of a Queer New York International Arts FestivalPâquerette comes off as curious in a couple of other respects. “Queer” is often perceived within the framework of same-sex identities, and yet Pâquerette normalizes the sense of queer danger since it foregrounds an intimate play between a man and a woman. The title, translated from the French, is “daisy.” (It also refers to a 19th century ballet.) I think it is too easy to say that Pâquerette had more to do with deflowering. It would also be too glib to state that  Pâquerette‘s sense of subversion, within the parameters of a queer ideology, offers “new possibilities for the queer body,” as festival curator André von Ah suggests.

Pâquerette is a duet between a man and a woman who re-discover their childlike innocence through the intensities of penetration. The most touching moments of Pâquerette happen in the third section when their bodies are released from the pressure of external objects. Fingering each other in the manner of a puppeteer, Chaignaud and Bengolea run around the space in circles. Then, their backs turned against each other, they take turns leaping gracefully into the air; their buttocks rub softly on top of each other. The performance moves from the shock of penetration to become an intercrural pas de deux.

It’s a disarmingly poetic image. I don’t think this is about subversion or queer radicalism or anarchism. It’s about making playful parallels between the tensions experienced by male and female bodies, about our becoming more aware of what we are capable of as sexual creatures. It’s about the courage to play rough until we achieve a state of fragility and naiveté.

François Chaignaud & Cecilia Bengolea in "Paquerette" | Courtesy of QNYI

François Chaignaud & Cecilia Bengolea in “Paquerette” | Courtesy of fotoechen.com

François Chaignaud & Cecilia Bengolea (France, Argentina) – Paquerette
Performance
Thursday and Friday, June 14 and 15, at 8:00pm
Co-presented by Chez Bushwick, The Invisible Dog Art Center and Queer New York International
Tickets: $10 (suggested donation)
Limited seating. reservation required: simon [at] theinvisibledog [dot] org

The Invisible Dog Art Center
51 Bergen Street (between Smith and Court Streets), Brooklyn
646-270-2550
www.theinvisibledog.org

About Randy Gener

Randy Gener is the Nathan Award-winning editor, writer, critic, playwright and visual artist in New York City. He is the author of the plays "Love Seats for Virginia Woolf," "Wait for Me at the Bottom of the Pool," "A Parliament of the Streets," and others. His conceptual installation, "In the Garden of One World" (designed by Nic Ularu), debuted in 2008 at La MaMa La Galleria in New York. He is a renowned lecturer and speaker in the arts and technology, appearing at such schools as the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center-Graduate Center, City University of New York, Montclair State University, University of South Carolina, Brooklyn College; U.S. and European festivals as Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Prague Quadrennial for World Scenography, William Inge Theatre Festival, Humana Festival of New American Plays; as well as such institutions as Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Hallmark Inc., Dramatists Guild of America, Odeon Theatre of Bucharest, Romanian Cultural Institute-New York, Long Wharf Theater Company, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and La MaMa E.T.C.

2 comments on “Performance review | Is “Pâquerette” penetrating, or merely a dance with penetrating elements?

  1. JSC
    June 19, 2012

    While this review makes some salient observations, I’m saddened to see that the author of this article has such a limited view of queerness (same-sex?). I have no idea where the following comment is coming from or going: the author writes that the piece “normalizes the sense of queer danger since it foregrounds an intimate play between a man and a woman”. There is no analysis of the complexity of gender that this piece offered and that is very much at the heart of queer culture as I know it. I did not see this piece as performed by “a man and a woman” at all, but was struck by the interplay of sameness and difference as the focus on the anus proved equalizing and both bodies were naked. Further, Francois, with their long hair and fully-made up face certainly presented as genderqueer / trans in my perception.

    • randygener
      June 19, 2012

      Thank you for your incisive comment. I will think about what you said.

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This entry was posted on June 15, 2012 by in Dance | Movement, Europe, Festival Watch, France, Rant-n-Raves, Reviews and tagged , , , , , .

