michael j. morris


Dancing in the Making Room, or In A Rhythm That Excludes Thinking: Bebe Miller Company Work-In-Progress Showing
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photo by Lily Skove

I just returned to Columbus after spending a month in San Francisco at a yoga training. Tonight I saw a work-in-progress showing of a new project by Bebe Miller Company at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Previously advertised as Dancing In the Making Room, Miller informs us at the start of the performance that they are playing with a new title: In A Rhythm That Excludes Thought. I know it’s unrelated, but I immediately think of the second sutra of book one of the classical yogic philosophical text, The Yoga Sutras of PatanjaliYogas-citta-vrtti-nirodhah. “Yoga is the restriction [or cessation] of the fluctuations of thought.” What would it mean to move in a rhythm that excludes thinking? I think I’ve approached this kind of state in yoga and meditation and butoh; it is a sustained, slow-moving temporality. But knowing Miller’s work, I have a sense that any rhythm that excludes thinking here will not be limited to slowness or sustainment.

As I enter the space, the dancers are already on stage, warming up, having small conversations, running through short phrases of movement material. Miller comes in and out of the space, moving a cart that holds different wireless microphones and iPods, talking with the dancers, referring to a yellow stenographer’s pad. On stage is one rectangular panel of gray felt; just off stage left is a large roll of what looks to be white felt. As the piece begins (and I will also maintain the possibility that the piece began before I entered the space, before Miller said, “So, we’re starting now…”), two more gray felt panels are added. One dancer stands on one of the panels as small, nearly imperceptible facial movements flicker across their face. As other dancers enter, they move around the felt panels, and I notice that the presence of the felt introduces the possibility of them dancing “on” or “off” of them into my perceptual framework. As their movements carry them around these felt panels in eddies of weight shifts and gestures that pull them in a new direction, the question of whether or not they step on or around the felt only becomes a question because the felt is there. I can’t yet say whether or not this is important, but I am attuned to the fact that the introduction of these materials in relation to one another—the felt panels and the movement—introduces possibilities for how I might find them significant.

The movement is both familiar to me as some aspect of Miller’s “style,” and also works itself out rather differently on different bodies: small twists become bigger twists, sometimes tossing out a limb or sometimes folding over at the waist, breaking the twist from the middle. Reaching pulls bodies on and off balance, up and over center, back down into the ground. Legs step between wide, low stances and posing up on high relevé, teetering between steadiness and falling into stumbling. Big sweeps and flicks criss-cross bodies in opposition to other gestures, wringing bodies into loose and unpredictable torsion that might fling a hip or head in some new direction. A hand softly caressing the air might suddenly burst into a thrust or punch off balance or down further toward the ground. Tiny gestures abruptly blossom in scale and momentum unit they are propelling bodies through space, alongside or into one another. There’s an element of surprise to how these bodies move. I mean this for myself as a viewer, but I also have the distinct sense that these dancers are intentionally moving in ways that can surprise themselves. [This seems related to my understanding of what is described as “Risky Weight” in the Motion Bank analysis of Miller’s work, TWO.]

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Bebe Miller, Angie Hauser, and Darrell Jones, from Motion Bank TWO

Some time into the piece, Miller says from offstage, “Was that a restart?” In just a few words, I feel disoriented in my relationship to the work. Did the piece begin again? Did a section start over? What did she see that I did not see? Was that a planned question, intended to disorient how we view, or was it actually a question to the dancers? Could it be both? This is one of countless examples of ways in which interruption occurs throughout the dance: songs or sounds interrupting other songs or sounds, with hard cuts (no crossfades). Dancers cutting into duets being danced by other dancers. A unison phrase that disintegrates or frays into solos (is disintegration an interruption? I’m not sure).

