Charming New York-based choreographer Jennifer Lacey, who stepped in as host at short notice, kept her cool in the stifling heat of the old theater to entertain the audience during the intervals between performances. The event, which lasted a total of two and a half hours, was organized by the directors of the city’s ongoing ImPulsTanz international dance festival, an annual event West had actively supported for many years.
Lacey who performed her show “Gattica” twice at the festival last week, described West as “participatory in the best kind of way” and “a really good audience member,” and encouraged the audience to emulate and exercise some of West’s enthusiasm as spectators during the tribute pieces.
Performers that night ranged from West’s elderly hairdresser Erik Johann, who used a homemade bubble wand to send bulging, glistening fairy liquid bubbles across the stage, to divas of the dance world including Francois Chaignaud, Trajal Harrell, Ivo Dimchev, Cecilia Bengolea and Benoit Lachambre, all of whom are performing at the festival. Other contributing acts in an emotional yet high-spirited evening of entertainment included choreographers Chris Haring and Mark Tompkins, DJ Philipp Quehenberger and eccentric Austrian dancer Doris Uhlich. Quoting the words of a good friend of West’s, Lacey said the performances were all the things West “would have liked or been irritated by in a good way,” and described the abstract sculptor as “one of the few artists who got better as he got older.”
While at times the whole event felt like a school talent competition, that was all part of the charm of the evening and at the end of the day it was indeed nothing short of remarkable that the organizers managed to coordinate the event at such short notice.
An active follower of contemporary dance for many years, West, who was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale last year, presented two pieces in collaboration with the infamous Bulgarian-Belgian choreographer Ivo Dimchev at ImPulsTanz last year and was a familiar and much-loved face in the front rows of performances at the annual event.
Renowned for his accessible and unpretentious approach to art, West strived to show in his work, which ranged from furniture and collages to public sculptures, that art was tangible and vibrant and could be brought to life by dance and song. A craftsman of the highest order, West’s generous investment in the arts during his lifetime will undoubtedly continue to bloom and flourish after his death.