Categories

“From the Edge: Performance Design in the Divided States of America” at LaMaMa La Galleria

On Smart Power, International Cultural Exchange and Performance Design | An Interview by Amanda White Thietje

3 Interviews by AMANDA WHITE THIETJE:
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RANDY GENER and I met in Prague this summer, where we were both attending the 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (PQ). I was wandering through the exhibits, soaking up the inspiration and the beauty of the city; he was serving as both curatorial advisor of "From the Edge" (USITT’s USA National Pavilion) and Editor-In-Chief of this year’s PQ daily newspaper.
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Randy agreed to talk with me about the PQ, and there’s so much in this interview I want to share with you that I’m going to post it in three parts. Click on the titles of each article below so you can read each part of the interview:
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  • Interview – Part 1: "From the Edge"
  • Interview – Part 2: "Active Searching & The Value of the Prague Quadrennial"
  • Interview – Part 3: "A Ripple Effect."
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    “From the Edge: Performance Design in the Divided States of America,” the USA national pavilion at Prague National Gallery

    From the Edge: Performance Design in the Divided States of America

    Reflections on curating and creating national expositions in an international art-based mega-exhibition in Prague
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  • Curatorial essay: "Exhibiting a country on the edge: a U.S. approach to performance design"
  • USA exposition returns from Prague: "American performing garage under the sign of Obama"
  • Prague diaries: "Philadelphia theater-makers talk about how performance design affected their works and processes."
  • Interview with curators: "Curators speak about the thrills, challenges and obstacles of staging national expositions of design."
  • -

    Praise and Commendations

    >> "A first-rate writer and editor. Randy Gener understands culture in the widest sense: as news, as art, as politics, as media," Margo Jefferson, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer.
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    >> "Mr. Randy Gener’s 'in the theater of One World,' a showcase of his own individual work, is taking up the slack that print journalism is leaving behind. You won’t find this in your local papers," Superfluities Redux.
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    >> "The visionary," Instinct Magazine.
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    >> "An internationalist, a champion of cultural exchange and dialogue," The New York Daily News.
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    >> "Randy Gener's command of theatrical subjects is unequalled among his contemporaries," American Theatre magazine/Theatre Communications Group.
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    >> "Randy Gener sheds light into censorship and repression of the arts," Judges of the Deadline Club Award, New York chapter of Society of Professional Journalists.
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    >> "Randy Gener is one of the most compelling voices of our era of globalization," Ioana Ieronim, author, poet and Fulbright Program Director of Fulbright Commission Romania.
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    >> "Gener draws our attention to largely ignored voices and visions on the international theatrical scene," Judges of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism.
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    >> "Mr. Gener holds himself to a high standard in his long-form journalism — perhaps a model for young journalists," Superfluities Redux.
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    >> "Gener’s writing on theater, especially as it interacts with LGBT lives, is beautifully done, knowledgeable and almost lyrical in its language,” Judges of NLGJA Journalist of the Year.
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    >> "Randy Gener demonstrates the ripple effect that spotlighting artistic passion can have," Judges of the Deadline Club Award, New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
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    >> "Randy Gener's 'Love Seats for Virginia Woolf' is a meditative homage. Gener has staged his play with a subtle grace that complements the art objects' sedentary ingenuity. Never has Virginia's room of one's own been so suggestively furnished,” The Village Voice
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    >> "Gener's accumulation of words in his play 'Love Seats for Virginia Woolf' are the feathery evanescence of the butterfly's wings clamped together with the bolts of iron that are the four loveseat sculptures. The actors become words personified. I was left astonished,” The Virginia Woolf Miscellany of the International Virginia Woolf Society.
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    >> "His essays wed critical intelligence with a love of the telling and unruly fact," Judges of George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism.
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    >> "Gener went above and beyond with regard to enterprise, resourcefulness and overcoming of obstacles in the pursuit of the story," Judges of Deadline Club Award, New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
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    >> "Randy Gener has been a tremendous asset to American Theatre ever since he was selected as a Jerome Foundation Affiliated Writer back in 1995-96, and especially since he joined the staff full-time in 2001," American Theatre magazine/Theatre Communications Group.
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    >> "One of the leaders of the Asian American community," The New York Daily News.
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    >> "In conferring the Pamana ng Pilipino (Legacy of the Filipino Nation) Presidential Award to Randy Gener, the President recognizes Gener's excellence in the field of theater arts and creativity, and diligence in promoting Filipino-American interests and accomplishments to mainstream audiences in Europe and the United States of America," His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III, President of the Republic of the Philippines.
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    Biography

    Randy Gener is the Nathan Award-winning editor, writer, critic, curator, playwright and visual artist in New York City.
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    His conceptual installation, "in the garden of One World," debuted at La MaMa La Galleria in New York. He is the author of "Love Seats for Virginia Woolf," and other plays.
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    For his editorial work and critical essays as the senior editor of American Theatre magazine, Gener has received the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, the highest accolade for excellence in dramatic criticism in the United States; the Deadline Club Award for Best Arts Reporting from the New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists; five media awards for excellence in travel-writing from the annual North American Travel Journalists Association Awards competition; and the NLGJA Journalist of the Year 2010.

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