NEW BLOG POST: “Off Broadway”

Here’s a snippet of my newest article for Center on the Aisle

“The performance started off with several recognizable classics, engaging the audience in a swaying assonance. There was a welcoming comfort to the expository portion of the start along with the introduction of the band: Tommy Faragher (Musical Director and Piano), John Putnam (Guitar), Paul Socolow (Bass), Sam Merrick (Drums). Mr. Young went in and out of hiding behind his sunglasses – and in doing so he coyly played with the audience but his phenomenal voice, intrinsic in its varying capacities, remained and held us all captive. Sing-alongs came and went, as did perfunctory applause at the beginning of bits due to the recognizable, sparse but poignant standing ovations, abrupt interruptions by way of unruly cheering – and then something happened.”

You can see the full text here.

Self = Portraits…part seven

Full circle or triangle or quadrilateral? I am not sure there was any sort of linear movement in this longwinded rite of passage full of astounding obstacles that led me back to start off where I wanted to end up in the beginning.

Self = Portraits…part one
Self = Portraits…part two
Self = Portraits…part three
Self = Portraits…part four
Self = Portraits…part five
Self = Portraits…part six

66. Baggage

This was the very first video I made when I returned to the United States of America in December 2014, just two weeks before Christmas.

67. Armor

Frail, broken – if not damaged, I was more guarded and protected than I had ever been but at the same time I was willing to wear my vulnerability on my sleeve. By a twist of fate, I had to shed my freedom when I returned to USA and cover up all the messiness of being able to be myself in Europe. I was “home” in familiar territory and it was time to go to work. I went back to the same temp agency and started working in an office. This plight is shown here, along with the simple fact that I had to let go of my passion and start censoring myself for social graces. What lies beneath is what got me into trouble in the first place.

 

68. Früher

Sometimes in order to move forward we need to go backwards a little bit and look at the history of our time in order to not make the same mistakes. Amiss an abundance of reverse culture shock, this film came about when I needed a change – as so many of my shaving videos in this series involve some depiction of mine wanting to reinvent myself by altering my physical appearance.  I was experiencing extreme PTSD as well as reverse culture shock. I missed all the good and bad of Germany, as well as the USA. This was my way of handling it.

69.  Quit

This is somewhat a sequel to “Smoke” – one of the very first films of the series that I made in the same location. The location was the “back alley” of a friend’s apartment where I stayed during my 6 months back in the USA before I left to go back to Berlin. This time, the situation was way different. I knew at this point that I was going to want/need to go to New York – there were too many demons in Philadelphia and I was facing a lot of strife with the seemingly dissolving support system I had there. I was starting to realize the pith of the relationships I had with people before left and all of the annals of 3 years away from them was building up to a lot of misunderstandings. The lyrics of this particular soundtrack are phenomenally adjacent to what I was experiencing.

70. Again

One of the biggest challenges in life as aforementioned is confronting change in order to avoid similar mistakes that one has made in the past while maintaining who you are as a individual. There are nuances of personality that involve genetics, environment and/or nurture versus nature. No matter how desperately we try to break certain unhealthy patterns or behaviors (see: vicious cycle) – there is some comfort in the familiar.

 

71. Empty

A visual outcry of sorts in regards to the ongoing daunting task of being a veritable bag lady. The place to hang the hat cliché was an obvious nod to the unrelenting bouts of homelessness I’ve endured – my belongings always on my person and no personal place with which to put them.

72. Dream

There is a Juliana Hatfield song entitled “Hotels” in which she says, “Welcome me when I need a home.” This clause encompasses so much of my work in this series. When I came back to the USA there was a big change in the music I was allowed to use due to intellectual property rights (the reason I stopped posting my work on youtube). I learned how to circumvent this issue for the most part by using classical/vintage music tracks or internet only release selections like heard in so many of these films. Juliana Hatfield occasionally releases music via the internet, accepting donations, in order to avoid all the Capitalistic sociopolitical drama of the music industry. It works out famously because it correlates to my philosophy in terms of free reign (I’ve recently been advised to restrict my work because it has been downloaded and uploaded to porn sites for money – I’m more flattered than offended). So this film was me finding access to the rungs of a corporate ladder. I was on my way to the proposed good old American version of success. I was in contention for a very big job and endured an intense interview process that landed me in a hotel and wondering what my life will become.

