Review: Patricia Hoffbauer Para-Dice (Stage 2) at Danspace Project

My head is spinning–but in a good way, after watching dance artist Patricia Hoffbauer’s incredibly entertaining Para-Dice (Stage 2) at Danspace Project last Friday, the second installment of her performance lecture (Stage 1 was presented at Danspace in 2010). 

para-dice_#1-8 at Danspace

Entertaining might not be the word most people use when it comes to the subjects of racial politics and colonialism–but Brazilian born Hoffbauer, who has been exploring these themes in her work for years, navigates them in a her own special way. Part academic lecture, dance performance, and history lesson, Hoffbauer reminds us of who we are and where we stand in the world.

George Emilio Sanchez, Hoffbauer’s longtime partner and collaborator, who provides original text interspersed with Hoffbauer’s “borrowed” and improvised text starts us off with a lecture on Pop Culture and the celebration of bodies. Hoffbauer soon takes over and spends the rest of the evening exchanging jokes with the audience, asking questions and questioning us about identity, race, language, art, dance.  (The rest of the cast are also credited as collaborators.)

The ‘my head is spinning’ part comes when she lets the references fly: Brazilian filmmaker Glauber Rocha’s Aesthetic of Hunger; Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss; Francois Truffaut; Marguerite Duras’ Hiroshima Mon Amour; Brazilian singer Wilson Simonal; Hamlet; The Sound of Music; Maroon 5. These are just a few of the names I remember. I began to think, “I do not read enough!”  But I found myself laughing out loud at times. The funny thing is, I think I was laughing at myself, especially when Hoffbauer reminded my side of the audience that we are the ‘monolingual non-others’.

All throughout the show Hoffbauer was moving. Her body movements mimicking her thoughts and her “real and fictionalized references to United States performance history,” ranging from the early days of colonial presence in the Americas to neo-classical and post-modern.  Her own post-modern dance training comes through despite her parody of it; she reminds us of this while referencing choreographers George Balanchine, Yvonne Rainer, Irene Dowd and Arthur Mitchell to name a few. And then her Greek chorus of white dancers move in traditional “pure” modern dance ways, leaving the audience a few well deserved moments of silence to contemplate what we have just seen and heard.

Emilio Sanchez and dancer Elisa Osborne (a younger version of Hoffbauer) re-enact scenes from pop culture sources, dancing stylistically in various stages of undress. At one point they paint their bodies in ritualistic white paint smattered with red, as if to say, “we are ready for battle.” In the background, film clips compiled by Peter Richards of African dancers, Mitchell, Simonal, Truffaut’s and Rocha’s films, amongst others, flood the stage. There is a carnivalesque sensibility to the evening that is very contagious.

I stayed this evening for the Question and Answer session and when I asked about the “pure” dance part – was it intentional this time? Hoffbauer questions me back, “why is the other dance not pure?” Oh.  She has me thinking again about what color “pure” actually is.

Delaminated.  Hoffbauer said if we had to describe her show in any way, we should say “Delaminated.”  So I had to look it up, naturally.

Delaminate – verb past tense: delaminated; past participle: delaminated

  1. Divide or become divided into layers.

If Hoffbauer is dissecting our lives into layers to uncover its truths, asking us to “disrupt our narrative” and examine each part, then she has done so brilliantly. I only wish these dance performances lasted more than one weekend so you could experience her for yourself.