“In Zen, they say: If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four minutes. If it’s still boring, try it for eight, 16, 32, etc. In the end people find out that it’s not boring at all but very enjoyable.”
So let’s continue with one of the 90 stories, one minute each, in John Cage’s “Indeterminacy,” which he first recorded in 1959 on an album with pianist David Tudor. On Tuesday at La MaMa in the East Village, veteran downtown performer Paul Lazar, along with six special guests, told most of those stories – “except for a few stories I didn’t like. ,” says Lazar at the beginning of the show — in random order, while completing a sequence of gestures and steps out of order, a dance is choreographed.
The story “if something is boring” appeared halfway through, and it drifted back into my consciousness when the work, “Cage Shuffle Marathon, ” Finished earlier than I expected. True, with the stories omitted, it is shorter than the advertised 90 minutes. But it’s also the kind of performance that captures the patient’s attention, somehow, somehow, the longer you watch, the more likely you are to continue watching.
Or maybe I’m just waiting for more to happen. Lazar – a founder, along with choreographer Annie-B Parson, of Great Dance Theater – has been doing “Cage Shuffle” since 2017 and the setup, which he explains with a familiarity that easily enlivens the evening, is pretty straightforward. A headset gave him Cage stories on the shuffle, so he never knew what would happen next, but the order of the dance, which he choreographed with Parson, was tried. determined. Normal-looking movements include elbowing, lowering one knee, and touching the soles of your feet with your fingers.
In the spirit of chance that has shaped much of Cage’s work, the associations that appear between speech and movement are random, and noticing them becomes a kind of game. On Tuesday, these include a breastbone stroke to the line “release your spirit” and shoes that rub the floor so that “feet is slightly off the ground.” The deviations are equally interesting, like the heavy, dull axes that ask the dramatic question in Cage’s grandmother story: “John, are you ready for the Lord’s return?”
For this version of the “marathon,” which has more story than usual, Lazar recruited a supporting cast of performers and writers, all of whom are treasures of dance and theatrical scenes. New York trial: Jess Barbagallo, Patricia Hoffbauer, Jennifer Krasinski, Brian Rogers and Sheryl Sutton. From their seats on stage, around the red-floored square at the heart of the action, each person will capture the attention of a unique story, giving Lazar a chance to rest. Parson also joined briefly. This is where I find myself more predictable: It doesn’t seem unusual to gather so many esteemed guests so that each person contributes – in ways other than silently observing – just once.
Their intervention brought about welcome changes in timing and energy, in addition to the necessary pacing changes by adapting each story, however lengthy, to the space of a minute. While the material suits Lazar like a worn-out pair of sandals – so much so that he can toss out clever meta-methods – other materials feel comfortable in it. The novelty of discovery flared up in Barbagallo’s comic book, the story of Aunt Marge (“You know, I love this machine more than I make your Uncle Walter”); in Krasinski’s sobriety; in Hoffbauer’s combination of focus and frenzy. Sutton and Rogers, who both remained seated as they talked, offered notes on how to speak calmly but vividly.
When they all started moving at the same time, I expected the beginning of another phase of work, my interest increased. That was really the end – a jolting back to a different kind of awareness, after being lost for the minutes that had passed.
Cage Shuffle Marathon
Come Saturday at La MaMa, Manhattan; lamama.org.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/arts/dance/review-cage-shuffle-marathon-paul-lazar.html Review: A Dance to John Cage’s Very Short Stories