Cousins, Critically: The Mississippi/Volga V Dance Festival

Today I am joined by two cousins to discuss The Mississippi/Volga V Dance Festival which we all attended at the Tek Box on July 19. The two cousins which will join me are Aweful Writing contributor, M. Liam Moore, and first time Aweful Writer/Dance enthusiast who will be known as simply, Someone Else. We hope to dissect the festival in a thoughtful and critical manner in what we call “Cousins, Critically.”

The End… Or The Beginning?

Someone Else: What we saw of The End seemed to be much the same as The Beginning. The Middle, of course, was where the development actually happened. When He, with his back turned against the audience, jived his whole body in not-so-syncopation, with Her voice on the microphone crooning about that big ol’ blue moon.

When Their bodies wound up entwined and They resolved to move forward separately, but going the same way, I felt small depth to their movement. The dancers were trained and their movement convicted but the noiseless repetitiveness did little for the first act.

The second act, what with its tumbling colorful bodies running circles around each other, was disparate. The same sweeping motions between the floor and standing, between positive and negative space around each other, gave structure to the dance and presented contact improve in the most live form I have seen to date. Musings, scratches and rolling vocals on the microphone paired with the electric guitar wails did not contradict the movement, but instead added sound to what appeared to be an anxious piece.

Committed to not let time pass before taking myself to the edge and back again. It seems I could learn a few things from J.T.’s sense of adventure.

J.T. Moore: Someone Else, what you call my sense of adventure, I call happenstance. I just randomly stumbled upon the Mississippi/Volga V Dance Festival in a City Pages listing on events for the weekend. The fact that I “stumbled” upon this event seems rightly so.

Yes there was lots of stumbling at the Volga, whether it was the movement of the performers, or the manner in which I behaved myself. Instead of acting like a polite and respectful audience member, I failed to contain my emotions about the performance, for better or for worse. There were points at which laughter seemed acceptable (ranging from sweeping to snoring), at which point I readily engaged, but there were moments of “seriousness” which I found delightful. I guess this is an important learning experience for me as an audience member, or just as a developing avant-garde european dance enthusiast.

In truth, where I may have mixed emotions about the performance, I loved the experience. Whether it was watching other audience members react to the performances, seeing a call and response thrust pit, or just reacting to it myself, I was quite delighted with what Volga had to offer. I may not know what The End means, or where The Beginning starts, but there is one thing I do know: european avant-garde dance festivals are weirdly awesome.

M. Liam Moore: How is an audience member expected to act during performances of avant-garde dance? When a studio-trained dancer gyrates like one of those floppy, inflatable tube men you see outside car dealerships (AirDancers?), does he expect viewers will quietly scratch their heads in wonderment? When a fellow dancer smothers him with her prone body and feigns sleep, are we to admire their lines and ponder the social statement?

No, laughter strikes me as entirely acceptable at performances like these. In fact, I’d say it’s exactly the kind of audience reaction sorely missing from the MissiVolgaV. When I hear “avant-garde,” I expect art that is unconventional, maybe even subversive – certainly not art tailored to a passive audience. So why were we all sitting there as though the substitute biology teacher had just popped an episode of “Nova” into the VCR?

Plenty of performers feed off audience reaction. Why wouldn’t avant-garde dancers be among them? I’m not sure this forgives J.T. for snickering through the performance as though someone had fluffed in church, or as though the underpants of one of the dancers were visible (!). But I do think a more engaged audience – a looser atmosphere – would have helped me stomach some of the show’s more solemn moments, which in the first piece, particularly, too often rubbed off as breathlessly delivered emotional abstractions.

As for that second piece, the delightfully improvised “Limericks” was by far the more visually stimulating, but I’ve got one nitpick. A limerick is a five-line, rhyming poem with a very specific meter. Limericks are humorous and sometimes bawdy in subject matter. “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” is a nursery rhyme. “There once was a woman from Exeter / And all the men there craned their necks at ‘er / One day to be rude / She reclined in the nude /” … and the last line, let’s just say, rhymes with Exeter. That’s a limerick. And that’s a dance I’ll be back to see.


Axe Cop is Gleefully Ridiculous

Axe Cop is voiced by Ron Swanson himself.

In the first episode of Axe Cop (airing on Fox Saturdays at 10 PM CST) the titular character remarks that he will jump his car off a ramp into space, and is able to simply because the ramp is “very high.” It doesn’t matter that Axe Cop doesn’t ever give any explanation or anything that happens on the show, because the show is gleefully ridiculous.

