Stravinsky’s epochal score adds poignant or enlivening dimensions to passages such as contrapuntal duets for Graham, Cuyjet, Jones, and Phillips, and a solo by Graham. Yet the intimate duet that alludes to Apollo’s with Terpsichore takes place in silence in the small space of one of the panels laid on the floor. Graham and Jones move with the deliberate, considered calmness that’s typical of Gordon’s style. The ways they reposition themselves and touch each other are almost as matter-of-fact as the screen-moving jobs, yet the duet is ineffably tender. The relationship between these two performers that erupted with angry wit during their chatting with others suddenly becomes part of a story that—while hardly a literal narrative—says something about how the humdrum and the ideal shake hands in life and transcend themselves in art.

Gordon was reportedly embarrassed to apply for an NEA grant in the “American Masterpieces” category, but I’m happy he received one. At some point during the “trial,” this objection is raised, “How can we identify his signature piece if we can’t read his handwriting?”

Valda Setterfield in David Gordon's Trying Times 1982 (remembered).
Valda Setterfield in David Gordon's Trying Times 1982 (remembered).


Pick Up Co(S.)
Dance Theater Workshop
219 West 19th Street
December 11 through 20

How we read it—and we do—is half the fun. On another level, the experience gives our thoughts and perceptions about art a jolt, as masterpieces are wont to do.

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