“Superb….Osserman creates a delicate hybrid of the old and the new.”
— The Boston Herald
© Steven Pisano Photography
Solo work in the time of COVID-19
Vaccinated: These movements came to me and I followed them — inspired by Merce Cunningham, who in the film recently made about him said something like don’t think about the meaning, just make movement; “it will be expressive.” That freed me to focus more intensely on form and find I had not lost but gained from his advice.
Kalo Kako: Kalo means good and kako, bad in demotic Greek. It’s striking how close the words sound though they have opposite meanings. Joseph Campbell writes in Occidental Mythology “The patriarchal point of view is distinguished…by its setting apart of all pairs-of-opposites– male and female, life and death, true and false, good and evil- as though they were absolutes in themselves and not merely aspects of the larger entity of life.” This helps me to better understand evil, myself and the two figures in head dresses who like watching me. Music: Waters’ Rite and Knowledge Rite from Euripides’ Bacchae by Petros Tabouris Ensemble and Thesalikon Theater Actor Chorus.
Snaking Queen: The witnesses who wore masks and head dresses are with me as snakes. We are 3 snake sisters once again. This solo is a sequel to Kalo Kako.
Bird-Headed Snake Goddess: I internalized features of bird and snake to become them, as goddesses have inspired us to do.
We’re Watching: This should be the last in a series of solos using masks and head dresses that emerged last summer. Wearing masks gave me the illusion of having other dancers to work with since the company couldn’t be together after mid-March. The head dresses, made by Ellen Ryder, combined with the masks made me think of the Greek furies in disguise, sisters I had been dancing and talking about in earlier solos such as FURIOUS. Music: Petros Tabouris ensemble from Ancient Greek Musical Instruments and Euripides’ Bacchae.
Who Are We?: The piece was made this past summer. It was streamed by Theater for the New City in NYC for their Halloween Cabaret October 31, 2020. Composer and musician, Alon Nechushtan, offered to write an original sound score for it this February. All About Jazz Magazine has called him “a fantastic pianist-composer with abundant chemistry and boundless eclecticism.” http://musicalon.com On February 19, Jersey City Theater Center presented Who Are We? at The Box: Reinvention curated by OpenRoad Poetry and Rescue Poetix. It was a meaningful evening.
Regrow: A solo with the future on my mind as well as memories, some imagined from the past year. Music is “Echoes of a Lost City,” by Yo-Yo Ma. (7:26). I have been very lucky to participate in Playing With Matches workshops led by Cori Kresge, superior dancer and poet. This brilliant, compassionate woman matches us up with writers, composers, choreographers, chefs, cartoonists, designers, photographers, painters, performance artists, travel loggers, actors, dreamers, craftsmen, and interdisciplinary creators. The feedback we give and take is stimulating, and sharing our work gives me the feeling of having a live audience.
Celebrating Sort Of: This character would like to celebrate the end of 2020. The movement reflects the tension we are living with and the need to let it go. Ellen Ryder made the head dress for a Mardi Gras which had to be canceled this past June. I put it on in mid-December and this solo was the result. Music: Kule Kule by Konono No.1. (4:24)
Revisit: After nine months separated from the five magical dancers in the Wendy Osserman Dance Company, I tried to inhabit some of the movement I gave three of them from UDJAT, premiered in 1985 (scroll down for full version). Udjat is the Egyptian hieroglyph of the eye of Horus, the sun god. The eye was stolen by a competing god who scattered it in the sky, but it was returned to Horus whole by the god Hathor. It is a symbol of things made more precious having been restored. (4:16)
Almost Last in 2020: The Bach Prologue is profound and exquisitely played by Kim Kashkashian, so full of movement, thought and feeling, I had to follow where it led. (4:10)
Weird White Woman: Another outrageous head dress created by Ellen Ryder prompted this solo inspired by an aunt named Letty. December 2020. (7:10)
Face It: I’m letting contradictory sides of myself out to play. Listening to both sides is the challenge. Music: Tibetan Bells III, Crossing the Line by Henry Wolff & Nancy Hennings
Fly As Swatter: After we bought these heavy duty swatters at Lowes, we realized what a mess they would make if we used them. I am always looking for costume and prop ideas especially since I am the only member of my company I have to work with these days/months. It was around the time of the vice-presidential debate, convenient to address being a fly and a swatter. Music is by the fascinating composer/musician, Skip La Plante, Music Director of Wendy Osserman Dance Company. (6:05)
Furious: The first in a series of solos in which three ancient Greek Furies give health tips, exercises, stories and a recipe. Presented by Dixon Place in June 2020 at Contagion Cafe on DPTV and by Theater for the New City’s Lower Eastside Festival in May.
Yin/Yang Yes: Trying to find balance; Taoist teachings sound more sensible than many religious ones that appeared after. Music: Magic of the Ancients (Composition in the Mystical Middle Eastern Hijaz Mode) by Michael Levy.
Combustion, presented by Theater for the New City, Crystal Field, Executive Director, 155 First Avenue, NYC
In March 2020, Wendy Osserman Dance Company premiered Combustion, a piece choreographed in collaboration with five splendid dancers: Gary Champi, Lauren Ferguson, Cori Kresge, Joshua Tuason and Emily Vetsch with live music by Skip La Plante. Fire is a recurrent image embodied by the dancers including Osserman, a response to world events with the recognition that fire can also be a generator of life, an agent of transformation, purification, illumination and enlightenment. Udjat, a trio from 1985, concludes the program.
