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over the wall stories

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Review DanceMagazine, June 1982
Dance 1 by Sally Banes New York City

"over the wall stories" by Peter Rose

At Danspace, January 28-30, Peter Rose performed his "over the wall stories" and Diane Torr and Bradley Webster performed "Arousing Reconstructions". Both of these pieces were not so much dance per se as performance artworks that incorporated stylized gestures, patterned movement and speech as well as political content. Rose's solo is autobiographical, an account of a recent pilgrimage to Germany and Poland. The material itself is riveting partly because it is so personal-confessions of a young American-Polish Jew searching for his "roots"-and partly because of the recent and not-so-recent calamities such a trip calls forth.

Rose tells of his visits to Auschwitz and to The Warsaw Synagogue where he gives himself a second bar mitzvah, of his attempts to get a visa so that he can go from Poland to The Soviet Union to study at The University of Vilna, of his visionary meeting with James Joyce's Anna Livia, of his nights camped out at the Berlin Wall and of his joining squatters in a Berlin building. He talks and sings maniacally in German, Polish, Hebrew and New Yorkese, showing us how he memorized the chants for his bar mitzvah, reenacting the scene in which the rabbis invective against Gentiles shattered Rose's bar mitzvah day pride and faith. He demonstrates how on his last day in Berlin he was dancing with a German child on the subway platform until a Turkish boy pulled a knife on him.

Rose mentions tangentially that he went to Poland to study with Jerzy Grotowski, whose para-theatrical techniques take him and his followers on pilgrimages an a path of spiritual suffering. Clearly this performance owes much to the influence of that master. Rose pulls us along on an intense tide of narrative that moves between anecdote, holy confession, and shriek and ends with a Dostoyevskian prayer. Holding out a pair of baby shoes, invoking the name Solidarnösc, Rose concludes, "I believe in the sun even when it doesn't shine, I believe in God even when he is silent."


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