The body as expressive tool
Dance is movement attached inexorably to music. But with Russ Ligtas it is more exactly stated as movement attached not just with sound but with all the elements of environment. His performance is dance in its most fundamental and elementary form and music is often optional unless one begins to think of music not just as structured sound but sound which is the result of everything that is all around us including the molecular vibration of matter and the vibration of all our thoughts.
The consequence of his performance is first of all to make us wonder about how we define music, performance and dance. He makes us worry whether our own biases are far too structured than they should be. But this is not to say that Russ is at war with the whole concept of structure itself. Watching his dance we become immediately that his are not structure-less movements. There is a clear structure in everything that Russ does. His performances are always well thought out, they follow after clear transitions having parts that follow clearly after each other. There is of course a fair amount of randomness and chance. But they move in harmony with the artist's clear intentions and desires. The performances can be written down as a narrative with small implosions of randomness set in between the lines. In this sense, Russ Ligta's performance is metaphor of life itself, inevitably purposive yet subject to chance and accident.
The body is expressive tool and Russ utilizes every part of his external self to express what is is inside him in the sense of thought, sensibility and emotion. And in the course of the dance, he leads us to various parts of him, his fingers, his face, his feet, his torso, his mask. We see him in detail and then in the whole. The astute viewer begins to realize that Russ has held us under his spell and control. He has us attached to him in a most mysterious way. And we immediately wonder how we should feel.
We should outgrow the wonderment of seeing something strange and unexpected. Russ is only telling us a story with a clear message that we should take home with us even if the message is hard to pin down into a catch phrase or a sentence wrought from cliche. The message is almost arbitrary to us. It is only a message such as one would get when one touches another person's soul. It is not a message intended to save us from doom or doom us from salvation. Russ' messages are of a wonderful confusion, such a confusion that comes only with an understanding that life is irrevocably confusion and we would have to make sense of it by ourselves and by whatever way we can. Life is irony. It is mystery.
The costume as mask
With Russ Ligtas, costume is a mask which uncovers, not him but us. It uncovers us to ourselves. Russ Ligtas is spinning for us a continuing narrative, as story if you will. In fact, his story is a serialized novel with characters who live through time. And we will always wonder how far he can take his story and how we might follow him. We do not have to see every serial of his epic tale to understand the tale itself. Every serial in a sense contains inside it the cues of the larger narrative. Russ Ligtas' narrative is post-modern story telling. It is a novel for the contemporary person, fractured, discontinuous, suggestive, serialized. And we might understand several ways. At what point do we draw the line between the story and reality? Who decides where the line exists?
In a sense, Russ Ligtas' style empowers the viewer in a greater way than most narrative forms we have been used to. In theater and cinema, there is always suspension of disbelief. It is a devise that the performance aspires for. Watching a performance by Russ Ligtas, we have to wonder if it aspires for the same thing. In traditional theater, the stage is a different world into which we are transported in the course of everything. Russ Ligtas' performance does the same thing but we are not removed into the stage. Instead, we begin to see that the stage is everywhere. We become extension of performance. It is Russ which is the focus of everything, but we ourselves are part of it. Everything do becomes act. Every sound we make become music. And our thoughts become part of of the script itself.
Reality is instrument to fantasy
In a sense this is the soul of Russ Ligtas' art. Reality is only an instrument of fantasy. And the fantasy that Russ Ligtas weaves for us is a fantasy that makes us wonder at life and at ourselves. He will make us ask ourselves who we truly are and we may not always like the answer. But if we are to enjoy Russ Ligtas, we would have to enjoy those parts of ourselves we are not always aware of nor do we think about too seriously. Not everyone will like Russ Ligtas but then, not everyone is meant to. Russ Ligtas may not know it but he drives a divide between people. He makes no a few of us uncomfortable. But this discomfort may be what is at the soul of him. We would have to exceed this discomfort to fall into the performance itself. And when we do we would then see the performances for their true worth and in their true nature. Russ Ligtas is not a glorified circus. He is not Cirque Soleil, not broadway. He is theater, dance and music in its most radical down to earth form. He is all these things as they might have once been before the rise of contemporary pretensions and the profit oriented grandness of mainstream and popular art.
The awfully personal rebellion of Russ Ligtas
Russ Ligtas is engaged in a rebellion. It is a rebellion against concrete un-abstracted things. He is not a modernist at war with conservative society. His rebellion is more essential than that. He should not be there. He lives in a society where true art is and has always been marginal. The traditional formula has always been to collaborate with conservative society and dish out regular fodder to established art patrons in the hope of becoming one day famous and successful by their leave. Watching Russ perform, we always wonder how far he will go in life. His is a tenuous survival. How would a person doing this make enough money enough to survive? And yet he is there. And he has been there longer than we once estimated. Thus, we have no recourse but to ask if our own estimation of the world is truly correct. Does Russ know something we don't? Whatever, we wish him to win. We want him to last. He certainly deserves all that a great artist ought to have. We can only hope the world is better than what we think.
-Prof. Raymund L. Fernandez