PERFORMANCE — Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church is a series of works which take a new critical position on post-modern dance aesthetics emanating from the Judson Church period. By developing his own work as an imaginary meeting between the aesthetics of Judson and those of a parallel historical tradition, that of voguing, Trajal Harrell re-writes the minimalism and neutrality of postmodern dance with a new set of signs.
"What would have happened in 1963 if someone from the voguing ball scene in Harlem had come downtown to perform alongside the early post-moderns at Judson Church?" is the central question in all the works in the series, which comes in eight sizes, from extra small (XS) to extra large (XL).
Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made-to-Measure)/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M2M) is the custom-made size in the Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church project.
Only, in this made-to-measure size, the proposition is inverted and the question becomes “What would have happened if one of the early post-moderns from Judson Church had gone uptown to perform in the voguing ballroom scene in Harlem.” Again, rather than illustrating a historical fiction, what we experience was neither possible at The Balls nor at Judson, but a third possibility is created, here and now.
In Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem … (M2M), Harrell makes a full-evening work for three dancers which engages the formalism and minimalism of post-modern dance with the flamboyancy and performativity of voguing. Combining these contrasting styles, Harrell repositions the influence of jazz, funk, and rhythm-and-blues on improvisation in early post-modern dance. Likewise, aesthetic and social discourses are transformed when the post-modern dance pedestrian vocabulary of sitting and standing are re-imagined in the context of a Judson Church gathering in Harlem. By using the inherent contrasts in these two aesthetics and the forms embedded in African-American church services, Harrell surprisingly generates a contemporary experience in the continuum and spirit of early American dance. It's the return of high drama and emotion.