Not long after, the six performers form a circle that shifts around the space as different individuals and sometimes pairs move into the center to dance. It reminds me of a hip-hop cypher, and I wonder how many other forms of dance and ritual employ this kind of structure. The circle doesn’t really hold, not entirely. It morphs, sometimes really clearly a circle of people surrounding a person dancing in the middle, sometimes becoming more like a clump of dancers moving as an ensemble. This shifting between circle—clump—circle—clump, this uncertainty or fluctuation between who is in and who is out, who’s at the center and who’s at the edges, feels characteristic of much of what I perceive in this dance.

The dance is full of duets, partnering and pairings, sometimes at close range and sometimes multiple bodies finding partial or near-total alignments with one another with distance between them. As soon as these couplings begin to emerge, I feel like I am faced with choices about how to perceive what I am watching: am I looking at a woman coupled with a man? Women partnering with women, men partnering with men? I teach a course called “Dancing Gender & Sexuality,” in which we examine the ways that dance participates in the constitution and circulation of genders and sexualities, in part through the staging of dances and the spectatorship of those stagings. How choreographers pair bodies of different, similar, or the same genders matters. At the same time, I believe that we as viewers also have responsibilities regarding how we interpret the bodies of others—onstage and offstage. If we recognize that gender identity—the gender with and as which a person identifies—is not necessarily visible or legible based on what we see, then I really only know the genders of the dancers I know personally or professionally. If I choose to interpret aggregates of physical features as indicative of gender, consciously or unconsciously, I am choosing to operate in compliance with certain social norms—social norms with which I actively struggle as a genderqueer/nonbinary person. And so in this writing, just as in my viewing of the dance, I am left to struggle with where and how to attribute gender to performers’ bodies. Throughout this dance, as well as throughout much of Miller’s oeuvre, people partner with other people, not regardless of gender, but in many different combinations of the genders we might attribute to the performers. To the extent that we acquiesce to see women and men on stage, partnering takes place between women and women, men and men, and women and men. I consider this to be a feature of Miller’s work, this democratic approach to gender—and race—when it comes to partnering.

There is a fraught kind of justice in actively suspending the visual attribution of gender when viewing a dance performance. There is also a fraught kind of justice in allowing gender to be a factor in determining the significance of particular moments, even if that performance or presentation of gender may not be identical to the gender identities of the performers: when I see two “Black men” dancing together to a hip-hop track as a group of “women” look on, one at close range, what I am seeing is something that is demonstrative of gender and race, while not necessarily telling me anything about the bodies who are performing this demonstration. This is messy, to be sure, because to ask these bodies to carry these signifiers of race and gender is to ask them to carry a kind of burden, a burden to which they do not necessarily submit; however, an alternative, the pretense of viewing a dance without viewing race or gender, a kind of “colorblind” viewing, does a kind of injustice as well, particularly when bodies differently gendered and racialized differently experience different degrees of mobility and exposure to violence in our country and world. And so the viewing, as well as the writing following the viewing, is full of this tension, this struggle.

At some point in the performance, one of the dancers enters with a notebook computer, and from the computer plays an interview with Toni Morrison and Charlie Rose. Morrison describes her own writing, that she does not write from these categories (of gender, of race), that she doesn’t presume to speak for anyone or represent any group, but rather, she writes in order to deal with the things that trouble her philosophically; her work is where she works it out. This is Morrison speaking about her own work, but having it embedded into Miller’s work at least asks me to consider the position from which Miller is approaching these same issues. Can one know that an audience will see race and gender on stage, and can one take responsibility for what one is showing them, while also not choreographing “from these categories,” without speaking for or representing any particular group of people?

A rhythm that excludes thinking.
I just keep thinking. Thinking during dancing, thinking during writing.
I’m trying to think through this performance, think with this dance. That’s part of how I make my life with dances, thinking with them.
What if I try to not think the dance.
What if I feel my way through the dance. I can’t describe every detail, and what would be the point of trying? What does this dance feel like? Is feeling an alternative to thinking? (I know this is a false dichotomy, but as an exercise, what does feeling about the dance turn my attention towards?)