73.  Bridge

Another stint in a hotel and another blatant reverse strip tease burlesque satirical ditty, the namesake of this piece is multifaceted per usual. I do have company in this film and he is a European who had no problem with me making the film in his presence. He was my bridge to the culture that I miss so much – and refueled my waning passion to create.

74. Banana 3

The third installment of what started this whole process came perfunctorily. “Banana” was the very first video in the series, made in between my 3 month stint and my 3 year stint in Berlin – when I knew I was going, I had found a job and a reasonable way to survive through temporary apartment rentals, and I had a love interest or two to keep me busy (besides the city itself). It was also the first serious art work that I showed at a festival for Art Connect Berlin who I began working for throughout my time in Berlin in varying capacities, mostly as a writer for their blog. There is also a second, “Banana 2“, and in “Banana 3” I wanted to again use the original song by PJ Harvey entitled “The Desperate Kingdom of Love” for obvious reasons. I couldn’t use the original song so I dubbed in a recording of myself playing it.

75. Myself

There have been so many spaces, spaces that have belonged to others. “I just want a bookshelf again,” I tell my friends when I explain how harrowing this destitution is. For the first time in a long time I had my own room (via AirBnB) that was all mine: no roommates, no arrangements, no situations. Just me. I felt the freest I had in a long time.

———

To view some or all of the entire series, see the full album on Vimeo:
Self = Portraits by Louis DeVaughn Nelson

 

 

Love of Love

“It’s you,” was my obvious turn of phrase when I saw her. I was belting out something not quite a statement or declaration. It was an exclamation with a point.

Even in her exhaustion, she was a beauty to behold. She had that radiant and alluring classic fifties pinup girl look. Her sweat and primp-tortured hair was somehow still perfectly in place. It was a rich hickory color, tight and bouffant all at once. Her eyes were bulbous and inviting like a bewitching vintage doll to match her porcelain skin. The blush and lips candy red, and she looked good enough to eat while she clumsily gulped from her bottle of water as she schlepped her dance bag on her back.

I was waiting for the A train back to go uptown when I saw her as I was thinking about all those “…and another hundred people…” platform thoughts. I had already decided that she was my muse, or rather that she decided for me – because more than anyone and anything around, again she really stood out.

Her name is Kristin Piro, and she is entertainment personified.

She is the Dance Captain of the now running and open-ended show Trip of Love showing at Stage 42. Conceived, directed and choreographed by Joffery and American Ballet Theater alumni, James Walski, Piro was part of the original cast who developed and presented the world premiere of the sixties sociopolitical dance theater extravaganza. Drawing from some of the most recognizable music hits of the decade, the show is a tribute not only to the era, but to the old Broadway revue-style gems that used to be common fare on The White Way decades ago.

It is fascinating to see what happens when you put together an award-winning production staff, a ballet master and a relatively “emerging artist” cast. The costumes and stage design boast the wow spectacle that is indicative of a Broadway show while the choreography is unfathomable in its complexity and intensity. Those elements alone make for a visually striking display, but the performance suffered because of it.

The actors and dancers were barely allowed a moment to do what they do best because everything was so placed. From the bright and brilliant (and ridiculously expensive looking) props to each battement and pas de bouree, there was a 5-6-7-8 for everything and you could see the pained look on the performers faces – insecure about and distracted by perfection that was obviously demanded by the veteran ballerina.

Trip of Love is quite a trip as duly noted by my neighbors in the theatre. To one side I had a couple who had went through similar experiences commented within the context of the show (see: Make Love Not War) and the woman squeezed her man’s hand between tears from time to time. On the other side of me I had two seemingly sisters who were debating about which singer had the best voice, a hard argument to win indeed as all of the cast were strong.

