REALLY QUEER DANCE WITH HARPS (2008)

With Really Queer Dance With Harps, which is performed to an original live score by Zeena Parkins, Greenberg sets out to expose repressed movement material—including the excessive, flamboyant, ambiguous, and ‘illegible’—and revel in choreographic choices both queer and Queer. Utilizing a process that sources movement from videotaped improvisations of all the performers, learned verbatim, Greenberg continues to collect and hone directly from the dancing body.

Really Queer Dance With Harps builds on questions Greenberg first posed in his 2006 Quartet With Three Gay Men, with which it is paired in performance. The titling of both works represents a strategy to overlay the dances with ideas of sexuality and gender, asking viewers to hold different media together simultaneously—the aesthetic object of the dance and the conceptual discourse embedded in the title—and negotiate the poetics of perhaps not being able to connect them or separate them, but to nevertheless experience them. In this way the dances continue the thread Greenberg has been following in his recent work concerning meaning-making: the role of perspective and vantage point, and the necessarily limited and tentative nature of how we construct meanings from the various ‘data’ we perceive.

Really Queer Dance with Harps is performed by eight dancers—four men and four women—dancing around a cluster of three harpists performing a ‘thrillingly varied’ (The New York Times) new score by Zeena Parkins.

Really Queer Dance With Harps premiered at Dance Theater Workshop in New York City.
(53 minutes, eight dancers, three harpists)
Original Live Score: Zeena Parkins
Lighting and Production Design: Michael Stiller
Costume Consultant: David Quinn
Originally Performed by: Ellen Barnaby, Nicholas Duran, Johnni Durango, Christine Elmo, Paige Martin, Luke Miller, Antonio Ramos, Colin Stilwell (Dancers); Shelley Burgon, Zeena Parkins, Kristen Theriault (Musicians)

  1. “It’s a mystery why sometimes a few people moving on a stage in apparently random patterns can look so right. In the first 10 seconds—maybe 5—of Dance by Neil Greenberg’s Quartet With Three Gay Men, the oddly graceful, undulating movements of the four dancers, the jangly sounds of Zeena Parkins’s score, and Michael Stiller’s clear, bright light have the immediate effect of a poem. Meaning is compressed and harbored, to be released in thrilling fragments, inconclusive’and richly layered… Mr. Greenberg’s artistry [in Really Queer Dance With Harps ] resonates through its confluence of the random and the necessary; the continuous stream of motion in which no one moment is particularly important and each is beautiful; the almost magical quality of occasional formal symmetries. It’s quite right that Mr. Greenberg includes the music in the dance’s title, since Ms. Parkins’s thrillingly varied score and the presence of the musicians are as vital to this work as the dancers—all excellent and exceedingly individual in presence… Bravo to Dance Theater Workshop for giving Mr. Greenberg a longer run than usual; you have another week to see this, and you should ”
    Roslyn Sulcas, The New York Times (source)
  2. “A smart, socially and politically charged investigation of the dancing body… Understated, nuanced, spatially intelligent dance.”
    Claudia La Rocco, The New York Times (source)
  3. “One responds to its openness, its wit, its joy, and its released danciness with pleasure that is also personal. ”
    Nancy Dalva, Danceviewtimes (source)
  4. “Greenberg’s dancers tell only the stories that live in their bodies,
    and their movements—while difficult technically—twist and swing easily through space… They all inhabit the same complex, sunlit society, and give the impression of being on private forays through a fascinating world, their gestures responding imaginatively to variations in terrain and colored by Parkins’s vivid score. The eight never touch or acknowledge one another until they reappear in a giddy coda that’s more welcome than any happily-ever-after… Greenberg queries in poetic, unemphatic ways our habit of defining what’s ‘masculine’ and what’s ‘feminine.’… three-dimensional and richly layered…”
    Deborah Jowitt, Village Voice (source)
  5. “With music and movement layered just right, Greenberg achieves what seems to be his forte, deftly assembling the strata of a dance so that new meaning peaks through when we least expect it…”
    Siobhan Burke, ballet.co (source)
  6. “His subject is invariably an inner life that we can only approach via surfaces—an inner life that in fact is made up of surfaces… Fragility and delicacy, self-declaration and tribal identification, flitter on the body’s periphery as if the soul and its accessories were butterflies.”
    Apollinaire Scherr, artsJournal.com (source)
  7. “Everybody’s thrilled by and writing about Neil Greenberg’s new Really Queer Dance with Harps, and you should really queerly or otherwise see it—especially for the radiant trio of harpists, led by composer Zeena Parkins, at the golden heart of the piece.”
    Eva Yaa Asantewaa, infinitebody.blogspot.com (source)

THE COLLABORATORS

ZEENA PARKINS

Zeena Parkins, sound artist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, improviser-is well-known as a pioneer of the electric harp, and has also extended the language of the acoustic harp with the inventive use of unusual playing techniques, preparations, and layers of digital and analog processing. Parkins accurately describes her electric harp as a ‘sound machine of limitless capacity.’ She has created numerous scores for film, video, chamber orchestra, theater and, especially, dance—receiving three ‘Bessie’ awards, including a 2007 ‘Bessie’ for sustained achievement as a composer for dance. Her music melds and highlights opposites, blurring boundaries between improvised and composed, acoustic and electric, digital and analog, and processed and concrete sounds. She has collaborated with Greenberg since 1991.


MICHAEL STILLER

Michael Stiller has lit the work of choreographers and theater artists across the United States, Europe and South America. He has created lighting designs for all of Dance By Neil Greenberg’s productions since 1991, and received a 1995 ‘Bessie’ Award for his work on Not-About-AIDS-Dance. He has also served as designer or lighting director for concerts, talk shows, music videos and films. The last few years have seen his practice expand to include architectural lighting design and themed environment. Â He has been a guest lecturer at Pratt Institute, and is currently an adjunct professor in FIT’s masters degree program in exhibit design.

© Frank Mullaney
© Frank Mullaney
© Frank Mullaney

Really Queer Dance with Harps was commissioned by the Bessie Schonberg/First Light Commissioning and Creative Residency Program of Dance Theater Workshop with support from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Jerome Robbins Foundation.

Really Queer Dance with Harps is also made possible through the Multi-Arts Production (MAP) Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Harkness Foundation for Dance, the James E. Robison Foundation, and research funds from the University of California, Riverside. Zeena Parkins’ score for Really Queer Dance with Harps was commissioned by the American Music Center Live Music for Dance Program.