Aria with Renga

Eccentric. Weird. Connected. Torturous. That’s how I would describe Ralph Lemon’s dance piece, “How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?” It was a piece that was unprecedented. It was “out of the box.” It was alien. BUT there was a story, a message, a feeling, emotions that kept the piece together. What those things were, I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. Even with Professor Profeta’s help in trying to understand the piece, my preconceptions did not change they were only spurred on.

Other than that, I really don’t know where to begin. I don’t know where Ralph Lemon began in his piece. Was there a beginning and an end? Maybe it was a dream? Was it about fertility? Maybe it was exposing us to the metaphysical world? Or it is string theory? Personally, I’ve been using the concept of time a lot in my schoolwork, but it can’t be helped. Time affects everything. And maybe that is what Ralph Lemon is trying to say. Maybe he’s trying to talk about time. Or not.

When the dance piece began, I wasn’t expected a piece where a person talks in front of an audience, but maybe that was his way of expressing the dance. The dance of the words – bouncing, ricocheting, rolling, jumping, spinning – across the auditorium and, finally, into the audience’s ears. Then the screen filled with images that seemed to have no flow, no connection yet, it did. The images may not have held together by themselves, but the words, the narration did. I guess this can be seen as time holding the world together, just like those words. Whenever the silence came out, it made everything seem empty and unsecure. Time gives us structure.

During the readings there were a few things that Ralph Lemon read which struck me. One was “the question was in the form of the answer which answers all questions” or something to that manner and that reminded me of Epik High in my previous post where they say, “Genius is not the answer to all questions. It’s the question to all answers.” This started me thinking that we shouldn’t just accept life just the way it is. Instead, we have to be questioning our existence and the present. Why are we here? What is our purpose? “All for one, one for all.” That is the way life is. When we live everything is ours, but once we die our own bodies will be serving a purpose for other organisms. This slow breakdown of the body makes me think that we are all living contradictions and not of our own volition. What I mean is that once we are born, the mitochondria release these toxins that is one of the components which bring about the slow breakdown (I’m sorry, but I do not know where I can retrieve this fact because it was televised on the Science Channel several years ago, I believe). Is this what Ralph is trying to tell us? We should take advantage of our lives because once born, we are already set to die.

Another set of words were seemingly strung together delicately yet bluntly, “Asako, with the last of her strength, grasped my penis,” or something similar to that. When Ralph Lemon said these words, the myth of the Fisher King immediately flashed into my head. This myth showed how the arid, barren, and infertile land was tied to the Fisher King’s injured groin. The groin was the symbol of life and, because of the injury the kingdom was affected greatly. I feel that Ralph Lemon’s words here portrayed this because Asako was ill during the time and slowly withering away, but she still had the strength to grasp at life. In addition, Ralph Lemon may be using past myths to connect to the present because it is also seen in Ancient Greek Mythology that Dionysos was born from Zeus’ thigh/groin. The word for groin means life. This is another way in which Lemon is connecting everything with a thread, maybe the red thread of fate. Well, not really because that is meant for soul mates. But maybe everything is a marriage for one another because we cannot live without everything else.

Then there was the dance that, as Professor Profeta explained, was the breakdown of the body, was torturous to watch because it showed the dancers moving without “structure” and throwing themselves around. The fact that the dancers were so dedicated to this shows their concentration and state of mind of being in the present. Other than that, it was long and confusing.

After the dance, there was a woman, Okwui, who was crying loudly. Professor Profeta told us that this part was like the grieving of death. She was mourning for herself and her cries includes our own. During this part, I actually got tired of the crying, but if it was a child I would have been irritated. Maybe it’s the pitch of their cries which annoy me, but that’s besides the fact. Anyway, Professor Profeta mentioned professional mourners which reminded me of Japan because they hire professional mourners to cry for their dead ones because the mourners themselves cannot cry enough or cannot cry at all. The professional mourner can be so emotional so as to incite the mourners to cry. But honestly, I didn’t really know why she was crying, but at one point there was something in me that felt happy. I guess I felt that she was crying for me too, but it was a quick moment until it was hidden under layers of my annoyance.

Still, the entire piece can be confusing. You have to look at it as a whole and remember specific pieces which touch one another. It’s like a spider web: strong yet thin, fragile, and almost invisible.

This is an addendum to my Ralph Lemon blog. I bring this up because Professor Profeta mentioned John Cage because the New York Times article mentioned Merce Cunningham. I bring John Cage into this blog because of his work “Aria with Renga.” Personally, I was captivated by the definition of Renga and therefore, I listened to the piece. Renga is a “type of group improvisatory work where John Cage tells the orchestra how to play and when to play it, but not what notes and instrument to play,” as Michael Tilson Thomas defines it. This piece reminded me of Ralph Lemon’s dance piece because they both have freedom, but this freedom is restricted within some boundaries.

Aria with Renga

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