I kept waiting for something to happen, and what happened every time was when Kristin Piro entered the stage. She had that va-va-voom and expertly captured (or stole) those moments to shine away from the glitz the glamor and the enormous amount of beautiful choreography. A wink, a nod, a bump, a smile, a shimmy – these were those nuances that were missing from the overall performance, and these little connections to the audience were barely afforded to us because of the exorbitant spectacle.

“It was really hard to watch the rest of the show when you were dancing,” I blushed. Piro thanked me and I asked her a few questions about the performances as New York played its rushing song in the background.

She told me that the cast is different almost every night so they have to re-stage everything (which explained some of the spacing issues I noticed in one or two numbers) within hours of opening curtain. She loves the show and obviously she loves what she does. It’s needles like this that are found in the haystack of the White Way that makes theater great and worthwhile. Piro took us back to a time with her brilliant characterization and consummate stage presence. Let’s hope that there is more of her in the future.

IMG_2934

Trip of Love
Created, Directed and Choreographed by James Walski
Presented by Makoto Deguchi, Hiroki Kozawa, and Masu H. Masuyama
In Association with:
Debi Coleman, Takeo Nakanishi and Kunihiko Ukifune
Featuring: Joey Caleveri, David Elder, Kelly Felthous, Dionne Figgins, Austin Miller, Tara Palsha, Kristin Piro, Laurie Wells
Stage 42 – 422 West 42nd Street (Between 9th & 10th)
Tickets: $35.00+ @ www.tripoflove.com

Color Me Bountiful

I’ve been talking about Consumer Psychology and Business 101 a lot lately primarily in referencing much of the work that I do in social media, satire, and the arts.

I love a good conversation that utilizes all the jargon involved with what was and is now considered to be the essential tools of effective marketing. I’ve always been a fan of how art integrates itself into so many modes of experience.

psycholoyg-color-infograhpic

 

I’m fascinated by the way that color effects the brain. There are so many facets to this phenomenon and I highly recommend that anyone doing any outward facing work takes these principles into consideration.

chart

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 8.29.29 PM

All References Via:

http://visualimpactsystems.com/the-psychology-of-color/

 

 

From Dust to Dust to “Dust”

“I have a girl. She’s more of a modern dancer, but she’s good. Check her out and see if she’ll fit.”

I was getting a good word about Megan Bridge from my friend and colleague Scott Johnston, veteran performer of The Peek-A-Boo Revue neo-burlesque show, during a rehearsal 10 years ago when I was heading up the cabaret show as one of the directors. The troupe was undergoing many changes at the time with its former leader heading off to L.A. for a stint, and many of the members were engaging in other projects. After many heated discussions, I urged the group to start holding auditions for auxiliary members to fill-in on an understudy basis (two of the girls I hired are now directing the troupe). Much to my pleasant surprise, when Megan first stepped onstage at the famous/infamous The Five Spot in Old City, Philadelphia, she bridged the gap that had been missing during my initial inception in mounting the monthly variety show.

While most of my Bob Fosse-isms were satisfied amongst what the breadth of the burlesquers had to offer, I was still craving the opportunity to exhibit my choreographic heritage of modern dance. The girls and boys of The Peek-A-Boo were well versed in jazz, ballet and tap dance, but it was my duty to incorporate some Graham, Horton, Cunningham and Ailey into our contemporary satire tongue-and-cheek stripteases. When Megan offered some modern dance improvisational exercises (including contact improvisation which was in its infantile stages circa 2005), I felt the delicious pangs of her saving graces.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 12.44.09 PM

She was my newest muse and we would go on to work together on some of the show’s most controversial numbers including a nun straitjacket striptease danced to “I Can Hardly Wait”, and a crowd favorite involving two naughty French mimes that was performed during our “April in Paris” themed show which we revamped and exhibited at a First Friday art gallery event (my first performance art exhibition).

Though Megan was a semi-regular installment during her time with the burlesque troupe, she ignited the passion in me to pursue modern dance more seriously. Her style was unique, quirky and adept. Not only was she a sponge that could bring any of my artistic visions to life, she doled out a lot of education in the realm of new contemporary dance that was foreign and anathema to me (still is).

