Go Deeper

REACTION: Smell the sweat at Miguel Gutierrez’ Everyone

Posted August 30th, 2008

When you arrive at the Mandell Theater to see Miguel Gutierrez and his company, the Powerful People, perform Everyone, you don’t have to worry about finding a good seat. The house manager escorts you backstage. You’re under the heat of the lights, within a few steps of the performers. One by one they enter in jeans and t-shirts with a fixed, yet vacant gaze, to the beat of pre-recorded cymbal that seems endless. Their stare is startling, if not alarming, as the Powerful People seek your attention. Now, you are no longer a passive spectator, but rather a prop in Gutierrez’s artistic vision.

<%image(20080830-everyone1.jpg|350|233|Photo: Alex Escalante)%>Gutierrez and the Powerful People exercise many tensions between individual/society, mind/body, and of course spectacle/spectator. The choreography is stripped of the pageantry of traditional dance, using repetitious, often sensual gestures that not only express the banality of everyday living, but also a struggle to make sense of the world we inhabit. When the strict physical routine pauses, the performers recite the internal monologue of an individual who expresses a trail of anxious thoughts that range from purchasing peaches to technology’s influence on human interaction. Suddenly, you realize that not only have you had similar thoughts in the fruit aisle, but so has everyone else in the audience. Gutierrez has achieved his objective: you now feel you are one among many.

Meanwhile, your proximity to the performance allows you to smell the sweat of performers and witness their respiratory systems in action. Such intimacy is thrilling as you empathize with their efforts in further uniting us with their performance. At one point, a technician distracts us as he leaves to slowly draw up the curtain in front of us. The Powerful People’s frolicking tapers as you join them in their awe at a new world that is slowly revealed. Chris Forsyth’s building tempo and Lenore Doxsee’s subtle lighting direction help inspire this wonder for the empty auditorium that we face. You think of the adage, “We are actors on the stage of life,” which intensifies when the Powerful People depart the stage and take role as the audience watching you. But now you feel satisfied, as if you are participating in something utterly remarkable. Who knew your monotonous life could be so fascinating?

By Spencer E. Silverthorne