In the current arts economy it can be hard for artists to make a name for themselves, but choreographer/performer Eleanor Bauer ensures that her name makes it onto the marquee by making it – emphatically – the name of her solo show, which she’ll bring to Christ Church Neighborhood House this weekend. But “ELEANOR!” is not just about getting Bauer’s name up in lights.
“The piece is not called ‘ELEANOR!’ because I’m actually an egomaniac,” Bauer says, “but because it’s about self-promotion as one of the tireless things an artist needs to do to stay visible and afloat.”
The show will be presented by Thirdbird alongside a remounting of “Colony,” an immersive, endurance-based duet by dancers Kelly Bond and Melissa Krodman. Bauer’s piece is an autobiographical blend of performance, lecture and stand-up comedy that relates her own struggles with making a living as an artist.
After attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Bauer relocated to Brussels, Belgium, in 2004, at least partially motivated by the arts funding climate in Europe. “I was a little apprehensive about living and working in New York because you see everybody around you doing the same thing, which is working, like, 11 part-time jobs,” Bauer says. “Making my own work only cost me money, and there were a hundred other things that I had to do in order to survive and support that habit.”
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Ironically, her first return trip to New York was a benefit performance — meaning, of course, that she didn’t get paid. “I was sitting there asking myself why I was spending money on a plane ticket to perform for free if I left because I didn't want to keep performing for free? And I came to the realization that recognition is a form of currency in the field. Instead of exchanging money, accolades or appreciation are what fuels the dance community.”
That idea provided the premise for “ELEANOR!,” which humorously examines the modern life of a dancer negotiating the financial and artistic obstacles of being a working artist. As the piece has grown from the short piece she premiered for that New York benefit to an evening-length performance, it has reflected Bauer’s growing interest in using comedy in her work— which itself is leading her to think about returning to the States.
"Humor is very cultural and very linguistic," she says. "People laugh and get it enough in Europe, but there’s a limit. Once I recognized that entertaining and humor were things that I wanted to start taking more seriously, feeling not totally understood got a little old.”
Thirdbird Presents ELEANOR! & Colony
Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 N. American St.