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To the things themselves!20184 dancers75 min

To the things themselves! was a provocation. On one hand, I was proposing a phenomenological engagement with the performance moment in and of itself. On the other hand, I was playing with my evolving understanding of the cultural situated-ness of all performance actions (indeed, all cultural production) - that an experience of “the thing itself” necessarily includes the conditions of a phenomenon’s production, as well as its reception by the spectator; that the “sensuous surfaces” (a là Sontag) of a phenomenon might be extended to include any associations or interpretations summoned by, or provided for, the viewer.

I began the TTTT! process by working on a solo for myself as initial research, which I eventually placed at the start of the dance preceding the trio. Creating the solo study served as an introduction to working with composer James Lo, through which we landed on a palette of materials as well as an m.o. for together playing with their possibilities. As one example: we experimented with the manipulation of recorded text - the monologue by Ruth Draper - in ways that emphasize the sonic properties of the speaking while also playing with both the literal and prosodic “meanings.”  

For the trio I went on to similarly play with movement, music materials, and props in different assemblages, exploring both their more prosodic object-ness and their transformations into blatant representations. For one of the more obvious examples within my opening solo: a stick becomes a rower’s oar, a vaudevillian’s cane, a warrior’s sword (stealing here from beginning dance students over the years, Improv 101).

This project also thrust me into a renewed investigation of the act of performance itself and exploration of relational possibilities - interpersonal as well as spatial - between performer and spectator, and between a work and its spectators. During the initial studio work on the solo study I came to the decision to perform TTTT! for viewers seated in the round.  In this spatial relationship viewers necessarily experience the performance actions differently from each other, depending on each viewer’s (literal) point-of-view. Too, Spectators were put into the position of watching both the dance and themselves, watching the dance together. 

The title is meant as a rallying cry urging the viewer toward a nuanced engagement with the performance moment: To the things themselves!*

*Borrowed from Edmund Husserl, an instigator of phenomenological method, who argued  “We must go back to ‘the things themselves’” (Logical Investigations, Volume II. 1901.).

Premiered at The Chocolate Factory in Long Island City, NY, December 5-15, 2018.

Choreography and Text: Neil Greenberg
Performed by: Molly Lieber, Omagbitse Omagbemi, Mina Nishimura, Connor Voss
Music and Lobby Video Installation: Steve Roden

Lighting: Joe Levasseur
Sound Design: James Lo
Costumes: Paige Martin with Parker Lutz


Commissioned by The Chocolate Factory, with additional commissioning support provided through the New York State Council on the Arts Individual Artists Program.
Researched, developed and honed with financial, administrative and residency support from Dance in Process at Gibney
Residency at MANCC, the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography in Tallahassee.

Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant
Sophie and Leonard Davis Fund
Research funds from Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School
Videography and editing by Peter Richards


Gia Kourlas, Time Out/New York, 1995

Jack Anderson, The New York Times, 1995

Jack Anderson, The New York Times, 1996

Deborah Jowitt, Village Voice, 1996
Rick Whitaker, Ballet Review, 1996
Don Daniels, Ballet Review, 1996
Ann Daly, Dance Theatre Journal, 1997
Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times, 1997

Additional Links

About To the things themselves! (2018):

Biba Bell in Conversation with Opal Ingle, Kyli Kleven, and Omagbitse Omagbemi [part 1 of 2] Biba Bell in Conversation with Neil Greenberg [part 2 of 2] Critical Correspondence, Movement Research Publishing. December 18, 2020 & January 22, 2021

Context Videos for To the things themselves! (2018):
Neil Greenberg - Context Video - To the things themselves! (2018)  jThe Chocolate Factory Theater. Filmed and edited by Peter Richards.

Neil Greenberg To the things themselves! Research in 2018
Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University (MANCC)
Filmed and Edited by Chris Cameron

Kyli Kleven
© Frank Mullaney

L-R: Kyli Kleven, Opal Ingle, Omagbitse Omagbemi
© Frank Mullaney

L-R: Opal Ingle, Omagbitse Omagbemi, Kyli Kleven
© Paula Lobo

L-R: Opal Ingle, Omagbitse Omagbemi
© Frank Mullaney

Neil Greenberg
© Paula Lobo