A b b y B e n d e r
stuff about the performing artist, abby bender. (still under construction - the site and the artist.) stay tuned for more info, including video clips to come!
P R E S S & A U D I E N C E F E E D B A C K click on publication titles below for more.
Review, Rizing (Redux) - Vineyard Gazette, October, 2022
Interview, Rizing (Redux) - WMVY, October 2022
Preview, Rizing (Redux) - MV Times, October, 2022
Review, Wish You Were Here, Vineyard Gazette, June, 2022
Preview, Wish You Were Here, MV Times, June, 2022
Review, Rizing - Vineyard Gazette, November, 2021
Preview, Rizing - MV Times, October, 2021
Review, ThRough - Vineyard Gazette, June 2021
Review, ThRough - MV Times, June 2021
Article, Abby's pandemic creations - MV Times, March, 2021
Review, UnExquisite Corpse - Vineyard Gazette, November, 2020
Preview, Inhabit The Garden Redux - MV Times, November, 2019
Preview Inhabit The Garden Redux - Vineyard Gazette, October, 2019
Review, Inhabit The Garden - Vineyard Gazette, November, 2018
Review, Membership Down! - MV Times, March, 2018
Review, The Home Show - Vineyard Gazette: June 2017
Article: Dance Teacher Magazine: July 2015
Review, Totally Other -The Dance Enthusiast: May 2014
Preview, Comedy in Dance Fest -The Dance Enthusiast: 2014
Preview, Comedy in Dance Fest -The Dance Enthusiast: 2012
Preview , Monsters and Mirrors: heavy at play -The Brooklyn Rail: 2003
Review, Harrington & Kaufman's Nharcolepsy - OFFOFFOFF: 2003
Review, 3 Piece Suit/e The Brooklyn Rail: 2001
"I typically ignore the "we'd love your feedback" section of a program. However, I need to take a minute and let you know how...amazing Rizing was. Where has this sort of experience been all my life?! I loved every second of it; I can't stop thinking about it. Ironically, it kept running through my mind as I was trying to fall asleep last night. I loved the story, the dancing, the costumes. The set was visually arresting and accessible (I like being able to touch things). All this and creepy. Well done. BRAVA!! This was one of the most satisfying experiences I've had in a long time..."
- Corinne Kurtz, audience, Rizing (Redux), 2022
"... your writing skills and imagination amazes me. Thank you again. Can't wait to see what you do next. "
- Sharon Brown, audience, Wish You Were Here, 2022
"I can't tell you how much my family and I enjoyed the performance of "Rizing" that we saw. I am a big fan of site specific theater and you used the house so well. I was scared at times..., thrilled at times..., worried at times..., and moved at times...but always compelled and intrigued about what was going to be behind the next door. You, Jesse and the entire cast did such a great job. Thank you so much for putting this piece together and sharing it. Please pass my compliments on to Jesse and the rest of the cast, it was wonderful. - Molly Purves, audience, Rizing, 2021
"Mystical, magical, otherworldly...congratulations to all that worked on this performance..the Best!
- Andrew Moore, audience, Rizing, 2021
"Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my freakin god. What a brilliant fantastic performance. It was AMAZING. You are a beautiful kooky genius and I am so grateful to live on this island with you, Jesse, and everyone involved. Love and gratitude to all of you" - Anna Barber, audience, Rizing 2021
"...We were engaged from start to finish and left filled with curiosity, excitement, and conversation. The writing, performances, and design were brilliant! Thank you for sharing your talent and creativity."
- Brian Ditchfield, audience, Rizing, 2021
"So inventive and seamless...and to a long term insomniac, just my cup of tea...or should I say slice of zucchini, Love the characters, the music, the stairwell film, all those zzzs weaving through...You were all magnificent"
- Susan Puciul, audience, Rizing, 2021
"It was... amazing. I was so blown away...You've nailed it."
- Ezra Sherman, audience, Rizing, 2021
"Great performance, great imagination, great coordination, great creativity. Many congratulations!!!"
