Performing Arts: Dance
March 19, 2023
What can one say about an elder artist-stateswoman who has influenced generations of Puerto Rican and international experimental artists, humbly reigning supreme over her own live solo performance in collaboration with live musicians, against the spectacular backdrop of a nocturnal Hudson River?

Awilda’s show Lacks Criticality drew us to casually enter the space while she improvised under the elevated seating area, barely detectable as we filed in. As she coolly emerged into the stage space from the other side, we realized the woman crouching under the seats with her back to us, as if looking for something, had been Awilda herself.

This sort of reframing of perception remained throughout the entire experience at the John Hess Family Gallery and Theater at the Whitney Museum of American Art. As a Puerto Rican raised on the island, Awilda had me spellbound: I finally had the opportunity to see this icon and founding member of the experimental group Pisoton, which I had only heard of while growing up.

Watching her move, dance, deliberate, explore the walls, and painstakingly move across the marley floor on her bottom, blindfolded, opened up space to think about the power and rarity of a singular performer/dancer in her seventies, guiding our attention through a stream of artistic and political ideas that are far from resolved.

Projections of personal (smartphone?) footage taken by people stuck inside the walloping fury of Hurricane Maria appeared on the walls, then her filmed re-enactment using a hose led us to think of the absurdity not of random events, but of our responses to them. As she moved and danced in her garbage bag garb, her dignity was palpable, while making us look at other people’s pain in an opulent setting. More than a nod to survival, Awilda’s work touched on what it means to have empathy, and to be seen, unencumbered by rage or regret.

Her appreciative interactions with the musicians, and her total comfort as she glided, stamped, explored, examined, peeked, and held attention, pointed to an unacceptable yet conciliatory state of affairs. What are YOU going to do?
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --Nicole Duffy

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