Seattle-based choreographer Pat Graney received Choreography Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts for 11 consecutive years, as well as from Artist Trust, the Washington State Arts Commission, the NEA International Program, National Corporate Fund for Dance and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In 2008, Ms. Graney was awarded both the Alpert Award and a US Artists Award in Dance.
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On Oct. 22, Guggenheim Award-winner and Seattle based choreographer, Pat Graney and her company used dance to examine the world of women and rage in Kasser Theater. Through interviews with female family and friends across generations, Graney began her exploration of the collective feminine mind. What she found was simmering anger underneath the surface. Women are just as capable of rage as men, so how are they to express this in their culture?
Perhaps the history of dance theatre, think Pina Bausch and her pivotal role in bringing humanity to the stage, was Pat Graney Company’s impetus in making Girl Gods, presented at Peak Performances (October 22-25). For Bausch, characters (performers) were responsible for what is brought to the stage, and no panacea is offered for the resultant reaction to the message. Throughout Graney’s Girl Gods for example, in groups of two, three or five, incidents call to question talks with the performer’s mothers “…about power and anger.” Either writhing on the floor, serving tea, cooking chicken, or shifting through limbed sequences, they parade on an off stage in white boy-briefs and tank tops, red and black dresses, or as marionettes in sculpted dresses with large bows and clunky shoes. Voiceovers come and go to bring voice to each story. Bausch’s works were often unpredictable and folks just had to experience it. Girl Gods was an experience and there were many nice moments of truths. The terrific wall of cardboard “drawers,” and piling of black sand used intermittently by the performers (Cheryl Delostrinos, Sruti Dasai, Sara Jinks, Jody Kuehner and Jenny Peterson), as storage and as a partner, was designed by Holly Batt.
Girl Gods is the second piece in a projected triptych created by the Seattle choreographer Pat Graney. Montclair University’s Peak Performances series did us a favor by bringing us its East coast premiere. Graney’s subject is women of a generation or two ago—women who were advised to bottle up their rage, to defer to their husbands, and to be capable and attractive on the home front at all times. Girl Gods is dedicated to Graney’s mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I believe it is her recorded voice that we hear in snatches, recalling her married life and sometimes marveling at her own passivity.
A heap of dirt lies in the corner, silently reproaching the cast of “Girl Gods,” the dance-theater piece that the Pat Graney Company, from Seattle, is presenting this weekend at the Alexander Kasser Theater in Montclair. Don’t these women, whose job it is to sanitize and purify the home, have any self-respect? How could they have overlooked this unsightly accumulation of grime?
Temper tantrums don’t last very long.
But what about rage?
In "Girl Gods," which comes to Peak Performances this weekend, the Pat Graney company explores female power and anger in dance.
Dancers perform in cocktail dresses, in lingerie; eat cupcakes, make chicken. It’s been in the works since 2013, when she and her company in Seattle began having eight-week sessions, including writing and drawing and interviewing their mothers, to explore rage.
If at any point in life you ever wonder, “Why are women always so damn angry?” Pat Graney has good reasons for you. In her work Girl Gods (presented at On the Boards October 1-4), women’s relationships to anger and rage became the focal point of the over 80-minute show.
Powerful. Fearless. Innovative. So many authoritative adjectives have been ascribed to choreographer Pat Graney’s works in her thirty-odd year career, and countless more will join them as she continues to create. But words are only so much, and Graney’s work belongs to the curious and transcendent rank of art that is not so much described as it is viscerally and soul-rendingly felt.
Over the years I’ve spent a fair amount of time navigating the rich pathways of Pat Graney’s mind.
It’s always an amazing journey.
Graney has been making dances in Seattle for more than two decades. Love them or hate them, they are always fascinating.
Pat Graney’s new dance-performance piece “Girl Gods” begins with a young woman in a tight black mini-dress and heels, a cup of tea carried precariously in one hand.
As she slowly totters and steadies herself along a tall, wide wall of irregular white bricks, the cup clinks against the saucer. As tension mounts, can she keep her balance?