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Luis Garay
Florencia Vecino in Luis Garay's “Maneries.” Images courtesy of Fusebox Festival

The Example

“Maneries” by Luis Garay

Performance
“Maneries” by Luis Garay
Place
Salvage Vanguard Theater, Austin, Texas, April 9-10, 2016
Words
Jonelle Seitz

What do gestures become when stripped of their in-the-moment communicative purposes? South American choreographer Luis Garay borrows the word “maneries” from Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who, in his book The Coming Community, analyses the word’s etymology and comes to a conclusion that is mirrored by Garay’s program notes on the dance: “‘Maneries’ r­efers to neither a universal nor a particular; it embraces both, like an example.”

In “Maneries,” a 70-minute work presented in Austin as part of Fusebox Festival, a hybrid-art festival heavy on the experimental and the performative, gesture and physicality are both fraught with meaning and meaninglessness. Virtuosic soloist Florencia Vecino’s journey from darkness into a state of exhaustion and then renewal is both her own and everyone’s; she’s at once an Everyman, an individual, and an avatar.

As the audience entered the theatre, a black box left bare, Vecino—tall, slightly androgynous, and wearing a sports bra, running shorts, and sneakers—was already ­­in place stage right. Opposite her sat electronic-music-maker Mauro Ariel Panzillo, cross-legged on the floor next to his laptop. It was already too dark to see my seatmates, and it only got darker as Vecino moved to an impossibly weak spot of light at center stage. Our eyes struggled to adjust as she stood there for a matter of minutes. Did she make a slight movement, or were our diurnal eyeballs just losing the battle? But she did move: it became evident that her arms were gradually moving into higher, more rigid shapes, and her abdominal muscles became defined in contraction. Panzillo’s soundscape began to take shape in bell-tones, progressive static—louder, higher—and bass beats.

The lighting (by Edu Maggiolo) finally relented a bit, revealing Vecino and the shadows she cast on both sides: a trilogy. Performing increasingly speedy and complicated sequences of gestures, she was deliberate and nonemotive, as though repeating scientific inquires to test a hypothesis or discover the unknown. But as her movements evolved into relentless repetitions of walking and running, it became clear that Vecino was not just the aloof scientist but also the lab subject, a victim.

Panzillo’s beats became as tactile as they were aural, as vibrations buzzed through the wooden risers of the theater, subtly breaking the fourth wall and bringing our awareness to this performance, this place, this time, us. (This awareness also served as a poignant reminder that Austin’s Salvage Vanguard Theater, a scrappy yet essential venue for small companies and independent artists, is nearing the end of its 15-year life, its managing nonprofit having recently been priced out of a lease renewal). On tiptoe, Vecino traced the stage from right to left and then back again, like (but not at all like) Pac-Man or the Shades’ entrance in “La Bayadère.” After running in a circle and sprinting across diagonals—Garay has a background in ballet, and the arc of ballet class as well as its repetitions were distilled here—Vecino lunged into a corner, screamed, took a sip of water, and removed her clothing.

Freed from elasticized fabrics (save for her sneakers), she took a series of baroque-infused poses on the floor. Facing upstage, she balanced on one elbow and one hip, arranging herself like a cupid in flight, before sticking out her tongue. She became restless again, arranging and rearranging her limbs, her shoes squeaking against the now-sweaty floor. For several minutes of repose, she lay stomach-first, as sustained static-like sound raised in pitch. Awakening again, she reunited with her clothes and added an accessory: a black line, drawn with marker, across her waist.

From here, the movement re-upped in pace but took a subtly different quality: Vecino was no longer a victim to her own experiments and seemed to achieve a state of flow. After vogueing across the back of the stage in Greek-inspired poses—the shadowy beauty both juxtaposed with and layered upon the corporeality of before—she launched back into quick-fire gestures, but this time with more of a groove. Aspects of her had synthesized. The scientist had been, if temporarily, engulfed.