- Alida O'Loughlin, audience, Rizing, 2021
"Such a great performance last night. Spectacular show"
- Andrew Aliberti, audience, Rizing, 2021
"Your performance was so impressive, brilliant, creative and enjoyable, inspiring...you all did such a fantastic show....
thank you thank you!" - Gretchen Snyder, audience, Rizing, 2021
"We loved the show for its geniality, wit, craft, and spookyness. It was soooo good."
- Stina Sayre, audience, Rizing, 2021
"We were floored by the performance, it was sooooo awesome! Thank you so much for all your wonderfully inspiring and creative endeavors in the community. We truly appreciate you all. Congrats to you both and your team of talented folks."
- Lori McCarthy, audience, Rizing, 2021
"Just a great show...So glad I got there... I really enjoyed the integration of the arts, set design, script, dance, theater..."
- Niki Patton, audience, Rizing, 2021
"That was spectacular! So layered and complex..."
- Keren Tonneson, audience, Rizing 2021
"Rizing was absolutely amazing. Thank you!"
- Kim Hilliard, audience, Rizing 2021
"Your performance was tremendous - such creativity and humor and talent..."
- MJ Bruder Munafo, audience, ThRough, May, 2021
"Such a great, fun, inventive, spooky show! I LOVED it! Brava, Bravo, Here Here and Whoopie!"
- Scott Crawford, audience, Rizing, 2021
"I thoroughly enjoyed the performance last night. The imagery and creativeness were wonderful! What a joy for our first post pandemic journey into the performing arts. You all were so good and I thank you for making my night/day!!!"
- Paul Munafo, audience, ThRough, May 2021
"...What an exceptional time I had with you in your home. Thank you Abby for opening my heart and mind to new ideas, movements, wallpaper of my thoughts and chosen objects which comfort me. I loved all the rhythms of your movement, tone of voice, walk through the different environments with invited interaction. Thank you for being embedded in Burnt Norton, it is so complex and maybe not ? as we embed it in our own habitat. Washington Ledesma and I gleefully looked at each other as we entered our cars and said how excited we were to return with fresh eyes to our own homes, and ...transform their possibilities. Thank you Abby and Brian and anyone else responsible for this extraordinary journey."
- Gail Tipton, audience, Inhabit The Garden Redux, November, 2019
"I loved your performance. To see you dance and recite. Elegant, original, touching mysterious ..."
- Helene Barr, audience, Inhabit The Garden Redux, November, 2019
"Gorgeous. I appreciate so much of what you did and what you explored. I was astonished how much resonated with where I am in thinking and being When you asked, 'Is it like that for you?', I wanted to scream YES!"
- Justen Ahren, audience, Inhabit The Garden, November 2018
"Let me gush about Inhabit the Garden. My goodness, what a SHOW. I don't know much, or let's be honest, anything, about dance, performances, or music but let me say, what I felt was magic. From someone who is not from the dance world, this performance moved me. Each room provided a feast for the senses and the music supported the dance and atmosphere to precision. I felt like I was whisked into this world for 45 minutes, where I didn't have to think or be or move or see or feel anything but what was in front of me. It's rare to see such a beautiful art form in a small and intimate setting. Abby, I kept thinking how brave you were to let people into your home and into your (inner) thoughts. You both should be so proud of the performance and I hope this is not the last time you collaborate. It was extraordinary. Thank you for making art and inspiring me! I am still dreaming of the last room filled with 103 dried bouquets. Was it 103?"
-- Alyssa Mayrand, audience member, Inhabit The Garden, November 2018
"That was amazing!... What I think resonates the most right now is how you wove your personal history, and the history of your house (all of it, chapel to outhouse) in around Eliot’s poetry. And I’m still not sure how you managed to invite us all to sit around your living room like guests (I get it, we were that too) without dropping the thread of performance; as an architect I found that dance around the proverbial fourth wall, throughout, to be a constant surprise and delight. And Brian, no small thing to bridge between Abby’s shape shifting and Eliot’s hyper gravitas – I thought the music was perfect. I was especially moved by the way the final piece was woven in with Abby’s last words. So it was Four Quartets after all – any encores?"