This dance is playful, unattached, in the sense of letting things begin and then letting them go, letting them become something else. There’s an utter lack of certainty (which is not the same as a lack of clarity) throughout, not only in the structure or organization of the space, but in even the smallest gestures, the never-quite-ness of shifts of weight and establishing connections between bodies and body parts, the big movements that pour bodies rapidly from one place to another. Never certain but nonetheless deliberate; intentional with no promise of permanence. That’s what this dance feels like, very much an ensemble feeling their way together through this intentionality and deliberateness that is fervently and playfully committed to uncertainty, impermanence, and non-attachment. And it’s not just in the service of relentless innovation; there’s plenty of going back, of returning to something we saw before, or letting something become something else only to go back to what it was. If the question is constantly, “What else could this become?” then slipping back to somewhere we’ve been before is an option as well, as long as this also remains active and dynamic.

At the end of the piece, Bebe walks around the stage speaking. I retain fragments and phrases of what she says:
“…how do we live there…so much of what we’re doing is trying to figure out what’s important…what is the meaning of this…what are we trying to say, and how…so elusive”
“it’s lightening the burden…it’s not avoiding all that happening in the world, the horror…”
“…demonstrating the music…am I demonstrating—could I be perceived as demonstrating, that’s part of this too…”
“I’m going to stop this.”

And then it was over and we transitioned into the talkback.
At the end, as Miller described “demonstrating the music,” I was struck by how little I thought about the music at all. This is an aesthetic bias to some degree; I hardly use music in my choreography, and in one kind of postmodern American approach to dance (not the only kind), I see music and dance as detachable from one another. I’m also suspicious of this. Is there something about whiteness in the fact that I hardly remember the music, that I can detach movement from music so easily in my spectatorship?

As I settle into my night, I’m thinking about how this dance/dancing lives within our world today, our troubles and joys, our political unrest and injustice, our changing climates, our pursuit of ethical coexistence, and all the questions with which we move through our daily lives. What this dance offers me is this complex mode of taking deliberate and intentional action, together, and doing so playfully, without attachment to permanence, doing so lightly, even when the actions themselves might be full of strength. I am reminded of another Yoga Sutra, sutra 1:12: Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah. “The fluctuations of the mind are restrained (or quieted) through dedicated practice and non-attachment.” Perhaps deliberate, intentional action that is done playfully, without attachment, is a rhythm that excludes thinking after all.



TAKING PLACE

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photo by Emma Frankart, from Peter Kyle's Yet even in that silence

photo by Emma Frankart, from Peter Kyle’s Yet even in that silence

Tonight I had the opportunity to see the opening night performance of Taking PLace at the Garden Theater in Columbus, Ohio. Taking PLace is “a choreographic residency and experiment in creative process that brings inter/national choreographers to Columbus for the creation of new work with local dancers and a world-premiere concert event at the Garden Theatre.” Tonight’s concert marks the culmination of this residency and festival, conceived and directed by Nicole Garlando. Featuring the work of choreographers K.J. Holmes (NYC), Peter Kyle (NYC), CoCo Loupe (Baton Rouge), Bebe Miller (Columbus), and Claire Porter (NYC), and local choreographers Shannon Drake, Nicole Garlando, and Kent de Spain, the almost two-hour concert offered and invited any number of views on dance and dance making.

