David Gordon at ODC’s BWay Theatre, April 21

17 May

It wasn’t until I opened the program for David Gordon’s Live Archiveography    that I was aware the production was enjoying its premiere here or that its origins lay with the New York Public Library, supported by  some of the best dance funders currently active and utilizing dancers long involved with his productions. Gordon is so clearly a New Yorker, belonging to a generation of dancer/artists enjoying the solidifying national interest in the performing arts. As a member of this group, he also springs from family ties clearly captured in family pictures of the women in youth and maturity from which Gordon doubtless drew considerable strength and encouragement.  Now 80, this Gordon production is permeated with that spirit, and, like family, it is both sequential and jumbled as memory can unavoidably be.

The production relies on one large screen and two small screens whose tensile strength relied on black cord, somehow managing to emphasize the evocation of a family photo album, although much of this included sequences from prior productions, duly identified by name and date. As the audience filed in, David Gordon was seated in front of the right tier of seats, reading aloud from a text displayed on one of the side screens. There a few minutes later Julie Potter, recently named director of the ODC Theater, made the usual announcements about production, safety exits and cessation of cell phones.

Nostalgia and reminiscence I get, the choreographic means only sporadically, but the salutation of a lifetime of activity, I applaud every inch of the way. With Valda Setterfield moving in the space as the audience filed in, and later disclosing she lost her red hair to Gordon’s belief white hair would be more electric, I confirmed my belief she was a major contributor to Gordon’s continued success and ability to improvise. She, Karen Graham and Scott Cunningham contributed immediate movement while videos behind on the two large screens recorded the earlier versions.

I never made it into the circle of admirers of the Judson School which sent “modern” dance off in a direction almost opposite to the trio of dancers, Graham, Humphrey and Wiedman,  who emerged from the Denishawn school. Setterfield danced for a decade under Merce Cunningham until an accident forced a change in her allegiance, and is a dancer I find compelling.

Godon’s ability to mixture, rework and comment is lively and unique.  His works have been numerous, vigorous and have enjoyed remarkable fiscal and institutional support.  This production is no exception and is a salute to grit and, clearly, a theatre mensch.

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