To become a part of the performance or to sideline ourselves for the evening? That is the first of many questions we are asked when attending Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis’ performance of The Way You Look (at me) Tonight at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Seats frame the playing space, which itself is filled with various seats and cushions for audience members to sit on. We are encouraged to sit more centrally, with the caveat that we will come into (gentle) contact with the two performers at some point during the 110-minute performance.
Glowing neon circles of various sizes hang in the air. Three large projection screens also frame the stage. Throughout the piece, they will become an additional canvas for exploring the topics of the evening, utilizing a mixture of abstract textures, simple motion graphics, live video feeds, interviews, and text.
Big Questions at Heart of The Way You Look (to me) Tonight
Peripheral fluctuation. Perception. Object-oriented ontology. Queerness. Socratic interrogation. These are just a few of the personal and philosophical questions at the heart of Cunningham and Curtis’ “kinetic social sculpture.” Our relationship to each other’s bodies, our bodies, and the objects with which we most often use all surface during the evening. Speaking from personal experience, Curtis and Cunningham intersperse the night’s collage with anecdotal reflections on these big ideas.
MCA Presents A Unique Hybrid of Dance and Philosophy
As a piece of contemporary dance, much of the performance’s text supplements Curtis and Cunningham’s movements. Curtis’ choreography is performed with an organic quality, a style that complements the extemporaneous nature of many of the pair’s stories. Contrasting Curtis’ movement is Cunningham’s precise and impressive work utilizing a pair of full-cuff elbow crutches. Sonically, much of the piece’s music operates on the periphery, juxtaposed with music from the 1930s and 40s (“The Way You Look Tonight” does make an appearance.)
A mixture of vague platitudes, deep thoughts, and off-the-cuff insights ultimately serve as a unique lens to view Cunningham and Curtis’ bodies through. Part dance piece, part pedagogical dissertation on movement, part philosophical reflection, The Way You Look (to me) Tonight’s engrossing ideas and striking images gently work their way into your subconscious over an hour and forty minutes. Curtis and Cunningham do not leave anything clearly defined or neatly tied up at the end of the piece. Instead, they seemed to encourage us to continue our own exploration and self-reflection.
Now playing through February 11.
7:30 pm on Thursday-Saturday, February 8-10, with an additional 2 pm show on Sunday, February 11
Tickets are available at the MCA Box Office at 312.397.4010 or www.mcachicago.org.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 E Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
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