Choreography and Couscous

Global DanceFest's sensory smorgasbord

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, March 8, 2012

You’re in a room with a stranger. Perhaps the person before you is a sculptor. Another time, it’s a medical supply salesman, or an opera singer. Perhaps she’s an astrophysicist.

In each instance, you begin to dance, and as your body winds about, the stranger tells you what she thinks of it and directs you to do more. An architect wants you to “be poetry.” A sommelier asks you to tell her what you smell in a blacked-out bottle of wine, drink it and then respond with motion. One person tells you to have a “real relationship” with an inanimate object—say, a chair.

This is the world in which Wally Cardona and Jennifer Lacey existed while conducting research for their newest show, Tool Is Loot. Stationed on different continents—Cardona in New York City and Lacey in Paris—they were set up with strangers who were experts in fields other than dance. Each pairing lasted a week, beginning with an “empty solo” by the artist and morphing into a discourse between dancer and stranger.

“It was founded on us having an interest in being undone,” Cardona says. While some aspects of the show may be familiar—an object or words, for example—the physical activity is “unsteadying. It’s not about securing things for a viewer.”

The scenarios Cardona and Lacey put themselves in sound both terrifying and exhilarating. Most importantly, though, the exercise led the two experimental choreographers and dancers to approach this show in an entirely different way from any of their past work. After a year of research, they came together to dissect what they had learned. “The things we were sharing with each other were the things that were the most horrifying, the things that made us cringe,” Cardona says. “Those were the moments that had the most energy and potential; they were the most exciting.”

Cardona and Lacey are bringing Tool Is Loot to Albuquerque for part of Global DanceFest Spring 2012 at VSA North Fourth Art Center. For Cardona, it will be a little like coming home, since he lived in New Mexico for a few years as a child. Before he began his career in dance and attended Juilliard, he trained as a gymnast for the Junior Olympics in Gallup and Albuquerque. “It’s interesting being a dancer now and going back to this place where there was this physical training, my first physical training,” he says. “It’s so vivid in my memory and in my body.”

Tool Is Loot doesn’t show until the last weekend of the festival, April 13 and 14. Kicking off Global DanceFest on Friday and Saturday, March 9 and 10, is Je danse et je vous en donne à bouffer (I dance and I give you to eat), from Tunisia’s Radhouane El Meddeb. The actor/filmmaker/choreographer/dancer marries two loves in this sensory performance, dancing while cooking couscous for the audience. In his artist’s statement, he explains that couscous is Tunisia’s national dish, a meal that’s become an intrinsic part of every important cultural gathering, from weddings to circumcisions to funerals. It’s one dish for every occasion, and it’s come to partly define, or punctuate, Tunisians’ existence.

On March 16 and 17 isKawa: a solo for two, choreographed by Tunisia’s Hafiz Dhaou and Aïcha M’Barek. LikeJe danse, it’s a piece that merges all the senses. Dhaou brews, clinks and rattles coffee and its accoutrements to the backdrop of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’sMemory for Forgetfulness. The performance will be followed by dessert, coffee and a talk-back session.

The third weekend of the festival, March 23 and 24, brings three pieces from California’s AXIS Dance Company: “Full of Words,” “To Color Me Different” and “Light Shelter.” AXIS is a 25-year-old company that revolves around dancers with and without disabilities. Choreographer Mark Brew’s “Full of Words” prods the notion of humanity and the idea of who is considered a “dancer, ” while Alex Ketley’s “To Color Me Different” uses a collaboration with poet Carol Snow to play with the roles of enabler and partner. “Light Shelter,” from David Dorfman, does what its title implies, switching between the realms of light and dark and community and isolation.

This is Global DanceFest’s 12th year and also its last, says the festival’s artistic director and creator Marjorie Neset. Don’t be too disturbed, though; it will be replaced by a festival called Journeys, which will take place in the spring and fall. (DanceFest was a once-a-year event with the exception of 2011.) Neset says she hopes the bisected format of Journeys will enable her to involve more partners and bring in writers and journalists to highlight emerging themes and discussions.

The mission behind Journeys will mirror that of Global DanceFest: “Bringing newer, smaller, more interesting work” that doesn’t often come to New Mexico, says Neset, who spends much of her year looking for performances that “represent our global village.”

Her primary purpose in the effort is not simply to expose people to beautiful things but to educate them. “Dance is made within certain environments and traditions,” she says. So even if you can’t afford to visit, say, Tunisia, “you do learn about a place; you get to understand it if you see the art that’s being made.”


Global DanceFest Spring 2012

Je danse et je vous en donne à bouffer (I dance and I give you to eat)

Friday and Saturday, March 9 and 10, 7 p.m.

Kawa: a solo for two

Friday and Saturday, March 16 and 17, 8 p.m.

“Full of Words,” “To Color Me Different” and “Light Shelter”

Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24, 8 p.m.

Tool Is Loot

Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14, 8 p.m.


VSA North Fourth Art Center

4904 Fourth Street NW

All tickets: $20, $12 students and seniors