From Lucinda Child’s Available Light to Okwui Okpokwasili’s Bronx Gothic, FringeArts has successfully presented national and international artists whose works break new ground, provoke thought and cross disciplines. While I’ve struggled to comprehend some works produced by FringeArts, the overall theme is clear: the limitless possibilities for art engagement.
This month the Argentina-based choreographer Luis Garay presented Maneries at the FringeArts headquarters. With the theater dimly lit and seating limited to the first four rows, the experience began to feel very mysterious.
The sound of a door slamming was the audible cue performer Florencia Vecino needed to take her place upstage center.Dressed only in black shorts and sports bra, with her hair slicked back, Vecino appeared androgynous as she slowly pulled her hands up the front of her body to the humming sound of Mauro Panzillo’s gradually building soundscape. The action was excruciatingly slow, the space was uncomfortably dark, and the soundscape provided little to contrast the tone established by the dark space in which Vecino delivered her movements at a snail’s pace.
Begging for light
This experience reminded me of everything I found problematic with Anna Terese De Keersmaeker’s Partita 2. Yet I remained opened by fully immersing myself in Garay’s work, with Vecino as my tour guide.
As the piece developed, I yearned for a change in music tempo, prayed for quickness, and begged for more light. But what shifted the mood, the appearance of the performer, and the level of comfort for some, was the spectacle of Vecino undressing after hydrating her fatigued self.
Although the program warned that there would be nudity, it’s still difficult to prepare yourself adequately to watch for someone disrobing in a public space while you simply stare. The transformation became the bridge between the androgyny of Vecino’s former self and her now-gendered nudity, proving that the body can become a resource without boundaries.
Vecino wore her naked body as a costume, allowing the lighting to shape, shadow, and sculpt its exterior. As a shape-changing instrument, Vecino pranced on relevé, then quickened her pace in a speedy gestural phrase before pausing to slap her rear end in what could ne perceived as a tongue-in-cheek moment, as if her body did not belong to her. In one moment she had discarded her androgyny and molded her body to accentuate her feminine curves.
As an audience member, I entered a not-so-fresh space, feeling burdened to process such concepts as leisure, nudity, and pedestrian gestures simultaneously. It has been done, certainly.
But my reaction to Maneries wasn’t immediate; I needed time to digest all that was revealed. And I’m still digesting. Ultimately, I think, Maneries was not about the naked body but about how body can serve as a library of knowledge, telling stories in many languages.