Wherein a “normal” show the lack of plausibility would anger me and other viewers, Axe Cop actually gains from its lack of plausibility. Because of this lack of plausibility and gives minimal explanation, it is entirely apparent that one of the show’s (and original comics which the show is based upon) co-creators is an 8 year old boy, and that is not a bad thing.

Voicing the titular character of Axe Cop is Ron Swanson himself, the one and only Nick Offerman. I’m sure you can imagine already, but Nick Offerman is sublime in his voice work. An amateur voice actor probably would have embraced the weirdness and quirkiness of the show (after all, the network has branded it ADHD, Animation Domination High Definition), but Offerman plays it cool and nothing rubs off as too abrasive.

The lack of plausibility and explanation pairs wonderfully with the show’s breakneck pace, and at the end of the show’s brisk 15 minute running time, you aren’t particularly able to tell what hit you. It may sound too outlandish or like an acquired taste, but I am incredibly grateful for a show this crazy. After watching Axe Cop, I want every show to be co-created by an 8 year old.

2013 Emmy Nominations: Emmy Voters Remind Us That They Can Be Cool, That They Are Still the Worst

The 2013 Emmy Nominations were announced today, at 5:35 AM PDT, and nothing has really changed. Yes, the Emmy voters showed us that they are the same old guys who are able to nominate awesome and deserving things (like Adam Driver for Girls), and still be idiots at the same time (House of LiesEpisodes and Modern Family aren’t going anywhere!). However, it wasn’t all the same old, same old, as a new player emerged and dominated in most of the fields.

Emmy voters really liked House of Cards. Like really liked it. Despite it being a traditional and fairly boring “cable” drama, it earned 9 nominations, making history by becoming the first program to not air on actual TV, but still score top nominations (such as Best Drama, Actor, Actress, Writing, and Directing). Netflix really lucked out with HOC, but unfortunately the same didn’t happen on the Comedy side. Surprise, Netflix’s rebooted fourth season of Arrested Development only scored 1 major nomination (Jason Bateman for Actor) and 2 others (Editing* and Original Score). This fact probably won’t bother Mitch Hurwitz, the show’s creator, because he’ll probably tell the voters they’re resisting change. Regardless, Netflix’s newfound dominance within the Emmys is a major thing, and will hopefully pave the way for Orange is the New Black, which will win all the Emmys in 2014.

*Seriously?!?!? The Emmy voters choose to honor the editing of AD‘s fourth season? What was once the best thing about the show in its original run became one of the worst aspects of the new season, in the overstuffed and overlong episodes.

Despite HOC‘s dominance, there are still great things happening in the Drama side of nominations. Breaking Bad earned 13 nominations (some include Best Drama, Actor, two Supporting Actors, Supporting Actress, Directing, and two writing noms!) and it seems like this is the best year yet for the scuzzy, southwestern, anti-hero-centered drama. Despite its dominance (two writing nominations!!!) BB seems like the show that will never win Best Drama, and that’s okay because its fifth season wouldn’t be my choice for best drama. (Despite being Breaking Bad, the fifth season seemed like a step down from its outstanding fourth season, but in reality, it was still really great television.) Even though I may seem down on BB, this is the year for Anna Gunn to win, and I know I’m going to love her acceptance speech. Same goes for Jonathan Banks.

Accompanying Breaking Bad is Game of Thrones. GOT earned 16 deserving nominations for its best season yet, which is the most of any drama this year. Among the most deserved are Best Drama (obviously), Emilia Clarke for Best Supporting Actress (you truly cannot say no to Daenerys ‘Dracarys’ Targaryen in this scene), Best Writing for “The Rains of Castamere”, and Best Casting (seriously, I don’t know how they do it). Don’t get too excited, the Emmy voters managed to screw up somewhere GOT related, and this year it was Directing. Season 3 of GOT, seemed like it was the best directed show on TV (The Red Wedding, the previously mentioned Daenerys scene), but a nomination is nowhere to be found. Despite this, 2013 seems like the year for GOT to win it all, so here’s hoping it does.

Now, things aren’t all that great in the Drama field of nominations. Voters still found the need to nominate Downton Abbey which has been rapidly declining since the end of season 1. Downton scored 12 nominations, which is still far too many for this import drama. There is really nothing good I can say about this. Instead of submitting the heart-wrenching episode 5, the fairly forgettable episode 4 was submitted and scored writing and directing nominations.