-- Bruce McNally, audience member, Inhabit The Garden, November 2018
"I don't tout other people's shows a lot. I don't often tout my own. I'm in one this weekend that is suspect enough that I haven't said a word to anybody. And I saw one tonite that its worth telling everybody about. Abby Bender and Cassie Tunick in a show called Totally Other at Triskelion on N 11 st in Williamsburg. There is a kind of remarkable place that might be best described with a Venn diagram. Draw 3 circles that overlap in a single small region at the center of the diagram. If the circles are dance, music and theater, then the magic place is at the center of the diagram where all those elements, well crafted and sufficient by themselves, come together to make something truly magic. I think I've seen one performance in about 40 years that really did that, which was Andrei Serban's FRAGMENTS OF A TRILOGY. If you ever get a chance to see that, drop everything and do it. Sometimes La Mama remounts the production, but only once every ten or fifteen years. The next best place in that Venn diagram is where two of the three circles intersect. Totally Other is in this place. It's not exactly dance, it's not exactly theater. There is enough text so that it isn't dance anymore. There is enough movement so it isn't theater. It's a fantastic hybrid. There are plenty of well conceived music cues, but they are clearly subservient to the dance/theater mix. So what. You should go because its really funny. It's clever. It's really well crafted. It's really well performed. I just spent a long while trying to descibe elements of the production in some sort of compelling way. That was a pretty futile exercise. I'll leave the one description that actually worked. Cassie Tunick has the most plastic face I've ever seen. Think Calvin and Hobbes. Think of Calvin's crazy facial distortions or of Calvin's snow goons. Cassie can bend her face into any of 16 million shapes, at least a million of which resemble either Calvin or those snow goons. There are plenty of moments where Abby has the text, and Cassie is somehow reciting the text with her, but only using the muscles of her face. The two frequently switch roles. Abby has clearly been taking facial distortion lessons from Cassie, and is quite expert herself, but Cassie is way beyond expert. There is no way words can do justice to this purely visual virtuosity. The terrible thing about the modern dance world is that pieces get built, performed for a couple of days and disappear forever. Maybe they'll make a sequel - we can only hope. But you have two more chances to catch this."
-Skip Laplante, May 2014
"I totally enjoyed your Totally Other performance... I thought it was aptly named / not only in relation to other work either of you might do / but also in relation to itself. It got outside of itself in some rather remarkable ways. The sequencing worked well / props ditto / strong tight text / great lighting / pacing / and both affect and effect. Where form meets meaning -
wan / delicate / precise."
-Alan Davies, May 2014
Review of Gutterball
"...The result is something entirely accessible to audiences who would otherwise shy away from the "experimental" label. If you are in the mood for an edgy, provocative evening that will give you plenty to talk about over drinks afterwards, this is the show to catch. After all, this is what makes the New York arts scene extraordinary: we have more (and better, and weirder) options than just Spiderman III."
- Kathryn Ansite for The Brooklyn Record, 2007
Review, Piqued, Sleeping Giants, Septic Crisis
"A fascinating artistic contrast took place at the Yard during its "Comedy and Classics" evening July 24. From the dramatic force of Jose Limon's masterworks to the surrealist creations of choreographer Abby Bender, the evening provided a stunning blend of drama and whimsy in equal parts..."
- Julian Wise for The Martha's Vineyard Times 2006
Review of Harrington & Kaufman's Nharcolepsy
"...However, Abby Bender’s distinct role as choreographer marks one of the funniest segments of the show, the Dance of the Yeti, whose unpredictable precision cannot be explained but must be experienced."
- nytheatre.com, 2003
Re Monsters and Mirrors: heavy at play: "accessible pandemonium...five exuberant dances."
