THE WHITE PIECE, by Ireland’s John Scott was presented at La MaMa in association with Irish Arts Center from March 14-24th. Part documentary, part poetry, the work involves 14 dancers whose backgrounds vary from Merce Cunningham Dance Company, to African Torture Survivors.
All of the athleticism found in love, conflict, and injustice is equally expressed in John Scott’s “The White Piece.”
So should be dance that moves through a range of subject, and cultural issues, ideas, and context—with a diversified gathering of dancers. Nuanced with humor, passion, pain, sorrow and subjectivity, THE WHITE PIECE (A white cloth = healing) transcends the emotion of a rapidly changing world, life of the prisoner of hate, the duranged ego of privilege, and preservation of self. “ME!”
Bill Harpe of The Gaurdian (UK) wrote, “Choreography with this degree of artistic and social commitment is very rare indeed.” To see John Scott flail and slam himself about the ground, is enough expression of pain, sorrow, and frustration at the level of social injustices happening in Ireland, and globally, so as to move one to tears. Yet even if your eyes well up in abject surrender, at least in the space the performers are holding, is not allowed (or not for long)… tears whisked away with a whimsical movement, or reading of text.
THE WHITE PIECE arose as a response to the feelings of anger from witnessing how a refugee is treated and how they respond, or don’t respond… —John Scott
With use of athleticism and a plentiful representation of character, the differing performers demand of the audience to pay attention as a retired Ballerina delicately moves about the stage, crossing paths with an everyday African torture survivor—bursting open arrays of states of consciousness. It is exhausting. The choreographer has succeeded in bringing you into the lives of others, their everydayness in struggle, survival, and triumph. The architecture of culture.
Fortified with several mature Merce Cunningham dancers, The White Piece is balanced with powerful physical expression typically found in Scott’s artistic vision. You see everything as the blinders of deeply entwined racism are removed in this experimental workshop where the audience isn’t witnessing a thing that happened in a space being replayed. Rather, this is a textual performance referencing right now—a story unfolding before your eyes, a cry for justice that only we together as a functioning global-whole, however imperfectly, can resolve. This is hard work.
Who can tell the story of humanity-in-action better than… The dancers John Scott chose represent differing cultural realities, and as performers they take responsibility for the entire performance by way of authentically representing themselves, and not who they think they are seen as. No awkward feeling of witnessing someone trying to fit in. No apologies for who they are, where they’ve been, what they’ve done, or had done unto them. When the dancers show up in authenticity, taking responsibility for everything that has happened up until now, the veil is removed, and truth is revealed.