Artforum.com editor David Velasco travels the world to see Sarah Michelson’s dances, even when he’s not on assignment. In an Art21 blog interview between he and artist Marissa Perel, he said, “Artforum.com is heavy on the exhibitions, so I have to do this on the side. It’s a labor of love.” Regarding his passion for Sarah Michelson, he said, “She believes there’s an energy around the specific place and…people that she is with. It can’t be replicated, which is terrifying because if you’re not there for those nights, you’ll never see it. Or she might tour it but she will re-tool the dance to work with each space, so it’s never the same version…I actually flew back from Amsterdam to see her piece, Dover Beach, because I knew that if I didn’t get to see it [there], I never would.”
He also said something in this interview that gets to the heart of why we watch dance at all: “…Even though dance is ephemeral in relationship to a painting or a sculpture, it stays with me in a way that is not ephemeral. It is at least no more ephemeral than the memory of sculpture or painting. This is something for me that really stuns me about Sarah Michelson’s work. She really makes you believe in dance proper. It’s not simply a game. She believes in phrase work. She is able to imbue movement with meaning…She is a formal master.” You can see Michelson’s use of phrase work, below, in this clip from her Shadowmann: Part 2, performed at PS122 in April 2003.
In the Art21 blog interview, Marissa Perel said, “Her use of duration and repetition is almost like performance art, but her phrase work is like Michael Clark punk ballet. She has an incredible visual ability to compose bodies in space in multiple ways where so much happens at the same time. She brings in so many forms, and has influenced how our generation uses repetition and music now. She also pretty much defined what is cool. Period.”
Sarah Michelson and Richard Maxwell’s new collaboration, Devotion, debuts at the Kitchen January 13, but it won’t be the same piece performed here February 17-19. Devotion will be re-tooled for the McGuire Theater and will be a unique version of the work. Check back on the blogs for a spotlight on Richard Maxwell’s role in the creation of Devotion.