Before the show, I was contemplating what it means to “take place,” both in the sense of “to occur,” but also in the sense of occupying a space, taking a place. I was thinking about Judith Butler’s essay “Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street” (http://www.eipcp.net/transversal/1011/butler/en), where she thinks along with the writing of Hannah Arendt about what it means for bodies to gather together, about the efficacy of politics in public spaces. She writes: “For politics to take place, the body must appear. I appear to others, and they appear to me, which means that some space between us allows each to appear. We are not simply visual phenomena for each other – our voices must be registered, and so we must be heard; rather, who we are, bodily, is already a way of being ‘for’ the other, appearing in ways that we cannot see, being a body for another in a way that I cannot be for myself, and so dispossessed, perspectivally, by our very sociality. I must appear to others in ways for which I cannot give an account, and in this way my body establishes a perspective that I cannot inhabit … No one body establishes the space of appearance, but this action, this performative exercise happens only ‘between’ bodies, in a space that constitutes the gap between my own body and another’s. In this way, my body does not act alone, when it acts politically. Indeed, the action emerged from the ‘between'” (italics added). The situation of the concert dance stage is one space in which we practice and exercise appearance, showing up for one another, seeing and hearing one another, providing a view of one another that no one can provide themselves. When bodies appear for others in public spaces, they establish perspectives from elsewhere that they cannot inhabit, for which they cannot give an account. As I write about this performance, I do so with the awareness of giving such an account of bodies that they could not give themselves—in the same way that as I sat watching, I was seen and apprehended and recognized is ways that I do not know, that I cannot control, for which I cannot give an account. Certainly, as Butler notes, there is a politics to all of this, but that is not the focus of what I write here; I write here to take part in what it means to take place, to offer one, partial account of what has taken place in Taking PLace.

Brief recollections:

1. :r//end/l//ent/e/r/ing//less by K.J. Holmes in collaboration with the dancers
As the piece begins, I see two grids: the prominent white backdrop superimposed with heavy black lines, and a grid extruding into space from the facings of the six dancers. Facing stage left and stage right, up stage and downstage, each one seems positioned along longitudes and latitudes running across the surface of the stage. The lines come into and out of their bodies: reaching and stepping and leaning and rolling along this spatial grid, conforming in any number of ways to these invisible but nonetheless forceful lines—a conforming that is also an enacting, a producing. The grid that I perceive between these bodies does not precede their actions; I see it because of what they do. And yet it does seem to organize their movements from the start, from before they begin, both coming into being and already having been there. Then the grid begins to unravel: in small ways, dancers start to align with one another, matching the lines of arms and legs and spines and gestures, walking and running alongside one another along parallel pathways; even when there is distance between their bodies, they establish connections with one another through shared lines, facings, directions, and momentum, swinging their arms together, reaching along the same trajectories, and eventually spiraling into a larger, running circle. If what held them together at the beginning was the suggestion of a shared grid, what holds them together at the end is the ongoing question of how they might find, follow, and feel each other, through touch and alignments, through what they share.

2. when we are not sinking or swimming by CoCo Loupe in collaboration with the performers
This is a duet, with Eric Falck and Scott Aaron Kaltenbaugh. They face each other, then relocate, then face each other again. Falck dances, all swoopy and sequential gestures, arms and legs like sinewy tassels sweeping around torso and hips; Kaltenbaugh watches, then Kaltenbaugh dances—moving through bits and pieces and textures that resemble Falck’s dancing—while Falck watches. This establishes the overall structure of this piece: one dances while the other watches, then they trade roles; the second one mimics the first, but only ever partially, then the exchange starts over, taking turns. Dance, watch, stop, see one another, dance, watch, see. I wonder to myself: what does it mean to see, to be seen, to show that you have seen, to see that you’ve been seen. Later they lean into one another, off balance, both supporting and being supported as they move through space; it reminds me of Trisha Brown’s Leaning Duetsbut leaning towards rather than away. Music begins, and they groove together, away from each other, back towards the other, then suddenly cling to one another. I think Loupe’s piece is a hypothesis about how we move with one another, for one another, near or towards one another, and how we show that other that we have seen them and what we have seen.

