Call and Response: Alex Escalante + Sonya and Layla Go Camping

On the occasion of the exhibition Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules, and the performance program Limited Edition, Projects + Perspectives and Open Space invited artists Alex Escalante, Keith Hennessy, and Leyya Tawil to offer their thoughts on three iconic dance works included in the Rauschenberg show – and to link these works to three contemporary pieces. On P+P you’ll find Merce Cunningham’s Antic Meet, Trisha Brown’s Glacial Decoy, and Robert Rauschenberg’s Pelican, and here you’ll find robbinschilds’ Sonya and Layla Go Camping, Skywatchers’ I Got a Truth to Tell, and a collaboration between Mohamad Bayoumi, Michael Ibrahim, and Mohannad Ghawanmeh.


      An excerpt from robbinschilds’s Sonya and Layla Go Camping, 2009.

Merce Cunningham’s imprint on my community has been far-reaching. I see Antic Meet’s laser-like focus in the work of choreographer Heather Kravas (I’m thinking of The Green Surround specifically, the way her performers pinned us to our seats with their intensity at the old PS 122 downstairs space in New York’s East Village. The pursuit of perfection in its grueling, episodic tasks. The sunglasses). I think also of choreographer Beth Gill and composer Jon Moniaci’s many years of collaboration, how those two artists have infused one another’s work so thoroughly and yet still create distinct strands of dynamic live experience. In New Work for the Desert, Moniaci’s sound conjured an austere landscape that perfectly held a space for the interlopers to amble around ever so meticulously. If I home in on the antic element of Antic Meet, I think of the duo robbinschilds and their hodgepodge, weird, abstract yet humorous piece Sonya and Layla Go Camping — the nut jam section in particular. In that moment, the cast is riffing on a mic and a looping pedal, creating layers of rhythms with various crunchy snacks. Against this, Rebecca Brooks and Sarah White stand to perform a somber duet, with vocabulary that portals from Merce through to Trisha Brown. An ode to those whose lineage we carry proudly. The notion of collaboration not simply between the duo, but all involved in the live making of the soundscape. Layers upon layers of matter-of-fact comedy. It’s impossible to imagine a Robbins without a Childs. A Cunningham without a Cage and a Rauschenberg.

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