It’s called Please Love Me. The name of it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, something of vulnerability and humility. A superficial list of its components only serves to reinforce this taste. Malinda LaVelle screams “Fuck You” to hysteria. Starkly naked and utterly nonsexual, Christian Burns duets with Andrea Basile. Kara Davis and Joy Prendergast seemingly combat, dodging and stopping each other’s limbs. But these elements are only a fraction of what I experienced on May 5th at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Watching The Foundry’s Please Love Me is a bit like reading Faulkner. It is exhausting. It is relentless. It is compelling. It demands the viewers’ engagement and delivers such breadth and sweep it is difficult to absorb. It is not akin to reading a gentler author leading the reader patiently through the plot. No, it promptly dares its audience to stay alert, attentive and involved in a highly focused mental state. Its delivery is powerful and resonant. It ends with more questions than answers.
Alex Ketley’s The Foundry presents Please Love Me as part of its ongoing project, Theater-Irrelevant, which, with digital media artist Les Stuck, explores putting dance performance in nonconventional dance spaces. An obvious consequence of presenting dance in nonconventional dance spaces is presenting dance to nonconventional dance audiences. This means people who may be unaccustomed to seeing dance and thus may have cultural preconceptions regarding what dance is. Aiming to create a piece that can be ported outside of the confines of the theater, The Foundry could have created any sort of dance piece and presented it in the variety of venues it will be performed in through the coming months and still have adequately explored dance in non-dance spaces. Instead they chose to create a piece that pushes expectations.
Thus perhaps the true brilliance of Please Love Me lies not in its audacious material, but in the dichotomy between the material and the intent of the project. The majority of the audience at the Headlands Center for the Arts was accustomed to and/or learned in the art of dance. Can this be said of all the audiences Please Love Me will reach if it is truly performed in non-dance spaces? And then what will the audiences’ reaction be when on top of seeing dance where they would not expect it, they see dance itself they would not expect? How then will Joy Prendergast’s unusual sounds and gestures read? How will Kara Davis’ and Christian Burns’ dialogued duet be received? How will Les Stuck’s projections be viewed? How will the man Malinda LaVelle randomly selects to dance with react to her?
The dance community probably has only itself to blame for many of the misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding dance. Dance can certainly be boring. I can attest to that firsthand. It can certainly be isolating. Who often goes to see dance but other dancers? I can hardly blame the greater part of the population for not knowing anything about dance outside of The Nutcracker production they saw on a second grade field trip. Thus I commend The Foundry; they aim to do away with both boredom and isolation in one fell swoop. Please Love Me is merciless. “Boring” is not built into its architecture. I am excited to follow Please Love Me into its nonconventional dance spaces and watch it wage war in the name of dance.