3. Yet even in that silence by Peter Kyle in collaboration with the dancers
Six dancers, some who begin on stage, others who enter from the back of the audience. In the center of the stage, Nicole Garlando carries two towering shoots of what looks like bamboo. The stage is basically still except for the fragile motion of the trembling bamboo leaves, so small and so constant that it shifts the scale of both activity and time throughout the piece. There is a lot of standing, slow walking, pausing, reclining, leaning: waiting. The pacing of the piece, accompanied by a minimal percussion score composed and performed live by Noah Demland, has an intermittency: activity, pause, waiting, another activity, another pause, more waiting, and throughout it all, the trembling of the bamboo leaves, the delicate reverberations of Demland’s terra cotta pots and chimes. Across and throughout the almost-stillness and almost-silence, there are these tiny motions and tiny sounds—which, of course, are also motions—and alongside these delicate reverberations, human activities take on considerable proportions. There is no possibility of stillness here, no possibility of silence, and the incorporation of such minute motion makes even a step seem momentous.

4. to never establish heavy-balance by/performed by Shannon Drake
This is a solo. The lights come up, and I think: glamour. Her face is made up, and she is wearing a sparkly black-gold mini-dress. Accompanied by music by The Knife, she reaches and pulls and flings and steps, constantly off balance or sequencing away from her own center, until she is suddenly on her balance, weight firmly planted on both feet. When she stands steadily or walks along diagonals towards the audience—walking like a model, but more hyperbolic—she is impossibly, uncannily strong. Rolling across the floor, rolling through her hips and shoulders and ribs, her elbows and knees, she is grinding through her own insides. And even when her fingers beckon, as if to say, “Come here,” it is strikingly evident that she is more than capable of getting the job done all on her own.

5. Beside Myself Deciding by Claire Porter in collaboration with the dancers
The piece begins with five dancers seated at the front edge of the stage, all wearing black and white dresses. They start talking, to the audience, to each other, to themselves.
“So what do you want? What do you want?”
“Me?”
“I want to drive somewhere…”
“…should we stop for coffee?”
“…the MFA or the PhD?”
This is what Susan Foster calls a talking dance: talking while dancing, dancing while talking, a dance with a lot of talking. The talking and the dancing occur alongside one another, intersect, sometimes seeming to inform or illustrate one another, sometimes merely simultaneous. They talk and move through things as if they are figuring them out: each gesture has an indirect, not-quite-hesitant-but-not-quite-certain quality to it, an undecidability, we might call it. They come together in gossipy little clumps, they touch one another—everyone touching someone, no one touching everyone—they lead one another, maneuver each other’s faces and bodies like puppets.
“Who will decide where to go?” is a question that stalls, confounding them, again undecidable.
The text turns towards engagement parties, dinners for two, breakups, marriages, divorces, arguments. Unions and separations and conflict are on the table here. Often the dancers are pointing, often in the same direction, and often they then move in a different direction. Pushing, pulling, directing, and redirecting themselves and each other, the piece ends with them moving downstage as a group, each one manipulating the face and focus of another; if they’ve decided where to go, it’s only between the incessant push and pull.

6. ()()()()()()()()() by Nicole Garlando in collaboration with the dancers (multiple casts)
The dancers are dispersed, all wearing white or beige or gray, moving through small gestures, sometimes quick and sometimes gradual. They form impermanent duets, small alignments with one another, mimicking each other, them moving on. The soundscore is a collage of people talking, but it isn’t until later in the piece that I begin to make sense of what they are saying. It offers a kind of explanation: it isn’t about coming together as a unified group; it’s more about their differences and making connections. In ways, this piece echoes the first by K.J. Holmes (although I believe it was choreographed before the other), with dancers along different facings and trajectories finding connections and relationships—spatial, temporal, touching, etc. But the connections here feel fleeting, a matter of moments. One moment something becomes shared between one or more dancers, and the next it’s gone. They are on to something else.

7. Intervention for Two by Kent De Spain, with Leslie Dworkin
Two people seated in chairs facing in opposite directions on opposite sides of the stage. He wears a suit, and she wears a sexy red dress. They are accompanied by scattered sound bytes—music and dialogue—from “classic Hollywood films.” Gestures and interactions are timed—with the slightest sense of delay—with the text as if they are together both the jokes and the punchlines.

