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Posted by Anna Simon
I’ve been hearing a lot of musings on Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, which is terrific because I can keep thinking about their Wednesday performance and ruminating on what it’s about. I was walking down the street the other day and passed a bearded young man not unlike one of the performers, his arms akimbo, standing and waiting at the bus stop. It looked exactly like part of the performance I’d seen. In fact, his stance and casual attitude exactly matched that performer when he first walked before the audience. It was not a stage entrance, it was completely normal. “He’s not acting,” I thought. “Or is he acting at not acting? No, he’s definitely being normal.” My point is that the man at the bus stop and the performer were indistinguishable.
It seems Nature Theatre is all around us, as the name suggests. Their “dance” is derived from the vocabulary of everyday gesture, both facial and gestural—smirking, disappointment, discomfort, desire. This is the stuff of everyday. NT both elevates these movements and emotions by focusing them into a performance but also deconstructs the theatrical experience by placing the audience on stage, directly engaging them through eye contact and gesture and losing the theatrical attitude. If the audience is on stage, NT seems to be asking, then who is performing for who? This life stuff, this is and isn’t a performance.
There is no narrative in the show beyond momentary beats of interaction between the four performers. Their intentions and postures continually change like someone flipping rapidly through 200 channels of cable. All our attention is focused on these strange interactions which become increasingly complex. There is no movement too small, no eye roll too trivial—all is part of the performance. This results in deceptively simple choreography that blossoms into full-fledged bogie dancing, still from this everyday vocabulary. At times the stage resembled an amateur floor show or a work-out video whose dancers are all-inclusive for varying levels. I’ve participated in both. I think I want to join their troupe. Or at least go dancing more.