a not exactly review of “yellow” — by rachael shaw

by ashleyandersondances
I just viewed Diana Crum’s site-specific work, yellow, at the Main Library here in Salt Lake City. I was particularly excited about this performance due my recent interest in how environments affect our behavior, our interactions with spaces, and our interactions with others.
For those not familiar with the main library, the entrance is an expansive vestibule with small shops on one side and the library on the other. When you walk in and look up, you see up at least three stories and then out skylights into the sky.
The performers were eye-catching in their unseasonable bright yellow costumes—a great contrast to the huge windows and skylights in the main area of the library, which cast a grey shadow with the rainy, cool weather.
The performance began with the dancers being seemingly blown in—traversing the long space between the two sets of entrance doors at either end of the space. Eventually ending in a long line across the vast space of the vestibule, the dancers began a slow, leaning, and backward descent into the floor.
For me, this section was the most engaging. I was drawn in by the spotted contrast of the yellow costumes to the grayness seen through the windows, the grayness of the steel beams, and the stone floors. They dancers were like beams of light in an otherwise desolate landscape, the landscape of the library.
Part of the reason I was drawn to this section was that it allowed me to view how the people using the library (hereafter refered to as the “people of the library”) interacted with the dancers. Many of them wove a curvilinear path that avoided the dancers without ever acknowledging their presence. It was as if the dancers conflicted with the people of the library’s sense of who or what “belonged” in the vestibule, and they choose to pretend that the dancers didn’t exist. Instead of investigating what was happening, these “onlookers” chose to continue on their way—even though the very nature of their changed path was as a result of the encumbrance of the dancers in the space. Why?
When we enter a library, we expect certain things: books, quiet, and people looking at books or studying. We certainly don’t expect to see dancers in yellow slowly falling to the ground or being blown by an invisible wind.
This piece challenged the people of the library to question their assumptions of the use of the library space. What else don’t we do in this space? And why not? If nothing else, it made the people of the library go out of their way for a moment—change their pattern. It would be interesting to do a study on this kind of work and catalog how many different kinds of behaviors a piece like this might elicit—from ignoring, to a side-ways glance, to standing to watch. And—I wonder if there is any way to motivate more people toward the standing to watch end. Or would that even be preferable?
Thoughts?
-Rachael Shaw
Rachael is a VCU alum & current MFA Candidate at the University of Utah
see this review and more on her blog http://www.dancedark.blogspot.com
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3 Comments to “a not exactly review of “yellow” — by rachael shaw”

  1. I feel like site-specific work has a huge potential to reveal to us the strangeness of a place, and Diana Crum’s work tapped this very successfully. I also enjoyed the very casual performance quality, which at times made me wonder whether anybody was actually “performing” at all. Perhaps we were all performers for a time, from the spectators to the avoiders taking their strange curved paths, and especially the homeless man dancing a jig around one of the dancers laying on the floor. In a sense it gave the work very tattered edges, making it hard to tell what was dance and what was background.

  2. I feel that Rachel Shaw’s description is very much a review of “Yellow, the event.” Her writing allowed me to see what happened with the space, the “people-in-the-library,” the weather, the performers and the interplay amongst all of these elements in a way that the photographs could not.

  3. another review sent to us by Juan Aldape who also documented the event (footage on the way!)

    After a long Monday at work, typing away in front of a computer on some cool projects, I made by way down to the Main City Library to see and document Diana Crum’s Yellow. The roughly 20 minute piece was shown three times, 4:30pm, 5:30pm and 6:30pm. I reviewed the second showing. Crum was in town for a week as the first lovedancemore artist-in-residence.

    Yellow was part erratic activity and part social experiment, while at the same time completely full of warmth. The piece was in a way an incomplete metamorphosis. Incomplete only in that the audience was at the end allowed to fill in their perspective about what the library’s open space had the possibility of being. Often site specific performances tend to spend more time developing movement about how they are affected by the space and completely neglect to feature the actual space. Yellow did what is a bit rare and more rewarding to watch, it brought attention to the library’s walkways in a manner that encouraged any witness of this event to imagine their own grande interactive possibilities within them.

    Five hurling bodies, all wearing various shades and textures of the color yellow( hence the name of the piece), interrupt the vast walkway. Immediately, even in the disorganized craze that makes up the Library’s foyer, the attention of the intended and unintended audience is intrigued by this organized chaos. One after the other and then in their individual space each dancer moved in an irregular and unpredictable style across the floor, differing from the surrounding as if they had traveled a great distance to get to this location.

    After the abrupt entrance into the public arena, the five bodies distributed evenly throughout the long atrium to face glass walls. Each one slowly starts gazing up, beyond the five levels, drawing our attention to something ambiguous yet personal. This moment in Yellow brought out some of the most vocal comments from visitors just barely entering the space: “What are they looking at?” ” What’s up there?” During this part of the public intervention all witnesses obediently looked up waiting for something to come from the obscure sky, with nothing being delivered- at least not yet. The tableau resembled a sociology study examining group behavior. As the duration of the dancers staring up increased, the number of witnesses joining them to look up multiplied.

    What ensued was a series of solos and a duet dispersed throughout the open space and across multiple levels. Each observer had the option to actively engage in whichever micro-interaction was happening across this panoramic scene. If you were one of the observers surveying Ashley Anderson, then you witnessed as she walked up to a roll of pink construction paper propelled from four stories high. Reaping the benefit of actually seeing something come from above. Sam Hanson and Angela Gagliardi-Campos’ duet was an enigmatic promenade up and then down two flights of curling stairs. Cherie Mockli’s solo on the ground prompted a visitor to ask out-loud if she was having a seizure. I missed Mike Watkiss’ solo.

    Before the five dancers exited the space they became an out-of-context huddled mass lifting and carrying each other toward one side of the building. Upon reaching the glass doors they jumped and tapped above the exit door sign. I thought I heard somebody shout,”Open the door for them!” The piece ended as it started. All five dancers in full force moving in an irregular and unpredictable manner. One after the other, all still wearing various shades and textures of yellow, they hurled their bodies in the opposite direction of the foyer, left through the west facing doors and out into the streets.

    Half way through Yellow I was compelled to want to participate in the yellow splendor. To move and freeze as I desired in this towering and expansive lobby. To have ten rolls of pink construction paper propelled from the different levels above. To choose my favorite shade of yellow. To allow the natural quietness of libraries to silence my mouth and feel the excited warmth that radiates from this center of knowledge and for imagination.

    Don’t feel like you missed this rare opportunity. When you visit the library this next time, just look way up, sit on the floor and run around really close to visitors. You might catch a glimpse of the moltings from the performance that invaded the area only to highlight the spaces and people that make their way between the books. Make sure to wear a shade of the color yel-

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