8. Watching the Watching by Bebe Miller assisted by Rashana Smith
A single dancer is on stage facing a laptop computer on a stool. She makes faces and small head/body movements while watching the screen. She gets close to the screen, and a larger group of dancers enter. They are accompanied by recorded text by Ain Gordon. He speaks about six people gathered together; something happens, and they each tell their own story of what happened. There is no one story; the stories proliferate, and with each telling, there are more and more versions of what happened that circulate.
“It happened, it was thought about, it was told and retold, until it gets lost.”
All of the dancers are watching the screen, moving along together: circling shoulders, small head movements, circling through the torso, their foci anchoring them in the direction of the screen. Suddenly, most of the dancers exit, and six remain. They are dancing together, all watching the computer that one dancer is carrying, and when she turns, I see that they are following a video on the computer screen. They are watching the screen and following along; I am watching them dancing, and their dancing is their following, the telling of their own watching. The other dancers re-enter with a second computer, and they are all dancing while watching the screens, following along with what I cannot see. As the piece progresses, the dancers divide up: there are those watching the screen and moving along with what they see, then there are other who are only watching them, following those dancers who are watching the screen, then others following the dancers following the dancers following the video on the screen. The stage is full of stages of translation of the same movement as it migrates across bodies, across intervals of time and space. They are all doing some version of the same movement, but as the stages of translation increase, so also do their differences. There are slight delays, subtle canons now, and more variations on how the movement lives out differently in and across different bodies. There is not just one version; there are many. I am watching them watching them watching what I cannot see…

And now here I am, at my own screen, watching myself writing what I saw, what they could not see.
And here is how something takes place, how it can be said to have taken place: the stories that we tell, the accounts that we give, and how they do and do not add up to a total view of what it was that took place. Like Loupe’s when we are not sinking or swimming, Miller’s piece stages the experience of watching, seeing, being seen, and showing what was seen. Not everything carries over; there is no single, total, authoritative view. Every event, every occurrence, every performance, every dance—every person even—always occurs between any number of partial positions, any number of limited views. No one of us can give the full account of a dance, of another, of ourselves, of what has taken place.
These brief recollections of these eight dances are a view from somewhere, from only one position/place. There are more recollections, views, somewheres, positions, and places; there must be. And such multiple views together—what we see together, alongside one another, what we can see of one another that no one of us can see for ourselves—is how we go about taking place.

You have two more opportunities to see this show: Saturday, July 12th at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets are $15 at the door. For more information, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/events/870036403013345/
http://takingplacecolumbus.com



and with: my body is possessed by past dances, my dance is possessed by bodies yet-to-be danced

