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COVID woke: the thrill of the live performance moment located

Sanspublic:AtelierdeParis - copie
Photo: Courtesy Atelier de Paris

What you gonna do when you get out of jail?
I'm gonna have some fun
And what do you consider fun?
Fun, natural fun

The Genius of Love, Tom Tom Club

I got a thrill when the Atelier de Paris’ newsletter appeared in my inbox the other day.


Aren’t thrills reserved for moments of life, like the moment when I first touched the cool, dry hand of the – these days – pale, vaguely adipose, woman just behind me, limbs lopping deadlike off our blood-red Récamier?

The livelong day now, this woman hogs the whole of our empty ceiling with her disgruntled stare. The stare, I must say, in its hint of godlike irony, is a work of esthetic genius.

I get up, bend my face over hers so I can kiss her and she me.

We do. Tamed it may be, but a thrill is there, here and now. This is a moment: here and now. Of course, by the time I sit back down and she’s reverted to her esthetic state, we’ve both forgotten the thrill and the moment – it wouldn’t make evolutionary sense if we spent every blessed moment savoring the thrill of it.

God’s bones, we get little enough done as it is.

True science observes, anyhow, that moments are the twisted skeins of a life, the bosons of a thing of talking flesh. Smollett demonstrates that thrill is the invisible but sensible ether that jolts a life this way and also that and thus visibles the otherwise fleeting moment.

TwistoffateCécileReynaud - copieCécile Mont-Reynaud, “La Fileuse”. Photo © Pauline Turmel

Four years ago now, the Circassian (artist-acrobat) Cécile Mont-Reynaud, whose high-wire performance as Fate thrice-personified in her performance La Fileuse (“Yarning”), proved all this beyond a doubt in front of the public library Romain Rolland in the eastern suburb of Romainville, now served by the number 11 line. Karine was there and, if you can get her attention, she’ll vouch for it from our blood-red Récamier, reading from the stippled whitewash of the naked ceiling.

“A medusa, a mop,” I wrote as Mont-Reynaud’s skeins visibled in the senible ether, “A fleeting moment,  lampshade merry-go-round, a cocoon, a caterpillar turned weeping willow, a shower of rain, a pinata, a bird’s gilded golden cage, a trunk, an obstacle course of visibled bosons, a raging sea, a maypole, a ladder of knots or a knot of ladders, a spherical stair of golden hair... an uneasy plinth-cum-diving board to address the gods and reason men, slip knots, electric wires, cords and dis-chords, strands of muscle. Swing through string: What a thrill.”

There you have it.

Memory only makes it seem thrills make moments or vice versa. But thrill is a moment here and there and everywhere. And memory? Another subject.

So, I felt a thrill the moment I saw the Atelier’s newsletter in my in-box.

Not because choreographers’ Liz Santoro and Joanne Leighton figured there, although they do. But because I suddenly realized that the Atelier’s message – “No live performance”– has, after more than a year of crise sanitaire – has suddenly become the general one.

The simple negative thrills because until now, under the guise of a performer’s traditional declaration of loyalty to performance - “The show must go on!”, there’s been a lot of confusion and delusion about just what “live” performance is or can be.

Suddenly, whether because audiences came to understand why they go to the trouble of going to live in-personperformance or because producers realize that the live-and-in-person they mean can’t actually translate to pixels, the confusion seems to be over.

It has become pretty clear to everyone that “live performance” means “in-person performance” - the thrill of live performance is the moment of being there with creation and creators.

We should all keep the thrill of being there with in mind in the coming weeks and months. We may find ourselves arguing hard to keep on being there with – when there are so many “cheaper” alternatives.

LizSantoroAdp - copieLiz Santoro. Photo courtesy of Atelier de Paris & Liz Santoro                  
With hopes fading for a relaxation of health emergency restrictions, “Mutual Information”, programmed for Atelier’s annual “June Events” program, is Santoro and Pierre Godard’s latest piece of live and in-person mathematics. “Mutual Information” will likely open later on the post-pandemic landscape of live performance, along with Joanne Leighton’s “People United”, the final piece in her trilogy on universal gesture. “People United,” which explores humanity’s shared moments, is built from a body of nearly a thousand photos of people acting together that have been taken over more than ten years across every continent.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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