- The New Yorker, 2003
Review of Monsters and Mirrors: heavy at play: "The resulting work is candid and disorderly, and incorporates the willful autobiographies of the dancers. Yet the chaos and clowning, along with the crazy individualism of the work, reflects a vision that is distinctly Bender’s. Her dances carry a heft of personal reflection and the bearing does not slouch under the weight. Through reenactment, Bender graciously shares her deeply personal experiences."
- The Brooklyn Rail, 2003
“The collective keeps doing whatever it wants-which sometimes includes putting non-dancers on stage… ’ (They are) regular people who want to get on stage and bust a move...I think there’s a real hunger for this sort of freedom in the dance world right now’.”
- Paper Magazine, 2001
“…the group’s performances ‘transcend the confines of traditional modern dance. They’re funny, sexy, and wise-they appeal to both the dance aficionado and to those who wouldn’t normally frequent modern dance concerts’.”
- The Bardian, 2000
GREAT FEEDBACK FROM AUDIENCES:
"Rife with self deprecating humor and root canal deep revelations, The Goldilocks Zone nailed me to my seat and called my Nancy. Bloody hands made me nervous. Stripper hot dancers made me cozy. Eruditic Earthiness and marginalized sci fi relics made me smarter. Pop references made me dizzy. Pop songs made me cry. My favorite Schmantze experience to date. I love you Abby Bender. I love you Richard Harrington. I am joining your cult on Linked In because 'it's better when I like it.'"
-Megan Demarkis, 2011
"Gutterball is a playful romp through Abby Bender's overactive imagination, a well-crafted and inventive performance that never forgets to keep its audience marvelously entertained and shockingly stimulated. The central image of the show - a dozen or more Wizard-of-Oz Dorothys onstage at once - creates a manic theatrical spectacle that fascinates on a purely visual level, while evoking and critiquing cultural fables of troubled womanhood. Transcending kitchiness, Gutterball's Dorothys become Eve and Snow White, Madonna (both pop and biblical), a forest of dangling bodies, a living bowling alley, and the entire cast of Alice in Wonderland. With costumes, music, and movements that collage music videos, street theater, circus performance, lounge entertainment, and high modern dance, the work nevertheless provides plenty of emotional, narrative and conceptual threads to let the audience find its way into Gutterball's strange labyrinth and then back home again. Working with volunteer performers on a shoestring budget, in a performance space that Abby manages herself, Gutterball is a work of true theatrical magic. One can only wonder what damage this hurricane of a choreographer could wreak in a major dance venue."
-Eric Zimmerman, 2007
"...I was BLOWN AWAY! I mean Gutterball, this full show, fully realized work, grabbed me from the opening sound collage, voices in the dark, a documentary tapestry of romance recollections (reminisc. of Glenn Gould's Canadian radio interview montages). From there, into sequence of blackout tableaus, two figures, woman and man, Dorothy Gale and Everyman, meeting, loving, losing. Then evocative blend of GenX pop-arazzi, weaving familiar Oz and Wonderland scenes and characters into Jonze/Kaufman psychodrama, temper-modulated by broad humor and ensemble beauty. I don't mean to gush, but seriously, this was the most audaciously creative performance I've seen in YEARS, blowing away lackluster Broadway Ragtime matinee and almost erasing that infuriating Variations. I'm not so enamored as to blind my critical eye--I found the men somewhat underrepresented/developed (not so much narratively as physically), and think the show could have benefitted from more vocal attention/intention, playing with performers voices more consistently, rather than relying so much on recorded vocals, in the manner of movement, expansion and contraction of live sound to match the masterful manipulation of space. But none of this should take away from the obvious accomplishment." - Derek Breen, 2011
"It was such a pleasure to watch; I've been seeing some hard core modern dance lately and it felt good to lift the mood, relax, and LAUGH! It was a show applicable to a person of any background, with interjected undertones of seriousness that made it very meaningful (and brilliant). I had so many favorite moments: when the opening scene begins to take hold and the audience happily forfeits to go on the ride you are about to take them on, the hat that Richard wears the whole time, the fight between the machine gods and the angels, the repetition of the diagonal line (and whoa, when you realize, "now they are telling the truth!" --Such a strong moment!), the ending duet with you and Richard, the basic structure/the narrated through-line...the entirety of the concert was full of impacted nuances, so smart and on cue." - Callie, 2011