The last two days have been completely saturated with performance. Last night I saw the premiere of FROM ONE FOOT TO THE OTHER: what was once digital is dead & now lives on as a dance at FEVERHEAD, a new work by CoCo Loupe and They Might Be Dancers Too (Zachariah Baird, Counterfeit Madison, and Eve Hermann), with appearances by They Might Be Dancers (Noelle Chun, Nicole Garlando, Lindsay Caddle LaPointe, Noah Demland, Leigh Lotocki, CoCo Loupe) and Karen Mozingo, with original music by Counterfeit Madison and Noah Demland. Following the performance, I made my burlesque debut with the Velvet Hearts in the Red Light Girlie Lounge at Wall Street Night Club. This afternoon I saw Bebe Miller’s new work, A History, at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Each of these experience deserves to be written, to be told through writing, but I am particularly interested in trying to articulate the play between FROM ONE FOOT TO THE OTHER and A History, how the two are operating as a diptych in my experiences of them within the last twenty-four hours, uncovering themes and concepts that are surfacing for me within the reverberation between these dances. In both works, my attention is directed towards the dance/dancing as a form of community, towards the ways in which dances and dancing both cohere and emerge from relationships, towards the choreographic strategies that come to operate as cultural values within the community of these dancing bodies (“these” being in one instance the bodies of They Might Be Dancers Too and They Might Be Dancers, in the other instance, the bodies of the Bebe Miller Company, specifically the dancers Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones), strategies such as mutual seeing and being seen, mimicry, audience interaction, partnering, and so on. In both instances, relationships become a kind of choreographic device, or at the very least, a material within the dance making. The relationships are not (merely) the conditions of the dance; they are formative. The work of making dances come together and comes out of the relationships between people, between bodies. The pieces also do something quite different: in A History, the attention of the choreographer/company is directed towards the archive of their work together, a history of dances and dance making, and the ways in which the memory of that history lives within their bodies. The work is a “remembering remembering,” creating something now from what was then, from how “then” lives within “now.” Dating back to a working/dancing relationship that began with Verge in 2001, through Landing/Place in 2005, and Necessary Beauty in 2008, A History (in 2012) builds itself from the re-membering of the memories of years of developing and rehearsing material, years of practicing and repeating, years of bodies coming into contact with Miller’s choreography, one another’s movement and flesh and personalities, and so on. This dance emerges from their history of dancing. In fact, their bodies themselves materialized through this history, a history with and through and alongside one another. In FROM ONE FOOT TO THE OTHER, Loupe foregrounds the dancing bodies of three individuals—Baird, Hermann, and Madison—who have only just begun their dance training this year. My attention is directed towards a horizon of potential. These three bodies entered FEVERHEAD with a lifetime of experiences, lived embodiment, habits and patterns, preferences and predilections, and through their work with Loupe, those bodies of experience have become dancing, and then they became choreography, and then they became a dance. This dance/dancing is situated alongside seasoned dancers (They Might Be Dancers et al), in a move that creates a flattening/leveling of movement experiences, emphasizing the interest—the importance even—of bodies moving with one another. Foregrounding dancers who came to dance only this year makes the concept of “dancer” not about hierarchy—those with more experience are more important—but rather emphasizes that “dancer” is truly about a willingness/eagerness to dance, to be with one another dancing.

