So I Married Abraham Lincoln is a show of many dimensions. At times it feels like a staging of The Yellow Wallpaper: like a documentation of hysteria, with women running in circles and crawling on the floor, who then take to a chair and sit creepily still. It’s sometimes uncomfortable and tongue-in-cheek, often eerie, even funny, but always curious. It’s partly a psychological reckoning—in dance-form—and partly about the mere perception of the female brain and female normalcy; So I Married Abraham Lincoln uses the mercurial life of Mary Todd Lincoln—who was institutionalized several years after her husband’s assassination—to look at the expectations of women.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Paufve|dance is the range of their female dancers, specifically their age range. It’s not often you see dancers older than 30, but Paufve puts special focus on them, proclaiming on their website a “particular investment in middle-aged dancer,” asking, “Why is so much concert dance relegated to virile, youthful bodies of a specific aesthetic, to narrow notions of fashion industry beauty?” Taking that fashion reference further, during one segment of this particular performance, the women parade down the stage like a run-way, in single-file, announcing names with loud grin in a sarcastic, flurried reference to a pageant's runway.
So I Married Abraham Lincoln is performed with minimal staging, at Conduit Dance's fourth floor studio in southwest. Dangling from the ceiling is a wave of ceramic teacups (which offer sporadic clinking and tinkling sound effects during the show). Hung from the window are long and lacy 19th-century-type dresses, and behind them are glimpses of downtown’s skyscrapers. The performance includes a participatory séance; even so, the atmosphere isn’t entirely Victorian—the music rings with the Pixies, Public Image Ltd, and traditional spirituals, sung in a chorus by the dancers. Paufve dance, based in Oakland, has a core of seven dancers, and eight Portland dancers who have been included in this performance.
Choreographer Randee Paufve was recently featured on NPR, as part of a worthwile series on how artists make money. Paufve spoke earlier today, as part of Conduit’s ongoing Dance Uncovered lectures. (Also notable: Conduit will begin their DANCE+ Performance Series, in July.) Tonight is Portland's last chance to see of So I Married Abraham Lincoln. It's a show with a different, and tenacious, perspective, both in its subject matter and its treatment, and that alone makes it worth a watch.
Conduit Dance, Inc. 918 SW Yamhill. 8:30 pm. $14-17.
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