It was a sad serendipity when The Five Spot burned down, leaving us without a venue, but leaving me with a proper exit to start producing more dance theater work. But before I separated from The Peek-A-Boo Revue, Megan was the primary canvas for painting my new direction as a director and choreographer when she danced the then apotheosis of my work, “Filter”, during the opening night ceremonial event of Hokum Arts. It was a piece about 9/11 and it was a direct symbiosis of my flowing, acrobatic, convoluted motif and her frantic, succinct, imaginary style. This piece helped to land me a City Paper’s Editor’s Choice Award for Best New Choreographer.

Megan and I went our equal but separate ways, her starting her unorthodox and anti-establishment success that is <fidget>, a hybrid of the talents of her and her longtime muse, collaborator and now husband, artist Peter Price. Together they have erected one of the most notable performance institutions in Philadelphia and continue to produce some of the city’s most engaging works.

I ventured on as an independent director/choreographer producing my work in that chasm between small theaters and seedy bars, trying to feed and feed off of what I would consider the underprivileged in the art world (neither here nor there). As I grew I realized that some of my work was a little too cutting edge as I have honed my ability to mix the academic with the provocative and after I made my first trip to Europe in 2008, I knew I would be making a sojourn there to experience artistic freedom not allowed in the USA.

I’ve been gone for the past three years and much of what I learned from Megan followed me to Berlin. Though the city’s landscape provided artist kids like myself free reign the likes of a candy store, I was not prepared for the lack of real, old-school modern dance in Germany’s capital. Out of all the things they condone, there was no real place for me as a modern choreographer except as a teacher. It was a blessing and a curse in that while my experience with modern dance was a rarity thus allowing me to attract students unfamiliar with the technique, the genre was not readily accepted into dance festivals and performance spaces (most dance studios didn’t even have a mirror). Thus I turned to contemporary dance as a platform (despite my limited training in it) and I took a cue from Megan and used other forms of visual art and multimedia to exhibit my work in new ways. I started making dance films and that was my in. I showed my first dance film at TanzBad 4, a very popular contemporary dance showcase that takes place every spring in Berlin.

When I climbed up The Fringe Arts’ theater stairs I was overcome with that sick feeling in my gut of nervousness, excitement, and envy. I had already reviewed the scope of what I missed in the burlesque scene by attending a few shows scattered amongst the city from my old family (that seems to be far and in between since I left). Now I was back in that precious divide between mainstream and underground where the city’s cultural mavens meet to experience high art or something like it in a space reserved for the who-you-should-know-if-you-don’t-already.

I had been following Megan and her crew’s journey in producing this new work “Dust” and I was more than grateful that an old burlesque buddy of mine afforded me the opportunity to see it by treating me to a ticket – for I am one of those artists who desperately want to become one of the known no matter what it costs, if not only to be able to pay to see the art of others.

This performance was especially important to me not only for the aforementioned, but to hopefully breathe life into my dying inspiration. It is hard to go from being a marvel (in Berlin) to being a degenerate (in Philadelphia); I wanted to see the light.

With her abundance of ambition, Megan Bridge received blessings and approval to perform “Dust” in a unique staging by <fidget> from its creator and poetic visionary, Robert Ashley. Following his acceptance of her inquiry, Megan took her group on a journey to reinvent the work while maintaining the artist’s phenomenal intent – and during the beginning stages of production, Ashley died at the age of 83.

It is not wholly necessary to comment on the many ways this could affect the structure and emotion involved with making the work altogether, and the only ones privy to this could be the collaborators themselves (of which there are many – new and old of the <fidget> incubator). The piece itself as presented by <fidget> is a brilliant homage to Robert Ashley but also an perfectly crafted exposition of Price and Bridge’s repertoire.

If you don’t know Megan (already), or post-modern contemporary dance forms, you may have struggled during the opening montages of “Dust”, trying to correlate something to something else. That is the trouble and the beauty of this art form. I describe contemporary dance as such: It’s like going to an art gallery, but instead of looking at the paintings, the paintings are looking at you.

