Dancers rehearsing for "Rave"

Dancers rehearsing for “Rave” (photo by Devlin Shand, all photos courtesy Armitage Gone!)

If you’ve ever wanted to see a dancing dog — and not just any dog, but one of William Wegman‘s Weimaraners — you’re about to get your chance. Choreographer Karole Armitage has teamed up with a handful of visual artists, including Wegman, Will Cotton, Kalup Linzy and Aïda Ruilova, for a dance-cum-performance-art show at the Abrons Arts Center titled “Werk! The Armitage Gone Variety Show.”

Karole Armitage, "Contempt"

Karole Armitage, “Contempt” (1989), with set by Jeff Koons and costumes by David Salle (photo by Alistair Thain) (click to enlarge)

Armitage, the force behind Madonna’s “Vogue” video, founded her own company, Armitage Gone! Dance, in 2004, but she’s been dancing and choreographing since the 1980s. Along the way she earned the nickname “punk ballerina” for her tendency to mash up ballet with other dance and music styles. She’s also worked with visual artists for the entirety of her career, starting with her first-ever piece, “Ne,” in 1978, for which Christian Marclay designed the set and costumes. Since then she’s enlisted the help of Charles Atlas, David Salle, Jeff Koons, Karen Kilimnik and others.

“I always loved painting, but probably the big push was when I danced with Cunningham,” Armitage told Hyperallergic in a discussion of how she began working with artists. “Jasper Johns was there all the time, and I got to be good friends with him, and Rauschenberg was there some. It made me think, it’s so much more interesting the way artists think about a stage than a traditional set designer.”

“They’re kind of like the antenna,” she continued, “they’re the forefront of new ideas. And I want to be in the forefront.”

Karole Armitage, "Orfeo Ed Euridice"

Karole Armitage, “Orfeo Ed Euridice,” with backdrop by Brice Marden (photo by Alessio Buccafusca)

The centerpiece of “Werk!” is Armitage’s new piece, “Rave,” which the press release bills as “a celebratory happening mixing dance, capoeira, voguing, the Chinese martial art wushu and catwalk,” with dancers painted head to toe in bright colors. In addition, Armitage has brought on visual artists for “Werk!” in a new way — not just as designers but as choreographers and performers.

Wegman dancing dog

A Wegman dancing dog.

Linzy will contribute a filmed chapter in one of his ongoing soap operas, Cotton has created a piece that pairs a burlesque dancer and ballerinas, and Wegman is bringing … well, a dog dressed in a dance costume. According to Armitage, “The dog is, like, juggling, and there’s this eerie music, and then all of a sudden a tap dancer steals a ball and the dog and the dancer do a routine together.” Then, accompanied by a series of lighting changes, the dog and fellow dancers will apparently cycle through a variety of styles, including ballet, voguing and krumping.

“This dog is in the maelstrom of identity confusion,” Armitage said. But so talented!

“Werk!” will run May 2–5 at the Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand Street, Lower East Side). Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online.

Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...