Choreographer Zoe Scofield
  • Joseph Lambert
  • Choreographer Zoe Scofield

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  • Joseph Lambert

I'm on the floor at Velocity, looking up into Zoe Scofield's armpit and thinking, "Damn. That is a nice armpit. The muscles in that armpit could crush me." My brain is banging against my skull as dancers run back and forth down the length of my body. I love this. Me and just a few other people make up the entire audience for the 3:30 pm showing of zoe|juniper's newest installation, No one to witness or adjust #4, which is a work in progress of sorts, a chamber study for a larger piece. We're on the floor, legs stretched out, heads resting on lavender-scented pillows. The room is warm and on the ceiling a film of gentle, negative silhouettes plays on the ceiling. It's like naptime at some super artsy daycare center for grownups and I want to stay there forever.

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  • Joseph Lambert

How intimate is that? How brave and incredibly loving is it for artists to share their work this way? Any artist is sharing a part of themselves with their audience, but usually it's rehearsed to death and polished and as perfect as possible before we catch a glimpse. It's wacky, but the creative partnership of Zoe Scofeild and Juniper Shuey comes up with some wacky stuff. Scofield, a trained classical dancer, describes herself as someone "who was sort of excused from the ballet company." The woman oozes creative energy, and whether people attending this two-day, 16 "performance" gig liked the work or not, I bet I'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't think it was, at the very least, really interesting. Shuey is a video installation/sculptural performance artist and photographer. This new piece is an experiment to see exactly what happens when the audience becomes part of the installation, viewing the performance from below the dancers, rather than set away in the typical stage/audience configuration. The result is strange, off-putting, and potentially freaky. As typical audience members at typical dance shows, where the audience sits in chairs, we are sequestered in a dark shadow of near-anonymity, able to let our faces betray reactions of confusion, disgust, laughter, whatever. When you're laying on the ground underneath the bodies of the people performing for you, feeling their sweat, smelling their heat fill up a room—not so much. They see every flinch. They respond to you as much as you respond to them. Comfort zones for both parties are banished.

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  • Joseph Lambert

The feel of a dance studio floor and this kind of proximity aren't foreign to me. I used to spend my life in the studio. Granted, I never had dancers tower above me, hands painted bright pink as they created multiple dimensions between my prone body, their bodies, hanging white plaster casts of various body parts suspended in the air, and projections on the ceiling. There was a rhythm to the room, a bouncing of reactions between the audience, Zoe, her dancers, the lights, the music, the swinging paster casts. At one point, looking right up at Zoe, almost right up her nose, I realized how infatuated I could become with her face, her intensity. She looked like Charlotte Gainsbourg in Jane Eyre. Another dancer moved to my left, her right arm gracefully floating up to prompt a corkscrewing of her upper body, torso, and waist. I wanted to watch her midsection move—in my peripheral vision I could tell that it was really cool—but I couldn't tear my eyes from her face, even as she made eye contact with me and then gently looked away, floating out of my line of vision to another part of the room. This is a dangerous proximity if you, like me, have a tendency to get attached to facial expressions, to let the intimate expression of a dancer's physical movements get under your skin. With this piece of art, there's no where to run. There's too much to look at, to get caught up in, to love and to loathe and to long for. It's intense as shit.