Reflections of a gay male near-middle-aged dancer on 'Age & Beauty'
Dancer and choreographer Miguel Gutierrez talked to AL DÍA News about the first two parts of “Age & Beauty,” a suite of queer pieces he created in reflection of his life and career, and which he presented at Fringe Arts last week.
Gutierrez started to conceive “Age & Beauty” in 2012 after finishing yet another project in his prolific career — he has produced an average of one show per year since 2001, participated in many other artistic experiments, taught, and even published a book.
“I was feeling a sense of frustration and pressure around the way how you are always turning something out when you are making work, and I was questioning how much longer I could do that,” he said. “It’s confusing to know how to continue when you are always struggling to start from zero.”
While thinking in retrospect about his career so far and going into the future, the 43-year-old befriended a group of younger artists who self-identify as queer, among them 24-year-old performer and dancer Mickey Mahar.
“I was curious about what it meant for younger generations of artists to call themselves queer, why there seemed to be a resurgence of people claiming this identity, thinking about what it meant to me when I was younger and about what it means to me now,” Gutierrez said.
He was first introduced to the term when he was a teenager in San Francisco and was involved in political activism.
“I came out in a generation where a lot of people who were my age were dying, so there was a palpable sense of not understanding what it would be to grow older as a queer person, and I think that’s part of the conundrum that I’m in now.”
So in 2012, he started reflecting upon and drawing inspiration from meetings with his long-term creative collaborators, among them fellow dance artist Michelle Boulé, his arts manager Ben Pryor, and lighting designer Lenore Doxsee.
“I realized how theatrical and absurd those meetings could be,” Gutierrez said, who started secretly recording the meetings. “It was important for me to start documenting them.”
Instead of putting all his ideas into one piece, like he would have done in the past, he decided to make a series of pieces that were somehow related to each other, and to deal with — in his own words — “the representation of the dancer, the physical and emotional labor of performance, tropes about the aging gay choreographer, the interaction of art making with administration, the idea of queer time and futurity, and mid-life anxieties about relevance, sustainability and artistic burnout.”
Part 1 would be about a new working relationship, and then Part 2 would be, inversely, about the much more storied relationships.
In “Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/” Gutierrez dances in a duet and in unison with the young Mahar.
“What was exciting about the relationship with Mickey was that it was so new and that he was somebody who had very little information about my work, so that really gave me a lot of freedom in terms of what I wanted to explore and how I wanted to do it,” Gutierrez said.
In “Age & Beauty Part 2: Asian Beauty @ the Werq Meeting or The Choreographer & Her Muse or &:@&,” Gutierrez “uses retrospection and archive to demonstrate how relationships, money, and flights of fancy are at the center of all art making.”
For Gutierrez, 2016 will be a sort of sabbatical year in which he will continue to perform the pieces that exist already but he won’t be producing new projects, and he will limit his work-related traveling for performances.
“I am ready to see if New York is the right place for me to stay, which is really hard decision to make when I am never here,” he said. “I am also ready to focus and give a little bit more energy and time to the creative process”.
By doing so, he hopes to change things around from “making making making” and to slow down to figure out the way he wants to continue.
“As an artist you serve as a consciences for yourself and for the culture, and you have to make space to listen to what your conscience is telling you,” Gutierrez said.
He added that when he started working in “Age & Beauty” he approached the series as if they were his final pieces to put a little bit of pressure into the process.
“I don’t have a terminal illness that I’m going to die from tomorrow, as far as I know,” he said. “Now I’m creating space to not know what’s going to come next, to release myself from the expectation that there is, and see what happens.”