There are lots of mannerisms and lots of words and lots of lighting cues and lots of subtleties and insinuations that to the untrained eye may look like they are trying to make you feel stupid and that you are missing the joke. The seemingly disparate yet rhythmic (but at the same time syncopated) choral injections of speaking amount to a thoughtful thinking-out-loud etched out by Ashley and eventually it all starts to make a sum of its parts as the piece goes on.

One of the first questions that came to mind was, “Would this piece be any different if the artists played different characters?” Funny enough, halfway into “Dust” the performers become this amorphous vehicle of storytelling and it embodies this statement of us all being different but the same.

What Megan does as a dancer and choreographer is cheeky as ever. She figuratively and literally gives a wink to modern dance, almost as a way to heed to her constant inclination to go against the grain. We as dancers love and hate the freedom and restriction of contemporary dance when sometimes there is no dance at all. She takes a moment to deliver the elementary structures of modern dance with her contractions and rise-and-fall exercises, while mixing in the daunting and delicate nuances of contemporary technique. Partnering is reared successfully as well, and the duets and trios all have very special moments to chime in on the theme of “Dust” amply. The dancers were a precious gift to Megan, and it was a thrill to see them all on stage together and delving into the work in that tender, yet intense way. Them along with the juxtaposition of Peter Price’s thoughtful technical work, brought out a magnetic attraction to the performance overall.

Towards the end I found myself kicking myself (or as it were the woman in front of me as The Fringe Arts theater has very steep rows) noting the allusions Megan was making to herself and Peter’s earlier works. There were interjections of baroque music and movements – and I noticed the repetition of the very first gesture/pose I saw Megan perform during her very first <fidget> performance entitled “The Fold” (2006) in which I wrote:

“Megan Bridge takes her space off the easel and allows movement to travel outside of traditional realms.”

To me, Thursday, April 16 was a throw back Thursday if I ever saw one. I was treated to this wonderful memory of all the things that influenced me so long ago to mold myself into the person I am today. “Dust” was an infusion of inspiration and innovation. These are the two most important tools in the artist’s toolbox – without them, we have no Life Force.

I saw the show just a few days after receiving news that one of my friends and biggest inspirations in Berlin, Sascha Weidner, had died. He was another amazing artist that left us too soon and I had some of the best conversations of my life with this man. He was a satirist and did a lot of unique, witty and completely unexpected exhibitions of his work. His death weighed heavy on my heart and sparked this atrocious resurgence of my overactive awareness of my own mortality (is that not the grandest occupational hazard of an artist?). I haven’t been creating much since I returned to Philadelphia and I feel like I could die any minute. Also, is my life worth anything if I’m not producing work? Sascha would spend an entire day or two just working and creating, without sleeping, eating…and never failed to have anything to say about art or his next project or his last.

sascha_weidner_unveiled_acp_sydney_05

[From the exhibition: “unveiled” | courtesy http://www.saschaweidner.de]

When I found out he was gone, I craved for that divine inspiration all over again and hoped that I could somehow conjure it up without Berlin, with some type of proverbial incantation by seeing the success of my jilted muse.

It was an extraordinary undertaking for Megan, and I am so proud of her passion, how much she’s grown, and how much she has stayed the same. I feel like a parent sometimes when I think and talk about the artists I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. I feel so privileged to be able to read between the lines that “Dust” offered despite the tragedy that stood as much of the driving force behind it. You must live in order to learn, even if the knowledge comes posthumously.

© ldn

http://www.facebook.com/HokumArts

REVIEW: “Floydada presented by The Peculiar Works Project”

I got a new gig contributing to this Broadway Blog…

“With Floydada, the nonconventional style of PWP has the perfect vehicle with which to pay homage to anti-art, as Dadaism once touted a new platform that would be appropriate for PWP’s mission. Without the overbearing tumult of tradition, one might think that PWP would have an easy ride with exploring the sometimes absurdist ways of expressing and/or creating art which were pegged by pioneers the likes of Duchamp, Kandinsky, Höch, Man Ray, etcetera during the first World War.”

Read More Here: Center on the Aisle 

Here are some photos from the experience:

IMAG0174 IMAG0175 IMAG0178 IMAG0181 IMAG0185