Please Love Me
Created for The Foundry (2010)
Choreographed by Alex Ketley
Original Music: Les Stuck
Text by: Alex Ketley and Carol Snow
Performed by: Christian Burns, Malinda Lavelle, Joy Prendergast, Kara Davis, and Andrea Basile
The Daily Californian
"Please Love Me" - was the most viscerally in touch.
“The piece - choreographed by Alex Ketley and performed by Ketley's SF based dance company, The Foundry-begins with dancer Malinda LaVelle standing illuminated under a spotlight. Moving with slow refinement, each of LaVelle's gestures stimulate the audience to become hyperaware. Every glance down, turn of a cheek or finger pointed away seems to suggest a world of unspoken meaning.
Ketley's choreography, while drawing upon classical and contemporary ballet, is distinctively unique. His approach to movement, marked by asymmetry, stylized gestures and elegant fluidity, embodies both athleticism and aestheticism.
Dancers Joy Prendergast and Kara Davis bring a dynamic energy to Ketley's choreography as they slice through space with commanding presence. In a fast-paced duet the two slide, lean and pull with an acute awareness and sensitivity to the area around them.
It is exactly this level of sensitivity that makes "Please Love Me" so remarkable. In an age where an excess of stimulation often desensitizes us to our own emotions, Ketley seeks to re-sensitize. At one point dancer Malinda LaVelle says, "Fuck you!" aloud again and again. Yet the repetition does not numb us to the obscenity. Each utterance builds in intensity and volume until LaVelle is left screaming, "Fuck you!" with passionate anger.
In the romantic duet performed by Andrea Basile and Christian Burns, Ketley uses nudity in a similar manner. Burns slowly undresses to stand before Basile completely naked. Without clothes, he offers himself up to Basile (and the audience) free from pretense or concealment. We become sensitized to the beauty and vulnerability of nudity. When he puts his pants slowly back on the duet seems to hold new meaning. He places his cheek onto her cheek and they move through a series of graceful movements in which they hold, tug and support each other. Together they capture a complexity of love that lies beyond words.”
"Please Love Me" offers a depiction of human sensitivity at its finest.”
San Francisco Bay Guardian
"When words fail, a turn of a cheek or small shift in stance can signify a world of meaning. Choreographer, dancer, and director of the Foundry Alex Ketley is hyperconscious of the subtle secrets our bodies both hide and reveal. This consciousness allows him to deconstruct and reconstruct movement in such a way as to capture the emotional unknown that lies beyond words. Enlisting a cast of captivating dancers and former Ballet Frankfurt media artist Les Stuck, Ketley's newest project, Please Love Me, explores how we relate to others and investigates the contradictory nature of love and relationships.”
San Francisco Bay Guardian
“After the SF-based dance company The Foundry (founded by Alex Ketley and Christian Burns in 1998) performed their most recent project, Please Love Me, July 7 at Theater Artaud, I overheard a woman ask her friend: “Well, what did you think?” After a minute of searching for just the right words, her friend replied, “I feel like I just had really intense, emotional sex. I need a second to process it.” While Please Love Me isn’t about sex, the woman’s answer seems fitting. Combining dance with original music and video projection by former Ballet Frankfurt media artist Les Stuck, Please Love Me is intense, beautiful and emotionally poignant.
The piece starts with dancer Malinda Lavelle slowly moving through a series of gestures and shapes as the Foundry’s four other dancers (Burns, Andrea Basile, Kara Davis and Joy Prendergast) sit in a line of chairs behind her. Our attention is immediately drawn to the relationship between performer and audience as we watch not only Lavelle, but also the other dancers watching Lavelle. In addition to this “audience” of four dancers, chairs occupied by regular audience members line both sides of the stage and add an element of up-close-and-personal intimacy to Theater Artaud while blurring the line between performer and observer.
Ketley’s interest in that blurry line, so to speak, is key to his innovative choreography. As Basile and Davis dance together in one of the pieces' fast-paced duets, their movements build in speed and momentum to the point where it becomes difficult to tell whether their powerful intensity conveys a sense of fighting or loving. It is exactly these kinds of dichotomies (love and frustration, connection and disconnection, performer and observer) that Ketley captures so eloquently.
Later in the piece, Burns and Davis dance together as they voice stream-of-consciousness dialogue. Phrases like “all I ever do is this,” “more sex, more couples,” “movie rentals,” “a policeman shoots himself the neighbors' backyard,” “I saw you twice, briefly, but never again,” and finally, “in the end, please love me” add a sense of loaded meaning to each action. While following no specific storyline, each piece of movement and phrase is relatable and random enough for open interpretation by the audience.
In their duet, Davis and Burns maintain a constant awareness of each other even when moving independently. We see this same awareness in a romantic duet between Burns and Basile. Always in the present movement and moment, they own each step with a sense of life-or-death urgency that gives the piece its characteristic realness and honesty.
It’s hard to pinpoint or describe what makes the Foundry dancers so amazing. Surely, they all have breathtaking technique, yet they also bring something more. They each possess a unique quality that refuses to be pinned down. My eye kept being drawn again and again to subtle nuances: the way Lavelle suggests a world of meaning and emotion through a single small gesture; the way Prendergast moves through a flurry of guttural movement and sound before striking a classical ballet arabesque; the way Davis walks away from Andrea Basile at the end of their duet, and then the way she returns. The way Basile leans her head on Burns’ chest during their duet. All these instances drew me in and left me feeling connected to the dancers in a profoundly moving, yet inexplicable way.”
by Emmaly Wiederholt
“In The Name Of Dance.”
