City council meetings aren’t known for their entertainment value, but in Portland, Maine, council chambers turned into must-see TV when a local artist performed a five-minute-long interpretive dance.
Mayor Ethan Strimling regularly hosts artists and groups to perform in front of the city council, as part of a series called “Arts in the Chambers.”
Monday’s meeting featured “dance comic” and performance artist Sara Juli, who did an excerpt of her piece “Shadow Artist.”
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It started with Juli crouching and panting in front of the councilors, then slowly forming and repeating the phrase: “Have you ever tried so hard to do something that it paralyzed you?”
She said it’s about “struggling with my own fear of being an artist.”
Juli twirled and flailed for several minutes, then surprised everyone in the audience by climbing on top of a Zoning Board member’s lap.
“This was my introduction to local government,” said Robert Bartels, who was attending his first ever Portland City Council meeting.
City councilors appeared shocked and unsure how to react when Juli jumped on Bartels, who called the dance “whimsical and brave.”
“She put a smile on everybody’s face, and she reminded all of us we should not take ourselves so seriously,” said Bartels.
Juli said she work takes personal issues, and makes them public. In this dance, she was depicting an artist trying so hard to perform, that they suffer a kind of writer’s block.
When she gagged and choked to depict paralysis, many interpreted it as vomiting.
Mayor Strimling said it could be a tough act to follow.
“She challenged us, she entertained us, it was risky, it was great,” said Strimling.