Dancer/performer, choreographer/writer, and director/improvisational composer Mark DeGarmo’s 60-minute transdisciplinary solo program highlights an encyclopedic range of theatrical styles and genres from the dramatic to the comedic and from the abstracted to the literal. His one-man show combines concert dance, music, theater, performance art, and clown while asking: “What is it to be a man dancing in the USA? What if all men worldwide danced their inner lives? What is the role of the artist in a society that often misunderstands and devalues non-commercial art forms?” This concert also investigates Western artists Walt Whitman and Raymond Duncan—Isadora’s lesser-known brother.
“The Metrics of Awakening” is a 10-minute abstracted technical dance-theater work deconstructing Classical Ballet and Modern Dance training juxtaposed with original spoken nonlinear text, such as: “I awoke, four degrees three inches in twenty-seven seconds.” Sonora House’s sound score includes tree frogs and night sounds from the Eastern Hudson Valley’s hilly woodland landscape from which DeGarmo hails. In “Metrics,” DeGarmo plays the interactions, contrasts, and tensions between the qualitative and quantitative realms of embodied human consciousness. It is a standing dance, with aerial movements, and a shifting stream of consciousness witnessed through the dancing male body.
“Whoever You Are (Meditations on Walt Whitman)” is a 20-minute solo romantic narrative ballad in four parts of “Everyman” using facial, hand, and full body gestures. The logic of its gestural language is inspired by DeGarmo’s early study of classical Indian Bharata Natyam. To music by singer/songwriter Chris Riffle played by Riffle and bassist Jimi Zhivago, “Whoever You Are” explores Whitman’s themes of the transcendental nature of love, male friendship and the mighty natural landscapes reflecting the grandeur of the human spirit. In this work he celebrates the transcendental transcultural transdisciplinary qualities of the spontaneous/fleeting, expected/unexpected, and quotidian/ubiquitous.
The final work on the program is the 30-minute “A Happening: Raymond Duncan’s Art/Work Theories.” This is a European clown-based social-commentary comedy channeling revolutionary dancer Isadora Duncan’s eccentric brother in four sections: “Prologue,” “Peeling Potatoes,” Wielding Pickaxe,” and “Wearing Dress.” As Raymond says during one Vaudeville-inspired transition: “I don’t know what my sister thinks about all of this (. . .) considering all of her nature dances. But this is work! Real work! Men’s work!” Revisiting the Happening form he adopted as an autodidact teen playwright, DeGarmo imaginatively embodies and channels Duncan ’s performance art/work theories in the guise of a vaudevillian of the day “singing for his supper.”