What Downton Abbey is to the Dramatic categories, Modern Family is to the comedy categories. After winning three consecutive Best Comedy Emmys (which compares it to the likes of The Dick Van Dyke ShowAll in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Taxi), MF is back with only 12 nominations. This is a step down from past years, which is only a good sign, because no one wants Modern Family to be compared to the greatness of All in the Family. In fact, there is a rather hilarious (funnier than Modern Family, I promise!) slip that the show experienced this round of nominations. Last years winner, Eric Stonestreet (who I would’ve called one of the best performers on TV three years ago, but is now insufferable) was NOT nominated this year. Again, things can only get better.

While I like might to dwell some more about the negative things on the comedy side (House of LiesEpisodes, even more Modern Family rage) there is actually some really great stuff happening. As previously mentioned, Adam Driver was nominated for his performance on Girls! Laura Dern was nominated for Best Actress for Enlightened! Merrit Weaver was nominated again for Nurse Jackie! (the performance is good, the show… not so much.) Lena Dunham got a directing nomination for directing one of the best half hours of TV in the past decade (“On All Fours”)! Louis C.K. scored a whopping, 9 individual nominations (ranging from producing, directing, writing, editing, and acting)! Things are really, really great on the comedy side.

But best of all is the love for 30 Rock. 30 Rock earned 13 nominations for its beautiful swan song of a last season, which was a true triumph of TV in the past season. Among those are 2 writing nominations for “Hogcock!” and “Last Lunch” which combined create one of the best television finales of all time. In truth, because they are both nominated, votes will be split and Louie will win again, but that’s not a bad thing. Another deserving nomination that 30 Rock deservedly received was for Best Original Music and Lyrics for “The Rural Juror.” This song is truly an outstanding accomplishment in television, and will rightly win the Emmy. Because it is its last year, and has garnered many nominations, there is another comedy that actually stands a chance at dethroning Modern Family, so here’s hoping its 3o Rock.

The Comedy and Drama nominations aren’t all that are important. Yes, there is a lovely field of contenders in this year’s Miniseries/TV Movie categories. Among the top of them are Top of the Lake, and Behind the CandelabraCandelabra earned 15 nominations for Steven Soderbergh’s first foray in television. Top earned a bevy of nominations, and rightly so, though Holly Hunter was snubbed of a nomination for her wacky and confounding performance. Both nominees are equally deserving of their nominations, and I couldn’t be happier with the competition between the two.

Even if there are great things getting nominated, there are still less deserving nominees that exist. For instance there’s Jeff Daniels of The NewsroomVice being nominated for an award with the word “Outstanding” in front of it. There are also far to many snubs to count. The guest actress categories strike a particular chord with me. Parker Posey did not get nominated for her profoundly beautiful performance in Louie, but I guess the nominations of Melissa Leo and Molly Shannon for Enlightened  make up for it. The Americans was also shut out of most major categories, but voters proved they watched it by nominating Margo Martindale. In the guest actor categories Patrick Wilson was shut out for his performance in one of the best episodes of Girls ever. David Lynch and F. Murray Abraham were not nominated for their equally hilarious roles (especially Lynch) in Louie. However, Harry Hamlin managed to get nominated for his particularly great role in Mad Men. But, in return Mad Men (one of top shows of the year) earned no writing or directing nominations. The dramatic actress category is a particularly confusing one. Seven women were nominated, but none of them were Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black (10 more times!), Keri Russell for The Americans, or former winner Juliana Margulies for The Good Wife! The only “reasonable” explanation for all of these snubs would be to blame it on House of Cards. Fuck House of Cards.

I could go on and on complaining about the snubs from the Emmys. I didn’t even mention Mike White, the New Girl shutout (I’m calling conspiracy!), or Rectify! But in the end, it just turns out that Emmy voters can be stupid. They like stupid things for stupid reasons and nominate them in stupid categories. That’s why fucking House of Cards has nine nominations and Rectify has zero. But it turns out Emmy voters can be cool to. Whether its nominating awesome performances (I can’t get over Adam Driver!), great writing (“The Rains of Castamere”) or great directing (Louis C.K. for “New Years Eve”), Emmy voters can sometimes get it right.

And in one particularly moving case, the Emmy voters got it on the nose. Henry Bromell passed away tragically from a heart attack at the age of 65 back in March. Before he died, he wrote one of the best episodes of the television season, Homeland‘s “Q&A.” Now the nominations are out, and guess who is nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series? This is a profound and moving sentiment by the Emmy voters, and in the end, they seem like they’re alright.