"You have taken theatre to a new dimension – like Sondheim did with Into the Woods, you’ve done with Out-of-the Box– taken on the fairy tale, the myth, and added to that the face book and the YouTube and the Twitter. So, we can see all the communication LIVE, and follow it on the STAGE, not the virtual PAGE! And, yes, we have so many “bears” to deal with in our lives. (The masks and the costumes were amazing – again bringing that art to a new level!) Yes, yes, Goldilocks Zone is a new zone: what is live made virtual? NO, the other way around, what we have come to know as virtual in the internet is NOW LIVE. The audience experienced a LIVE facebook. Abby longing to be recognized; each actor/dancer longing to be recognized (hence the success of the internet) – you all became individually more and more recognized with each new “posting”!!! The faces on the T-shirts (ingenious) were no longer just a photo, but became REAL before our very eyes = therefore UNFORGETABLE! You each were no longer just a long list of postings, but each one stood up and stood out not in a virtual realm, but in a real one. Send the show’s video to Zuckerberg and to Bill Gates! – let them see that living theater can keep us all in the live dimension to see and hear and feel (lighting and sound were great!) – I think we will all need that, lest we become (and remain) zombies and aliens…and walk sadly off life’s stage (that tall dude with the long, resigned arms is unforgettable). Contrarily, the repeated “chorus” of the line-up of the performers doing texting choreography showed us physically the emails, showed us LIVE the interaction we have from our thousands of emails, etc. back and forth (as did the dialogue in the show’s printed program – what a hoot that was!), and to see all the performers moving in so many different over-the-top dance combinations, quickly and continuously enabled us to experience LIVE what we experience when we sit glued to the computer screen. The dance combination of one person dragging a prone body which held onto another prone body was awesome – like the email and all its previous emails being dragged along in each new email! How did your imagination capture all of this and translate it onto the stage????? Thank you again for bringing what has become our “culture” at the computer screen to the realm of art – so we can see and discover our lives as art interprets our lives and finally brings us the immortality (with all our perfections and imperfections, loved and unloved) that only art can bring." - Doris Cramer, 2011
"My experience watching Turkey was nothing short of entirely inspiring and invigorating...Your ability to transition between utter absurdity and wit to gorgeous, lyrical beauty, to punch-in-the-gut imagery is truly masterful. Each of the sections were so carefully crafted and engaging, and the interplay between them evidenced a really pure vision. Besides all of the craftsmanship, the imagery/vocabulary you used to articulate that specific experience packed an even more potent punch to me as a reform/ed/ing cigarette smoker. It was a joy to watch; thank you very much for your work."
- Rachel Mckinstry, 2009
ANONYMOUS FEEDBACK AND BLOG POSTINGS
Re Turkey, 2009: "We had a blast! It was a total build to the end. One of my favorite parts was you rocking out with the all the dancers doing something totally different behind you...they were you going through the motions of life, but what was really going on inside was unrelenting insanity. The jumbo cigarette review was one of my favorites too... The magic comes from that kind of total commitment, which you, my dear, have in spades"
Re ZOO, 2006: "Saw some really interesting and funny work in Brooklyn last night at Triskelion Arts (a converted warehouse performance space). I wouldn't consider it full-on dance, but rather a strange, nonlinear narrative in movement and projected video footage.... something about animals taken captive in a jail. I never thought I'd like something like this, but the combination of 20 talented performers and the fact that the choreographer (Abby Bender) didn't take herself too seriously worked wonders."