Over the Weekend, 1/11-1/13

As the post below this one makes clear, this weekend saw the inaugural 2008 Polar Bear Plunge benefit for Special Olympics. I took part, took photos and video, and if you've ever wanted to see frozen Ghostbusters, head over to the photo slideshow.

Some of the costumed folks and event volunteers have shown up in the blog post comments, too, which is fun.

Upon drying off and warming up from the Polar Bear Plunge, I headed to the Walker for the Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People performance. The dance-and-much-more piece opened the 20th anniversary of the Walker's "Out There" series.


One by one, they emerge, the Powerful People. As a simple cymbal beat plays, performers in the nine-member troupe move out from the wings and take the stage, faces blank. Now and again, they make eye contact with the audience; now and again the gaze breaks.

Over the Weekend, 1/11-1/13

Check out our slideshow for the Out There 20. The first four photos are from the Gutierrez show, and the shots just get odder and more interesting from there.

Over the course of the evening, their performance piece "Everyone" would include music, dance, movement (solo and tandem) along with spoken word. Yet the high points of the evening were the most understated, the moments where Gutierrez and Co. made provocative statements about the nature of human connections with the self and the other. These moments existed, but were fleeting.

Besides the high concept moments, like when the troupe's placement amongst the theater seats gave performers the illusion of flight, the show's best moments were its most humorous. During a shared monologue (a paradox, I know), Gutierrez' ruminations on seemingly disconnected moments of relative truth value gave way to musings about INXS, Michael Hutchence's last moments and reality television. This engaged all segments about audience, something the rest of the performance struggled with.

Performance art isn't for everyone. It's meant to challenge and at times confuse, a point the group noted (and was evident to one attendee, who made a point of walking out during a brief lull in the action). At its best, it can be a unifying experience, where the line between audience and viewer, subject and object, is blurred.

The Powerful People reach for this, but never quite get there. Some of this might be due to rising expectations. After reading the New York Times' rave reviews, and that Gutierrez "upends the traditional theatrical experience by seating the audience on the stage," we were prepared for a bit more interactivity. The show included running, singing and simulated (?) make-out sessions, but the closest the audience came the performers was during a lull, when one Powerful Person came so close to the first row during an intricate movement series that you could have plucked her back hairs.

This was emblematic of the show: impressive, yes, striving, yes; but leaving you just this close to satisfaction.

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