by Mitchell Conway · August 22, 2015
Alexandra Peter | Melissa Lavoie
Summer Blue is a variety show from LoudSOL prominently featuring aerialist work from UrbanCircusNYC.
Elliot Larue’s gorgeous voice was featured in an early song rhythmically supported by banging on a table with a small chain rattling. The tune returned later with the full cast stamping in rhythm. A white woman (Flora Wildes) reading an excerpt from Tupac was interrupted by a black man after she read the n-word, and in the conversation that followed Equiano Mosieri offered a metaphor: after drowning a family, confronted by his child about the floating bodies, he tells the child, “that’s just how they are, its their nature.” Akil Davis’ bulgy-eyed mask, creeping-fingers-performance to ‘Strange Fruit’ made me shiver. Aerialist Dana Abrassart uses a chain, accompanied by a radio segment about Robert Johnson, and is punctured by many blackouts.
Alexandra Peter preceded her excellent aerial work by lap dancing on an audience member and then hanging above him. The audience member touched her inappropriately. There was a gender-reversed Taming of the Shrew scene, and segments in club bathrooms in front of the mirrors and urinals. Elana Jaroff held a live butterfly in a jar, dressed herself, then in a second dance undressed herself; portions of her dances resembled butoh.
Near the closing, Akil Davis offered a poem bringing up the distinction between artists and non-artists. He seemed to say that “occupations built on foundations of order” like being a doctor work for money while artists “living by different factors” work for passion, but those trying for fame were missing something. This intentionally estranging message made me think about my own biases about other’s values based on their professions: When do I erect arbitrary barriers in communication and how do they impact my relationships? Can one person simply be driven by love of gain while another love of honor and another love of wisdom, or is categorizing people in that way negligent of our inner complexities?
I’ve felt the distinction Davis is emphasizing, when talking about what I do (as an artist), and someone responding, “well, it’s your passion.” It’s not outright dismissive, but it is perhaps indicating a certain lack of mutual understanding. I never find myself saying “it’s my passion” as a justification or explanation of my own course of action. So, what is the function of an ‘artist’ saying to a ‘non-artist,’ we are “living by different factors”? For me, that emphasis brings up the consistent self-questioning someone faces when dedicated to a not-so-profitable endeavor, and the way he reassures himself of its validity; assuming full confidence in that pursuit, it may not require such praise. If an artist knows there is something irrational in her pursuit, perhaps it requires some rationalization when she is in (inevitable?) doubt. Will that self-praise through distinction from perhaps more clearly rational endeavors evoke understanding from the hearer? When Davis mentions his parents later in the poem his eyes relaxed vulnerably: I felt an emotional quality drop in as the smile left his face. Maybe he was addressing how artists need to boost their esteem in order to open themselves, as a necessary protective measure for revealing something to those who may or may not appreciate it.
Although Summer Blue was primarily a show of different featured acts, there was the reoccurring theme of race/racism and a connection to the blues brought out in many sections. Instead of consistently meditating on that matter, there was the strong presence of elevation.