Dance Review: MONSTER MOURNING (Weena Pauly and Katie Workum at Kestrel’s in Brooklyn)

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by Paola Bellu on January 16, 2024

in Dance,Theater-New York


Weena Pauly and Katie Workum aim to highlight the essence of their friendship in a minimalistic form of postmodern dance-theatre. Like children following their natural inclination to play and explore movement, they start with skipping across the bare studio, followed by loud stomping, to introduce their story. Throughout the piece, we see the love and respect they feel for each other translated into physical motion. As for all conceptual art, the idea behind the work is more important than the finished product so it is hard to understand the tales or characters they wish to recount.

The show wasn’t a proper show, more like a showcase for the worthy organization APAP (Association of Performing Arts Professionals), staged in the studio of one of the choreographers, no lighting design, unglamorous costumes, with 25 people, mostly family and friends, adorable kids filming and helping, etc. A family affair with really talented and nice artists, and live music by musician Annie Hart, who also composes and performs in the New York based band Au Revoir Simone (check out her latest album, The Weight of a Wave).

Their abstract movements — stirring, nonsensical, astute and merry — can be difficult to parse, even if you are a seasoned modern dancer. In their words, “With kinetic dancing, stories and songs, Weena and Katie traverse the long tethers of time through shaken-up fantasy worlds, characters built from their lacking and overing, and through the filtered groundwater of their kinship of the last 25 years. As they tend to their home of friendship, they concoct forgotten tales of vaguely euro-lineages and fables into a disjointed present. They navigate connection steeped in inherited competitions and codes of femaleness. They time-travel their own ages and bodies through their love language of hair-braiding and awkward clog dancing. With wit and pathos Weena and Katie seek to understand and pierce through the expected complacencies of modern adult, female corporeality.

Monster Mourning shouts of an unabashedly, uncompromisingly female world. The joy, humor and love we create between us as two old friends, the channeling of girlhoods, shapeshifting our bodies as places of desire, labor, joy, and wild entertainment all work as the top notes. We also felt it was imperative to make work that does not only examine our womanhood, but considers the multiplicities of our identities: gender, race, class, heritage, and the monstrous power-grabbing legacies and actualities that are within us as well. This piece is a container for our dualities, our contradictions of character, identities and self. Monster Mourning invites a viewer into a place of ease and pleasure, then pulls the rug out from under all of us. There are monsters in here too. They live in us, the two of us and the collective us.”

photos by Steve Zavitz

Monster Mourning
Weena Pauly, Katie Workum and Annie Hart
Kestrels, 200 Sixth Street in Brooklyn
reviewed on Jan. 14, 2024
remaining performances: Fri & Sat, Jan. 19 & 20, at 7:30
for sliding scale tickets (starting at $15), visit ticket tailor

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