I usually throw a few notes down on my computer before going to bed if I think that I might want to write about something that I’ve been to. The first note that I left for myself after getting home from seeing Corian Ellisor and Alex Abarca’s My People at 7 Stages was the question “Why am I drunk?” I got a cup of wine from Java Jive before the show and found that my face and lips had gone completely numb and I was finding new comfortable ways to lean against the banister by the stage. For a moment I wondered if I’d actually been drugged but I suspect that my body was just worn out by a long week and there was more wine in that cup than normal. Fortunately I had walked there and didn’t really have to worry about driving.
The wine aside, I thought the show was great. My People was subtitled “A movement conversation between two queer human bodies of color” and I honestly don’t know if I should be calling it Ellisor’s work or crediting both. The ticket said “Corian Ellisor Presents My People,” so that’s what I’m calling it, but it kind of seemed to be a collaboration between peers. It was set on the main stage and Ellisor and Abarca were joined on it by Siana Altiise,1 who had a sound mixer with a laptop upstage center. All three were in track suits, Elisor in blue, Abarca in red, and Altiise in pink (I think…my memory is fuzzy and I didn’t note it last night). The lighting was at times a bit heavy-handed, with some parts making heavy use of shadows from side lights or flashing red lights from directly above the dancers. It worked well enough, though, and did a good job of demarcating the sections of the piece in the absence of any other stagecraft.
The music was fairly eclectic, giving a sense that each section of the piece stood on its own. There were a couple of songs in a minor key, such as “Summtime,” as well as a couple of mixes of spoken word sampled from radio broadcasts. One of them was made up of snippets of a report on the tragic and horribly mishandled separation of children from immigrants and the other was a couple of radio personalities discussing a particularly odd experience of racism from a checkout clerk at Walmart, who accused the storyteller, a Black man, of illegally buying tequila for the random Latino man behind him. Altiise also provided some live accompaniment in the form of of her voice looped and mixed. Her voice was sweet and well controlled and the mixing had a great flow that created some fairly interesting soundscapes for the duo of dancers to work in.
The dance piece was really interesting. It seemed to trace a sort of path through a narrative about trying to live as gay men of color. It began fairly light-heartedly, with the two running in place and doing some other exercisey things – perhaps symbolizing working hard to get ahead or just to catch up? It then went super-fabulous as the two flaunted their stuff around the stage, half silly but all glamorous-awesome. From there it went a little darker as they seemed to be taking turns telling us about some of the issues that come with being Black or Latinx in America. Particularly poignant for me was the final bit set to the story of the Black and Latino men in Walmart. Ellisor and Abarca’s movements became somewhat ambiguous: were they pushing each other down? Were they keeping each other grounded? Getting in each other’s way or supporting each other? I felt that it resolved into an expression that, as minorities, we’re all in this together and need to support each other.
I’m pretty sure that I’d have done a better job of remembering this and, thus, writing it up if the wine hadn’t hit me so hard last night. I’m completely sure, however, that it wasn’t the wine that made me really like the piece. It was a strong collaboration and managed to be both enjoyable to watch and thought-provoking.
1. There wasn’t a printed program and the FB event didn’t list Altiise’s name. I had to find her name in an interview with the dance-makers and even then it seemed to have been added after the fact by the interviewer. I feel that at least some effort should have been made to credit her by name. back