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Sense and Nonsense at The Tulip Show

NightShade on June 24, 2013 at Studio Current
Photo by Studio Current artists
It is difficult to do poetic justice to TheTulip Show at Studio Current on Thursday, June 27, because Steven Gomez already did: he ended the evening with an animated reading of his hilarious free-write about all of the acts. He speared the artists with keen wit, honored them with understanding, and solidified the sense that the “audience” was part of a huge inside joke. That is what Vanessa DeWolf, the “Artistic Wrangler” of Studio Current, created with a series of residencies: an intimate community that connects various artists to one another and to the public. The many artists involved in The Tulip Show were confident yet humble, diverse yet unified, and utterly brave in their risky creative pursuits.
Devin McDermott made her solo choreography debut with Ruby LaBlue, whichcombined video work with live performance. Her movement was sometimes undulating, sometimes mechanical, but always precise. McDermott highlighted an uncanny ability to always place particular parts of her body exactly where they need to be. An intriguing video featured her painted like a skeleton, moving eerily through scenes in a wedding dress. The video as a whole read as a bit angsty, but was surprising, and sharply edited.
Several artists involved the audience in their showing. Mimi Allin invited audience members to explore four concepts: passion, play, ugly, and beautiful. Allin explained that the audience was to circle the space and dance, speak, sing, or simply watch others, while feeling one of the aforementioned concepts. She effectively engaged everyone, even those who not comfortable dancing. Joyce Liao’s work, placed at the end of the evening after everyone had loosened up a bit, also involved the audience. In Cloud Bush she used the same cowpoke-tempoed version of “Blue Moon” that Allin used, a brilliant move that added to the feeling of familiarity. The highlight of her showing was when she stood on a river of shiny wrapping paper bits, faced the crowd, and said, “No need to worry, at least not now. In a little bit, okay.”
That sort of semi-sensical wordplay found a niche in Gender Tender’s presentation of Go Long. The piece ended with Syniva Whitney lying on the floor at Will Courtney’s feet. As Whitney spoke angrily, Courtney lip-synced the words. His latent gesticulating made it clear Whitney was improvising, which highlighted both of their off-the-cuff skills. As a pair, Courtney and Whitney were a force to be reckoned with, offering brilliant insight into stereotyping. They wore basketball jerseys upside-down underneath their letterman jackets, with a taut jockstrap connecting them and a hollow latex football ballooning from Whitney’s sleeve.
In an interesting departure from her white-makeup-ed Butoh work, Joan Laage presented another exploration of stereotyping with Engendering Project. In a ranchero’s uniform, complete with brown leather hat, flannel shirt, thick canvas pants, and a rope, she moved with purpose and incredible facial control through archetypal cowboy poses, consistently matching her emotion to her stance. Later, she removed the cowboy garb to reveal her gorgeous black hair reaching almost to her knees and old-fashioned white lingerie. The move from almost masculine androgyny to femininity was shocking and intense.
Near-nudity and its full-blown cousin were apparent in two other pieces: Laura Aschoff’s Going Like This and DeWolf’s Pathetic Squirrel Envy. Aschoff worked with dancer Amy Ross and musician M Crosby to create Going, which featured piles of little rocks placed strategically throughout the space. Ross and Aschoff wore nearly transparent “crawl suits,” which were most interesting when they gave the appearance of nudity underneath. The beginning featured intense, easily identifiable modern dance. At two points in the piece, however, Aschoff and Ross talked naturally to one another, as if a curtain separated them from the audience. The work as a whole felt cohesive and thoroughly explored.

Vanessa DeWolf in Jonquil on June 24, 2013
Photo by Steve Lundeen 
As DeWolf set up her piece, she periodically reminded the audience that she hadn’t started yet. Wearing a short, cavewoman-like dress of fake fur, she announced she was starting and buried herself under the covers of Studio Current’s resident bed. She lay in suspenseful stillness, then screeched and preened like an animal. Later, she carried a giant pine cone to the middle of the audience, stripped to complete nudity, and then donned a vintage winter cloak. Topping it off with a rubber squirrel mask, she began sobbing uncontrollably. “I don’t know what I’m thinking,” she cried as her squirrel eyes searched skyward. When she removed the mask, however, she was completely straight-faced and deadpan. This was clearly the work of a genius in the making: DeWolf managed to make sense out of the nonsensical, engage the audience, and remain authentic.
Paris Hurley, who recently wrapped up a stint at NWNW, used her performance time to talk (and move) about “what happens next after a big artistic endeavor.” She spoke directly with the audience in an honest way about the strange let-down after a show. She wondered aloud how to answer the question, “What will you do next?”
The Tulip Show invited the audience to be utterly present in the moment, to witness works in the making, and to be part of a community. To answer the question “what next?” visit Studio Current’s facebook page.