Ivo Dimchev’s “Songs from my Shows” radicalizes the notion of the archetypal cabaret, presenting a gorgeous line-up of songs buried within his existing shows freed from the burden of context. The fifteen [plus] songs in Dimchev’s show largely follow a chronological arrangement, beginning with his 2004 show Lili Handel and closing in a preview of his current projects, punctuated by anecdotes and moments of captivating candor between Dimchev, his accompanist, and audience.
In “Songs from my Shows,” Dimchev showcases the breadth of his performance art. Stripped from the nudity, character, and narrative that has come to define Dimchev’s previous work, we are left with the opportunity to consider his brilliance as a choreographer in totality: the precision with which he holds a note in his lungs, the unaffectedness with which he commands the stage.
‘Choreographers are inherently a bit stupid,’ Ivo Dimchev quips as he introduces himself to the audience of the Winningstad during PICA’s Time-Based Art festival, ‘much to the benefit of their art form.’ In reflecting on the experience of his show, it is hard not to think of the ways in which “stupidity” acts as an asset in Dimchev’s work. A self-taught orator, Dimchev’s voice has the capacity to inhabit the adenoidal warmth of an Aaron Neville ballad just as easily as the bright coloratura of Cecilia Bartoli. The songs he has authored throughout his prodigious career are as hopeful as the musical theater arrangements present in the work of Andrew Lloyd Weber and as ironic as John Cameron Mitchell’s iconic “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” However, despite the fact Ivo Dimchev’s work is flooded with influences as disparate as La Traviata, Antony Hegarty, and Sarah Vaughan, his work is referential in a way that is simple; an exercise in beauty, a delicate rendering of immense skill.
This simplicity appears throughout the original compositions Dimchev curates for “Songs from my Shows” as well as reinvented versions of standards that accent his performance (namely, “Amazing Grace,” “Summertime,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair”). Reminiscent of his song “One Day” from his 2009 show Some Face, Ivo Dimchev’s “Songs from my Shows” is a collection of pieces Dimchev puts back together in front of us with titillating vulnerability. Dimchev takes a song and returns it to us as a concept. He takes a much-exhausted art form and transmutes it into an evocative, minimalistic, ars poetica.
– Shayla Lawson