Chris Yon and Taryn Griggs perform as part of the eighth annual La MaMa Moves! Festival. | LAMAMA.ORG
Five years ago, husband and wife Chris Yon and Taryn Griggs packed their bags and moved to Minneapolis, and they haven’t been seen round these parts since. Now, thanks to the efforts of curator Nicky Paraiso at La MaMa, the two McKnight Fellows bring their unique brand of lovable, mad, Beckettian dancey-dance to the New York City stage, as part of the eighth annual La MaMa Moves Festival.
The relatively new parents will perform a collage of previous works under the very long title “The Very Unlikeliness (I’m Going to Kill You!) [again & again version].”
When I caught up with Yon, he’d just returned from Copenhagen, where he was working with students for two weeks at the Danish National School of Performing Arts.
Taryn “Ginger Rogers” Griggs and Chris “Charlie Chaplin” Yon return to New York
“I spend most of my time now being a stay-at-home dad,” he said. Their daughter Beatrice is 14 months old. “Taryn works at Whole Foods,” he continued. “She’s the provider. I’m the lonely housewife.”
The pair last performed together in January at a pop-up festival in the basement of a Minneapolis Mexican restaurant. “It sounds romantic when you talk about it,” Yon said, “but it felt like being in a terrible Berlin meat-packing space.”
They did it because Jaime Carrera, creator and curator of the festival, known as the Outlet, organized it with Hijack (Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder.) “They are one of the biggest reasons we moved here,” Yon explained. They share an affinity for performance modes, he said, as well as a lot of conceptual theater frameworks. “The show felt like a Monsters of Rock,” he added.
For the performances at La MaMa, Yon said, he “stripped other dances for parts. All these duets I made on Taryn and other people. There are mash-ups of duets where I learned other people’s parts, things added on to beginnings and ends. It’s modular and efficient for touring, and a lot of it will be familiar — stuff we’ve been doing since we met each other.”
Yon received a choreography fellowship from the McKnight Foundation. His muse and the mother of his child received a dancer fellowship and has commissioned choreographer Jodi Melnick. It might seem an unusual choice in some ways, but it is also inspired.
“I would love to be in a dance by Tere O’Connor,” Griggs said, but added she “wanted to work with a female choreographer familiar with solo work. Most of my written proposal was built around working for friends. There is a value to working with people who are in the same place” — as in, frame of mind.
Melnick has also given Griggs some of the best counsel she has gotten as a dancer.
“I don’t take class,” Griggs said. “I love being in rehearsal, but I’m not as mindful of that stuff. She doesn’t shy away from giving advice, and she’s wicked smart.”
Moreover, said Griggs, “we both take to problem-solving in the studio. With Chris, it’s a crazy puzzle, an unwritten language. It’s fun to figure out, like math homework. As a dancer, she also likes these problems.”
Following the performances at La MaMa, Yon and Griggs will start work on curating an evening of choreography for Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center over Thanksgiving weekend. Their call for auditions asked for dedications instead of descriptions, and they are hoping to transcend style in their selections.
They are also working on the next pitch, a regular Saturday morning variety show at the cabaret in the back of the Bryant Lake Bowl in South Minneapolis, what Yon likens to a sister space for the Club at La MaMa. You can also look for them on the festival circuit in summer 2014.
TARYN GRIGGS & CHRIS YON | “The Very Unlikeliness (I'm Going to KILL You!) [again & again version]” | La MaMa Moves Festival | 74A E. Fourth St., btwn. Bowery & Second Ave. | Jun. 14-15 at 10 p.m.; Jun. 16 at 5:30 p.m. | $10; $15 for students, seniors at lamama.org
La MaMa Moves! 2013 celebrates the dance artists who have performed at the famed experimental theater over the years and runs from June 12-July 7. Complete details at lamama.org.