The Dirty Work of Leaning In: a response by Alex Phillips

May 31, 2019 at Links Hall
Directed and performed by Devika Wickremesinghe + Samantha Allen
Sound and lighting design by Devika Wickremesinghe + Samantha Allen
LDPSM was Dewon Evans

image: Steve Gunther


The label “modern dance” makes some people worried. The term might mean a dirge of movement inflicting art upon its captive audience. By that definition, SALUTI, GRACE PALMER: SECRETS OF VIRTUOUS CYCLE MANAGEMENT defies its genre. The performance lacks pretension at its core, as if the careerist tone of “modern dance” is exactly the problem the dancers want to move through.

Sam Allen and Devika Wickremesinghe’s show connects with its audience, speaking truth to the baby boomers in the front row — the ones who created the mythology that Allen and Wickremesinghe deconstruct through ironic humor and horrifying cruelty. The two play business women, depicting a white woman literally riding on the coattails of her brown subordinate. Screamed into a disconnected phone, the only dialogue is about “sales,” demanding a lawyer, and getting revenge on the motherfucker who stole a client. The dancers navigate the politics of race, gender, and capitalism while twirling around on an office chair.

They use their bodies as evidence, showing the physical damage of an old mythology of white neoliberal feminism, demonstrating its absurdity through slapstick, descending into horrifying painful movement. Name-brand luggage becomes arch metaphor — packed with baggage arranged to look like vaginas. The two dive headfirst into them. They smother themselves, like the symbols and narratives made about being a business woman are stifling their own bodies, causing them to move with stunted gesture. They crawl, limp, and slide across the floor.

How can you succeed in an art world that champions a restrictive narrative? How can you make art about these same restrictions and be classified by its terms? What does success look like when it is won by a total sacrifice of humanity? Performance art, modern dance, or not, Institute IDGAF wants you to know that it has achieved all the accolades, won all the awards, and has taken power. The audience sees these dancers collapse from their high tower, crawl back up at any cost, and fall again. SALUTI, GRACE PALMER: SECRETS OF VIRTUOUS CYCLE MANAGEMENT undoes itself.

The funny and terrifying SALUTI, GRACE PALMER: SECRETS OF VIRTUOUS CYCLE MANAGEMENT played at Links Hall May 31, 2019.


Alex Phillips is an independent filmmaker based in Chicago. His latest short film, “Who’s A Good Boy” (2019) had its US premiere at the Maryland Film Festival. It screened at Chicago’s Elevated Films, Belgium’s Court Mais Trash, Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, Scumdance, Palm Springs International ShortFest, and won the Insanity Award at Canada’s Shock Stock.