Gabrielle Revlock – SEX TAPE, Nuptial Blitz – New York

Gabrielle Revlock's <I>Nuptial Blitz</I>.<br />© Dave Ratzlow. (Click image for larger version)
Gabrielle Revlock’s Nuptial Blitz.
© Dave Ratzlow. (Click image for larger version)

Gabrielle Revlock
Double Bill: SEX TAPE, Nuptial Blitz

New York, The Flea Theater
January 12, 2020

Despite its name SEX TAPE probably didn’t embarrass the young girl of perhaps seven or eight in the audience, whose mother explained before the performance that she would be seeing contemporary dance, which, she said, is quite different from ballet.

Revlock has become interested in portraying observed movement, a kind of danced anthropology. She “is a dance-maker whose work often depicts complicated but relatable interpersonal relationships using a vocabulary that embraces the pedestrian, abstracted by degrees.” I think she may be best known for her ingenious and witty piece with hula hoops, which I saw a couple of times some time ago, both in her hometown, Philadelphia, and New York.

SEX TAPE evolved out of Revlock’s desire to take a situation and replace the man with a female friend “to complicate notions of what friendship can look and feel like, repatterning my own search for care.” Though two women are unlikely to have a physical relationship of the sort we saw without being lovers, Revlock’s piece isn’t erotic and does seem to be about caring. Because Michele Tantoco is smaller than Revlock, there are moments when Revlock seems to be embracing and comforting a child, which can even become a Madonna and Child image.

Gabrielle Revlock's <I>SEX TAPE</I>.<br />© and courtesy Gabrielle Revlock. (Click image for larger version)
Gabrielle Revlock’s SEX TAPE.
© and courtesy Gabrielle Revlock. (Click image for larger version)

The smaller downstairs space for performance at The Flea’s new home on Thomas Street is an intimate one. On three sides were rows of chairs with higher seats behind them. In the middle was a small rug for the performance. SEX TAPE is a very quiet piece, in which the two women’s positions slowly evolve as they touch, caress, and intertwine with each other.

They lie on the rug together in various positions, or in a shift, sit or kneel, all the while subtly changing strokes or touches. One may pick at the edge of the other’s shirt, almost kiss, or seem to sniff or smell hair, but nothing is invasive. The lighting, by Jonathan Cottle, occasionally changes and there are tones or sounds like the waves of the sea. It is all expertly done, but not particularly absorbing. They are always together, usually in some kind of entwinement until the very end when they part.

I could tell you more, because I took notes, but I’ll leave it to your imagination. But don’t be prurient, because SEX TAPE isn’t. It’s more like watching two people make out on a beach, exquisitely and with great discretion.

Before the show a woman in a gown asked some audience members if they would like to participate in the second piece, Nuptial Blitz. Another woman sold two books of photographs by Dave Ratzlow, Revlock’s collaborator on the project, Nuptial Blitz and Holding and Nuptial Blitz Smelling and Kissing. These were also on display during the intermission, when all of us were asked to leave.

When we returned, the chairs were helter-skelter in the center, at angles to each other. We found seats, then were asked to find a partner who we didn’t know or didn’t know well and ask and answer questions on the back of the one sheet program we were given when we left for intermission. (Recently there is a pernicious trend in New York toward giving out programs after a performance, at least in experimental pieces.)

A woman in a neighboring seat and I agreed to be partners, soon joined by two other women to companionly answer questions like “What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?” or “When did you last sing to yourself?” It was enjoyable, like meeting strangers at a wedding, with a more intimate type of inquiry. We didn’t get too far along in the list of questions before Revlock, in a long, simple wedding gown, told us to rearrange the chairs in rows.

Gabrielle Revlock's Nuptial Blitz.© Dave Ratzlow. (Click image for larger version)
Gabrielle Revlock’s Nuptial Blitz.
© Dave Ratzlow. (Click image for larger version)

Revlock said that her interest in wedding photography began with her brother’s wedding. Though, she has said, her ideas about the institution of marriage mean that she does not expect to be a bride, she showed us a very vivid investigation into the codified forms that wedding photographs have taken on. With rapid slides on view, Revlock wittily announced the categories she has repeatedly seen, including the protectors, looking into the future, the kiss, the almost kiss, forehead smelling, lesbian symmetry, and many others. We laughed at the multiple examples she has found, and the ones she has had photographed with friends as the bride herself – or occasionally, the groom.

Wedding photos now exist, Revlock reminded us, to be shared online. And professional wedding photographers have invented a slew of poses, a vocabulary of imagery, to show couples off. Her five recruits from the audience, men and women, now appeared in a semblance of wedding costume, with bouquets and boutonnieres.

With each in turn Revlock posed, adding lacy elements to her costume, until she was very nuptially clad – she looked lovely. Revlock asked what the setting should be – people kept picking natural settings – forest, desert, Glacier National Park. She set the terms of the wedding for each quick session, bride and groom, groom and groom, bride and bride, and asked if the volunteer wanted to be the groom or bride, or groom or bride one or two.

A woman’s voice gave a running commentary, suggesting which of the codified poses to take and Dave Ratzlow photographed each couple. We all giddily enjoyed this. When I got home, I immediately sought out a long neglected box of photos, all by amateurs (we hadn’t hired a professional) of my own wedding. A nuptial blitz seemed imperative.

About the author

Susanna Sloat

Susanna Sloat is a writer and editor in New York City who has written about many kinds of dance, recently mostly for Ballet Review. She is the editor of “Making Caribbean Dance: Continuity and Creativity in Island Cultures” (2010) and “Caribbean Dance from Abakuá to Zouk: How Movement Shapes Identity” (2002), both available from University Press of Florida.

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