“It’s called Please Love Me. The name of it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, something of vulnerability and humility. A superficial list of its components only serves to reinforce this taste. Malinda LaVelle screams “Fuck You” to hysteria. Starkly naked and utterly nonsexual, Christian Burns duets with Andrea Basille. Kara Davis and Joy Prendergast seemingly combat, dodging and stopping each other’s limbs. But these elements are only a fraction of what I experienced on May 5th at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Watching The Foundry’s Please Love Me is a bit like reading Faulkner. It is exhausting. It is relentless. It is compelling. It demands the viewers’ engagement and delivers such breadth and sweep it is difficult to absorb. It is not akin to reading a gentler author leading the reader patiently through the plot. No, it promptly dares its audience to stay alert, attentive and involved in a highly focused mental state. Its delivery is powerful and resonant. It ends with more questions than answers.
Alex Ketley’s The Foundry presents Please Love Me as part of its ongoing project, Theater-Irrelevant, which, with digital media artist Les Stuck, explores putting dance performance in nonconventional dance spaces. An obvious consequence of presenting dance in nonconventional dance spaces is presenting dance to nonconventional dance audiences. This means people who may be unaccustomed to seeing dance and thus may have cultural preconceptions regarding what dance is. Aiming to create a piece that can be ported outside of the confines of the theater, The Foundry could have created any sort of dance piece and presented it in the variety of venues it will be performed in through the coming months and still have adequately explored dance in non-dance spaces. Instead they chose to create a piece that pushes expectations.
Thus perhaps the true brilliance of Please Love Me lies not in its audacious material, but in the dichotomy between the material and the intent of the project. The majority of the audience at the Headlands Center for the Arts was accustomed to and/or learned in the art of dance. Can this be said of all the audiences Please Love Me will reach if it is truly performed in non-dance spaces? And then what will the audiences’ reaction be when on top of seeing dance where they would not expect it, they see dance itself they would not expect? How then will Joy Prendergast’s unusual sounds and gestures read? How will Kara Davis’ and Christian Burns’ dialogued duet be received? How will Les Stuck’s projections be viewed? How will the man Malinda LaVelle randomly selects to dance with react to her?
The dance community probably has only itself to blame for many of the misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding dance. Dance can certainly be boring. I can attest to that firsthand. It can certainly be isolating. Who often goes to see dance but other dancers? I can hardly blame the greater part of the population for not knowing anything about dance outside of The Nutcracker production they saw on a second grade field trip. Thus I commend The Foundry; they aim to do away with both boredom and isolation in one fell swoop. Please Love Me is merciless. “Boring” is not built into its architecture. I am excited to follow Please Love Me into its nonconventional dance spaces and watch it wage war in the name of dance.”
“Please Love Me is a multidisciplinary collaborative performance commissioned by Headlands Center for the Arts, combining elements of dance, spoken word, theater, video projection and soundscapes to explore “the contradictory impulses of connection and loss, beauty and aggression, choreographic craft and pedestrian contexts.” It is a culmination of an intense commitment between choreographer Alex Ketley, digital media artist Les Stuck, and bay area dancers Andrea Basile, Christian Burns, Kara Davis, Malinda Lavelle, and Joy Prendergast, who not only developed Please Love Me over the course of two years working together, but now plan to take it on the road, with future performances to be held in bars, Muni stations, and other public spaces.
Please Love Me is a raw, intense, intimate experience where dancers are performing only feet or inches from the audience in a condensed theater-like space. It is difficult, at times, to separate the layers of observation, as the piece deliberately explores the idea of who is observer and who is participant, as well as themes of connection and disconnection: are we more connected by being physically close to one another, or can we better see our connections at a distance?
In an early segment of the hour-long piece, a woman stands immobile under a spotlight, surrounded by darkness: behind her, several dim figures sit in hard wooden chairs, expressionlessly staring forward. Her body explodes into spastic, frenetic shapes while guttural sounds, whistles, babble, bits of conversation and shards of story erupt from her mouth. It’s as if she is a fleshy vehicle inhabited by conflicting fragments of sound or text or frenzy, like a cell phone or an antenna picking up pulses of data, but translated through animal physicality. Because of the struggle in her body, it does seem that she is conscious, but that consciousness surfaces and sinks repeatedly. When another dancer joins her, there is an explosion of motion. Sometimes they move in proximity to one another but are completely disconnected, as if in proximal trances: sometimes they lock together in desperate, athletic, videogame-fighter-like bouts of touch. There is an overwhelming sense of the inability to connect, even while connecting, of how to reconcile visceral desire with the difficulty of actually occupying the body, of bouncing from being to watching.
Later, a dancer appears with a camera and photographs another dancer: as the camera flashes, rolling, ghostlike images of that dancer appear on the wall behind her, bifurcating and multiplying the sense of observation: how many audiences are there now? (The audience; the non-dancing dancers; the dancer with the camera; the camera itself; the images on the wall; and the dancer herself, self-aware.)
Behind, below, above and woven through all of the physical, visual motion are soundscapes composed of Morse code, dance music, drums, string instruments, tones and recorded birds that sometimes buoy, sometimes undermine, sometimes animate, and sometimes counterpoint the actions of the dancers.
Please Love Me is an intense experience, and strikes on contemporary notes of what it feels like to navigate the strange paradox of how technological ultraconnectedness may actually create physical rifts amongst and within people. This is explored not only within the piece itself, but in how it is performed- not on a traditional theater space with a stage above and separate from the audience, but merged into public spaces, where you can hear the dancers breathing, see the intense control of their bodies up close, and are abducted into it’s questioning of the roles of observer and participant, connectedness or disconnectedness, or some intermediate state of being both.
Either way, Please Love Me demands thatyou experience it not at a distance but right up close, right in its midst.”