Osserman in Liz Magic Laser’s ‘Convulsive States’
at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, NY, September-November, 2023
New York Times, Tuesday, November 14, 2023
Photographs and Video by Lanna Apisukh
As the choreographer and dancer Wendy Osserman, 81, began to contort her body at a recent performance in Queens, her hands shook. Her fingers flapped back and forth. She threw one arm away from the other — tossing and releasing, flailing and returning — and hopped into one-leg kicks before sticking her tongue out and coiling it into a tunnel.
She was trying to shake something off, it seemed. But what?
Animals, according to somatic therapists, tremble and quiver to discharge stress. The shudder is a trauma response, a kind of biological palate cleanser that allows a return to a sense of normalcy after duress. Human bodies, on the other hand, tend to store up rage and grief and panic like a pressure cooker. As a dancer, Osserman lets her intuition guide her movements to release some of that pressure.
Osserman’s daughter, the video and performance artist Liz Magic Laser, has been fascinated by how the body expresses psychological distress. For centuries, medicine viewed shaking as a symptom of hysteria; spasms and fits as evidence of delirium. Today, shaking has become a therapy for a range of ailments, physical and mental.
In her video, Osserman — stomping, swaying and swiveling — teaches an improvisational practice known as Authentic Movement in which dancers, often with eyes closed, become attuned to thoughts, emotions and memories and follow the body’s instincts to move. Laser grew up observing it at home.
“She told me, ‘Mom, I was trying to grow up and you were crawling like an animal,’” Osserman, who used to host rehearsals in their Manhattan loft, said in a joint interview with Laser.
“It was horrendous to hit puberty and to have people, like, writhing on the ground in your living space,” Laser said , laughing… As a teenager, Laser said she had “that classic rejection” of exploring the anguished mind, finding it “freaky” she said. “Freaky deaky.”
“But not any more” Her mother replied.
See full article at Convulsive States, Liz Magic Laser
Steven Pisano Photography
LAMINARIA, OCTOBER, 2023 https://youtu.be/d3x0EUrYsLI Presented by Stone Circle Theatre, Ridgewood, Queens CHOREOGRAPHY: Wendy Osserman in collaboration with Lauren Ferguson, Cori Kresge and Emily Vetsch Written for chamber orchestra and dancers by Concetta Abbate
A Folk Horror Chamber Suite, LAMINARIA portrays the transformation
of life and death through the metaphor of underwater shadow ghosts emerging from the deep sea.
“It has been a pleasure to follow the choreography of Wendy Osserman through the years. Over time she has honed her vision and language to a personal expression that has timeless resonance. This was evident in her recent work at Theater for the New City, Laminaria, whose atmosphere addresses woman’s presence in the process of birth and renewal. Laminaria is the Latin word for kelp which is used medicinally to induce labor in abortion or childbirth.
The 3 sections, The Devil’s Apron, Water into Light and Lethe were choreographed in collaboration with the dancers in response to these titles, lyrics and music by composer/violinist/singer Concetta Abbate. The Concetta Ensemble of 10 musicians included Skip La Plante, Music Director of Wendy Osserman Dance Company, who invents and creates a wide range of fanciful percussion instruments and scores. Especially exciting was a new solo on the program by Osserman with La Plante, “no words”. The many dynamic contrasts evoked different aspects of the performer: the delighted, the struggling , the dreamy, the solemn.
The trio, Laminaria, is described by Abbate as “Folk horror, a sub-genre of horror.” She imagined an underwater sea ghost, or shadow entity of sorts: “consciousness trapped behind the shroud of grief.” Osserman split the image of the ghost into three to expand movement, spatial and sculptural possibilities. The three women: Cori Kresge, Emily Vetsch and Vanessa Walters moved in and out of fabric in sensuous and shaping motifs. Emily Vetsch performed an inspired solo recalling a bird attempting flight. Cori Kresge, coming on to 20 years of working with Osserman, is again “extraordinary” (New York Times) as she conveys Osserman’s vision, melding her movement with Osserman’s to render it. Vanessa Walters in her first season with WODC adds her strong presence and intensity of focus to the piece, completing the circle. The feeling of ensemble is what one has come to expect of Osserman’s work. Accompanied by the Concetta Ensemble there existed a unity of spirit and matter.
I think that the work of Wendy Osserman recalls the great tradition of Modern Dance made by significant women artists over the years such as Helen Tamiris, Valerie Bettis and Frances Alenikoff with whom Osserman studied and performed.”