Monday, July 18, 2016

The Water Calls To Alice Gosti

"Bodies of Water" begins at Seattle Waterfront Park
Seattle’s Waterfront Park is home to a huge ferris wheel, a scattering of bistro tables, and, on a sunny Saturday in July, hordes of pedestrians who shamble along the noisy sidewalk. The cars and trucks that roar overhead on the Alaskan Way Viaduct provide an unrelenting drone, occasionally pierced every by jangly pop music blaring from the pedicabs that troll for tourists.

It seems an unlikely setting for Alice Gosti’s latest durational performance, “Bodies of Water.”
The Waterfront Park stage is a perfect staging area

And yet, at 5 p.m. on July 16th, Gosti’s troupe of white jumpsuit-clad dancers gathered on the sidewalk to begin the marathon five-hour event.

Like her last large-scale, site-specific work “How to be a Partisan,” "Bodies" is a calm, centered reverie. 

But, “Partisan’s” setting at St. Mark’s Cathedral allowed the audience to both take in the performance and be lulled by the essence of spirituality that pervades the huge Episcopal church. Waterfront Park, on the other hand, presented an endlessly evolving, and sometimes distracting, backdrop for the dancers and musicians. 

Calm was not a given; we had to find it in ourselves.

That task was often a challenge.
Alice Gosti's white-clad performers gaze west across the water as bemused audience members wonder where to look

Fifteen minutes into the performance, a couple of weary tourists, toddler in tow, sank down onto the concrete steps that encircled the dancers. Their curiosity turned to annoyance when they were asked to move a stroller out of the way. But the family stayed put for a few minutes, watching the performers deftly avoid collisions as they wove up and down the steps, like white salmon heading upstream to spawn.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct makes a noisy backdrop for Gosti's performers

Eventually, the dancers left the sidewalk and regrouped to the west, on the creosote-covered boardwalk. Dedicated audience members flowed down with them, craning our necks to watch as the performers clustered together, swaying slowly with the tide, like a bed of sea kelp. They held fast to their space as baseball fans pushed their way around them, heading south to the stadium.

Ultimately, I made my way up to a cement overhang, where I had a better view of the performers, the audience, and the relentless human parade that streamed through the space.
The dancers dipped their forearms in blue paint, before climbing onto a ledge above the boardwalk
They slowly undulated their arms, mimicking the movement of the water


Looking out at Elliott Bay, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between that waterway and Gosti’s performers. Despite the tanker ships, tugboats and ferries that roil the Bay on a daily basis, the water flows on, pulled by gravity and tides, the sun, moon and stars. 

The dancers, too, followed their own rhythms, despite the noise and commotion of a busy, urban thoroughfare. The contrast they provided to their surroundings amplified my experience of their performance, and has left me thinking about the uneasy interactions between people and our planet.

I marvel that Alice Gosti was able to realize her vision despite, or maybe because of, the obstacles the site presented. I understand she was invited to make a work specifically for this park, a challenge if there ever was one. 

Perhaps it wasn't what she would have created had she chosen the perfect venue, but for me "Bodies of Water" worked on so many levels that I went home more than satisfied by the experience. 

Traces of “Bodies of Water” beckon as I write this. Each trace is delicate and beautiful, like a shell washed up onto the shore. And, like the bowl of beach treasures I store on my windowsill, I’ll hold the memories of this performance close.

 
An enduring image from a mesmerizing performance, "Bodies of Water" by Alice Gosti