Click above to watch “You Name It”/Combustion Part I
“Repeatedly the kind of support on view defines the emotional relationship depicted between the performers. In formal terms this seems to be Ms. Osserman’s governing idea and it is a sophisticated concept… These are studies in emotion as well as motion…a welcome fresh note.”— The New York Times
Click above to watch Udjat
Udjat, first presented in 1985, St. Mark’s Church, 131 East 10th Street, NYC
“Udjat was made in 1985 and has a darkness to it that is both powerful and compelling. The dance is for a trio of women dressed in black and begins with a striking tableau: one figure lying supine, a second standing holding the third upside down…The dancers’ bodies combine in various ways to create freizes that are arresting to the eye…The work ends in a vertical totem of the three dancers, their faces made paler by the surrounding blackness, gazing into the audience with a look that is both searching for that which is to come and accusing for that which has passed.” — Attitude/The Dancers Magazine
“Udjat was made up of sculptural, slow reaches and tumbling. Crouched over, the women walked as one creature towards the side lights They separated and whirled, with their arms held wide, then formed a totem that held still as the lights went out. It could have been from Nijinska’s Les Noces.” — dancelog.nyc
Undermine, presented March 2018 by Theater for the New City, Crystal Field, Executive Director, 155 First Avenue, NYC
“The veteran choreographer Wendy Osserman unveils her latest evening of work — with a group of talented dancers, including Joshua Tuason and Cori Kresge — that features the premiere of Undermine. Inspired by the current political climate, it draws on concepts from the Native American medicine wheel and features music by Skip LaPlante, who creates scores for traditional and homemade instruments. Also included is Udjat, a trio from 1985.” — The New York Times
“It had the shifting, crepuscular feeling of something you caught a glimpse of in half-light, down the hall, reflected in a mirror.” — dancelog.nyc
Click above to watch a selection from Undermine
Quick Time, 40th anniversary season, presented April 2016 by Theater for the New City, Crystal Field, Executive Director, 155 First Avenue, NYC
“bountiful work, richly textured with visual, aural, and physical collaborations. Projected designs by Sanya Kantarovsky, lively arrangements of color and shape reminiscent of Matisse’s cut outs, set a scene. Each projection brings to light a new environment making the stage into an ever-changing forest of sorts, where the music and dancers — the flora and fauna of each locale — constantly arouse our attention and curiosity.” — The Dance Enthusiast
“Four dancers cycled through solos, duets, and the group, each dancing with a distinct, individual style although still easily moving harmoniously with one another, their movements appearing to flow entirely naturally from their body, with a complete freedom” — Dance Informa (click to read full review)
Photo: Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
Vestigal, presented April 2014 by Theater for the New City, Crystal Field, Executive Director, 155 First Avenue, NYC
“An Enigma, Bound by Chaos, Staged by a Veteran Choreographer: Any opportunity to see the dancer Cori Kresge is welcome. When she was a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s Repertory Understudy Group, her steely, sensuous strength and staggering facility made you question her status as an ‘understudy.’ In works by the Cunningham alumni Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, she has been just as incisive, if more animal, almost otherworldly, in what seems like her insatiable need to be dancing.
“On Friday at Theater for the New City, Ms. Kresge brought those virtues to Vestigal, a new, hourlong piece by the veteran choreographer Wendy Osserman, who has been presenting work in New York since 1976. The premiere marked Ms. Kresge’s 10th anniversary with the Wendy Osserman Dance Company, and evidently it has been a fruitful decade… As a performer, Ms. Osserman, who is (hard to believe) in her early 70s, has her own kind of magnetism. ‘Who wants to be vulnerable, really?’ she asks during a monologue about, of all things, trilobites.” — The New York Times
Compromised, presented 2012 at Hudson Guild Theatre, Chelsea, NYC
“With the premiere of Compromised at the Hudson Guild Theatre, Wendy Osserman Dance Company explores the polarization of the political stage through an evening-length work created by Osserman in collaboration with four dancers. Set to musical arrangements of Eric Satie and drummer Victor Lewis, the score also includes interviews with people representing both right- and left-wing viewpoints. The tone of the performance is generally light and breezy; Osserman manages to avoid treating this over-wrought subject with a heavy hand.
As a soft hum of jazzy drums starts to play, dancers Milan Misko and Cori Kresge enter from the back of the small theater, heads bobbing like chickens, eyes alert, scanning the scene. Both dressed in dark suits, Misko takes the lead as Kresge dutifully echoes his movements—the image of an eager campaign aide comes to mind…Osserman herself appears several times throughout the piece, often accompanied by text that pits progressives against conservatives; this ideological split is reflected in the lighting, which alternately illuminates and darkens halves of the stage. As if trying to guide the discussion, Osserman stands center stage, directing traffic with her hands before finally giving up; apparently the effort of making opposing sides listen to each other is just too much.
Osserman’s movement follows the light, improvisational vein established early in the piece; it often appears that her body is making its own decisions about what it wants to do—sometimes she tries to control it, and sometimes she just goes with it.” — EYE ON THE ARTS, NY
more is more is more or less, presented May 2009 by Wendy Osserman Dance Company featuring Iva Bittová, in association with Joyce SoHo, New York City
“ ‘more’ engages and flows from the beginning. It’s light, humorous and eccentric, with moments of mild cacophony, delighting and providing, as [Gertrude] Stein did in her own day, unexpected pleasure.” — Voice of Dance Forums
Click to read full review
Out of Place, presented March 2008, Wendy Osserman Dance Company featuring Iva Bittová, in association with the Czech Center NY, Hudson Guild Theater, NYC
“Looking statuesque in an enigmatic solo, Osserman may have been a maternal protective presence before she sank feebly downward, only to be revived by Bittová’s violin music.” — New York Theater Wire
“provocative precisely because it feels like a new amalgam of some indefinable kind… There is a kind of magic, a sense of being taken to a place you might never visit again.” — The New York Times