This woman is dangerous

Keely Garfield's "Limerence'

3 minute read
Garfield: A lover? Yes, but for what? (Photo: Juleta Cervantes.)
Garfield: A lover? Yes, but for what? (Photo: Juleta Cervantes.)
Keely Garfield's Limerence could be the Cliff Notes to poet Gary Snyder's line: "The pointless wars of the heart." It draws blood. And if you're like me, it takes a night of fitful sleep before you realize how badly you've been cut.

Don't be fooled by her pose of stymied passivity; Ms. Garfield has seen into the abyss of a common type of loving with a heap of brains and, for art's sake, created a persona without much conscious insight. Her character acts not from thought but from pain. She is spiritually maimed; her face permanently that of someone who has been run over by life. Yet out of that trauma comes her character's power. She is a victimizing victim.

What does really she want? A lover, of course— but you keep asking yourself: What exactly for? To sacrifice a bit of herself for? Not on your life. To give something to? Well, yes, she does give: she covers her partner with a shawl, but only after she has first driven her to illness. Later her beloved, with a coat, returns the identical favor. It's a pattern of hurt, then rescue, in order to hurt again. Love in the world of this piece is, as Proust said, an "incurable malady." Affection as infection.

Love's grace doesn't last long

The piece begins to what seems like an Indian raga of some sort, but the choreography rapidly undermines this serenity. Omagbitse Omagbemi, as the first of Garfield's beloveds, is a gorgeous dancer, but the choreographer seeks to suppress the virtuosity of her dancers"“"“ and above all, her own. Love may start out gracefully but grace doesn't last long.

By the second tune— something about being "knocked sideways"— the lover-dancers have been reduced to crawling on all fours. All the while Garfield keeps longing. I think it's her own voice-over on the sound track that promises, sweetly, to meet her lover on the beach. But she adds as a postscript: "You will never touch me again."

Bring on the next lover

Ms. Omagbemi is ultimately ousted; on comes the next victor/victim (Brandin Steffensen). It makes sense that there is little solo dancing in this piece; Garfield must and will have a lover around. This one wears boxing gloves and lands some blows as the heroine defends and attacks with something like cheerleader pom-poms. The power dynamic between victor and victim keeps shifting; at one point Steffensen takes a few steps (that would be hip at any party) over Garfield's defeated body as it twitches on the floor. This is a man willing not only to do handstands to win his girl, but handstands with pushups.

And he does win her "“"“ to a poignant final piece of Classical music, hoisting Ms. Garfield onto a bicycle seat on which she stands aloft like a statue of liberty while he pedals. The orchestra is lush. The lighting beautiful. Happiness at last? As long as she remains on her pedestal while he does the pedaling? On a stationary bicycle pedaling to nowhere?

To read a response, click here.

What, When, Where

Limerence. Choreography by Keely Garfield. Philadelphia Dance Projects performance February 6-7, 2009 at The Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine St.

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