By Heather Robles
Photos by Ingrid Holmquist
2nd Best Dance Company is onboard with an increasingly popular way of creating performance- doing it yourself at home!
To attend 2nd Best’s latest work Housewarming, I purchased my ticket using Venmo, was emailed ticket confirmation and asked to arrive early to be escorted up the 6-flight walk up. I was also kindly reminded to be mindful of noise levels when leaving the show, so as not to disturb the neighbors. Upon arriving, I removed my shoes after walking in the door, a common practice in the homes of many New Yorkers. Drinks were available for sale in the kitchen, poured into mugs from the pantry. I walked down the short hallway and into the living room, which had opened doors into a bedroom where the audience sat. Although seats were available, I chose a squishy cushion on the floor- first row! Will Noling, a founding member of 2nd Best, sat opposite my view at a candlelit table meditatively slicing asparagus with a fork and knife. He was lost in thought. I was suddenly sucked into his world, this no longer feeling like a performance, my voyeuristic view peering into daily life inside a real person’s apartment.
Housewarming, by Hannah Garner and Ryan Yamauchi, is surprising, smart, poetic; a roller coaster of intimacy, playfulness, humor and violence. As this performance was held in Hannah and Ryan’s own apartment, the reality of their living space in collaboration with the created performance sparked realizations on the uniqueness of the home construct. Home is a place where life happens, a space wherein all who dwell might be at once both right and wrong, loved and ignored, accommodating and forcing will, desperate and even dead.
Watching the quartet of dancers Courtney Barth, Mitch Christie, Will Noling, and Imani Nia Simmons (this weekend performed by Taylor Boyland), questions flooded my mind. How do we hold space, and for whom? Where does our insanity show up in the home and with those sharing our/their very intimate space? What is ownership? What is intimacy?
The choreography jumped from beautifully braided twisting bodies using a hallway as a partner, to an invisible tennis match. There was a funeral where the dead laughed at the mourners. The dancers demonstrated various degrees of aloneness, the thoughts we think but do not speak, manifesting in passive-aggressive climbing of objects, territory, and each other. There was the visible impact of when the unsaid is expressed, as well as the absurd things we say when trying to sculpt into words the murky, vitamin-rich mud at the bottom of our mind’s ocean. A magnificent and frequent performer with 2nd Best, Courtney Barth can change the dynamics of a scenario simply with the shifting of her eyes. She was a flattened woman becoming inflated back to life, sometimes the perpetrator inflicting violence on those within the space, and at times the one I wished I could protect from them. At one time she became the center of the universe on a spinning rug, raising more thoughts of how every home is its own world.
Every detail of this production was well crafted, from the correspondance on email, to the lighting design, sound design, full arrangement of the apartment space, the performance of the dancers, and of course the imaginative and well-explored choreography. Additionally, as tickets and all information was handled electronically, drinks poured into mugs, and the company using what was already on hand for props, costume, lighting, and set- this was an environmentally friendly, zero-waste show! It occurred to me that for a choreographer to host a show in her own apartment, bringing us into her personal space of home, in addition to the already personal space of heart, she has to trust the audience. At performances in theaters, the audience arrives with a readiness to trust the artist. In this model, the artist has skin in the game on more levels than usual. This vulnerability deepened the impact of the work itself, blurring the demarcation between spectacle and spontaneous living.
Housewarming is a multi-layered and brilliant work, capturing the daily beauty hidden inside the shells of walls, the wars within the home and inside ourselves. It is a work I would see something new in each time viewed, and never get tired of it.
Photos by Ingrid Holmquist