Clare Byrne Mayfair

Witch Night, May 9
Just in time for Mother’s Day, Clare Byrne lays out a feast of female possibilities. Her Witch Night is a weaving together of five short pieces, each of which explores wild and playful depths of femininity. Characters, costumes, and voices come and go while inviting rich questions about the nature of performance, onstage and off.

We first meet the white witch. She enters the intimate performance space and, talking in a hilariously shrill voice, sacrifices a baguette. She passes around pieces of the bread and we eat together. It is a sacrament and a thanksgiving, an acknowlegement of the community that is created within the audience of every performance.

The white witch invokes feelings of mystery, fear, and support. She implies that, this evening, we will not know what is real and what is pretend. She feeds us like a grandmother, a priest, and a prostitute.

Byrne adds other ingredients, dances and short films, into her witch’s brew. We see an MTV-type dance complete with fierce back-up-booty-dancers. Byrne performs Martha Graham’s Lamentation. She uses leaves on the floor to dance an audience member’s fortune. The white witch returns and, while speaking lyrics from Camelot, sexually squeezes white icing out of tubes and onto cupcakes. We eat again.

One of the films, Morgan, Child Goddess, stars a beautifully awkward and open young girl romping through the woods. Union of the Fishes stars a naked Byrne and Sharon Estacio. Pubic hair not concealed, they make body sounds and move close together.

Like Martha Graham, Byrne explores raw and powerful female energy in her work. It is not limited to this, but it is unusual in this. She looks at the roles that women play and the ones open to us. She also looks beyond the roles. Witch Night feels inspired by the ten-year-old girl in Morgan, Child Goddess. The evening seems to come from that age before cynicism and cool have hit. It is as if we have joined a girl’s unhindered imagination. We are free to be anything.

Will Rawls kneeling, photo by Stefan Jacobs

Kneelings, May 10
Byrne finishes her Mayfair with Kneelings. From 8:10 until 10:00 am, four dancers make their way across Manhattan’s 23rd Street. On the sidewalk, in the middle of each block, one of them kneels. They sit still while New York City walks, and drives, by. It is aesthetic and religious. (Are the two different?) Simple, grateful, gentle, subtle and bold.

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