And:
I’m dancing through my own memories.
Modern dance class with CoCo at the Dancers’ Workshop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, circa-the-early-2000s. The class is fast and difficult, and I never feel strong enough, and I am becoming intensely aware of how difficult it will be to be a dancer. We’re listening to the soundtrack from Run Lola Run. We do “G.I. Jane’s,” a series of crunches and pushups that I can never quite finish. We “shnorkle.” We do “illusions” and lots of work upside down with our legs in the air.
I know I want to dance with CoCo, for CoCo. I’ve seen a video of a piece she made with Amiti Perry called Two Arms Full Circle, and it’s the most amazing dancing I’ve every seen. I know I want to be a dancer in part because of CoCo.
Years later, I am in my junior year of college, and I present a solo at ACDF at the Ohio State University. CoCo presents an excerpt from her MFA project, In the Clear, and I fall in love with CoCo’s work all over again.
In 2008, I move to Columbus, Ohio, to start my MFA at OSU, and finally, CoCo and I live in the same city again. In the months preceding my move, I’ve been actively engaged in conversations with CoCo and others on her blog, from one foot to the other. CoCo’s blog is a lifeline to critical dance making during the year after I finished my BFA, and it is emblematic of the kinds of dialogue I desire in grad school.
In grad school (I think in the spring of 2009?), I take modern dance with CoCo again, now at OSU. I am startled by how much is familiar, how much of how CoCo moves lives in my body and my movement, and how pronounced our differences still are. I still get tired. I still don’t feel strong enough. And yet the forcefulness, the relationship of distal actions to the core of my body, the evidence of attention is the body (even when my eyes glaze over) harken back to my first modern dance classes with CoCo in Baton Rouge. I do not dance like her, but she is in the dancing that I do.
In 2009, I dance in a new work by CoCo Loupe entitled click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit, with Eric Falck and Jeff Fouch. We are goddesses and boys and pop stars, and I am finally dancing for/with CoCo Loupe.
For years, CoCo and I watch and respond to one another’s work. We improvise together. We sometimes perform together. We sometimes take class together.
In 2011, CoCo and They Might Be Dancers start FEVERHEAD, a creative dance/arts space. They have classes and performances and workshops and exhibitions, and FEVERHEAD becomes a home for dance artists in Columbus. FEVERHEAD also becomes a home for people who are not dance artists, but who want to dance.
Last night CoCo premiered FROM ONE FOOT TO THE OTHER, working with people who are new to dancing, building material from ideas taken from her old blog, building a dance from the improvisatory movement of Zachariah Baird, Counterfeit Madison, and Eve Hermann, where their bodies, their histories of movement, interface with these old, digital ideas. Something new happens.
The piece begins with ten performers in a line holding hands, shifting their weight from their left foot to their right foot, back again, over and over. They look at us, the audience, and we look back at them. And I am already overwhelmed by the tenderness of soft and open faces, the interdependence of bodies articulated through interlocking hands, the shifting ankles and metatarsals on the floor as bodies maintain standing (together), from one foot to the other. Zachariah (my boyfriend) is directly in front of me, and I am undone by the vulnerability that is made visible just by standing on one foot, then the other foot, then the other, and then the other. We make eye contact briefly, and he exhales audibly, and I feel myself hope that I somehow remind him to breathe. I catch Eve’s glance, and we both smile broadly. I am warmed by the gentleness and kindness of Nicole’s eyes as she scans the audience, also smiling; she is beautiful and reassuring and exudes an energetic calm. I am drawn into Noah’s stance, noticing how very still he is, how steady he seems, and wondering how that steadiness extends inwards within his inner world and outward to those hands he is holding. I watch Counterfeit, and notice that something about the space between her neck and shoulders and how she holds her chest looks as if she is barely restraining the force of her excitement and anticipation. And so on. I am falling in love with each of them.
The dance that unfolds is complex and layered, a play of attention (lots of watching one another), imitation, repetition, and proximity. I watch them watching one another, watching me.
I can’t watch CoCo without feeling the swell of history, the “us” that is “me,” her dancing body in my dancing body; I never can. I can’t help but think that we are so much softer now than we were then, and how remarkable that is. And here she is surrounded by (other) dancing bodies that she has inspired, and that have inspired her.
This dance does critical work, flattening the plane in which movement is appreciated, playing with the roles of performers and spectators, experimenting with perception through the alignments of bodies, music, lights, and text.
But would it be too sentimental to say that it is more about love? That when I’m watching, all I care about is how much I appreciate each of these performers, the nuances and individualities that only find expression in the context of one another, in the repetition of phrases and the mimicry of movement, and the performances of “solos” alongside one another. That I feel a part of something so simple and profound just in watching someone else watching. That I am honored to see bodies excited to be dancing. That it’s all about relationships and what is produced in-between: how CoCo and I go back so far, how CoCo told Zachariah that he needed to meet me, how Leigh told Counterfeit and Zachariah about FEVERHEAD, how Eve found her way to FEVERHEAD, and how just by their persistence in taking class and their insistence to move—to dance—CoCo was inspired to make a dance, how the room was filled with people who know and love someone(s) in this piece, and how this dance is the site of so many relational articulations…
I apologize.
This dance deserves to be described. How they never stop watching one another, seeing one another, both while they are dancing , and while they are sitting on the sidelines. How I can watch as their attention—so evident in the directness of their foci—sinks into the action, into the others, in ways that are intense and serious, and in ways that sometimes erupt or dissolve into inexplicable laughter or a smile. How when they stand in line, their feet rock minutely, their toes lifting away from the floor, how their toes find the floor again and press into it, just as the performers find one another palm to palm and the tendons of their wrists flex as they press into one another. How the shove of Zachariah’s weight into a lunge tangibly softens into care as he approaches the floor, and how at other times he never quite settles into the ground, quick to push back out of it as soon as his weight shifts into it. How his fingers seem to direct his shoulders, lifting and falling and reaching together. How the precision and clarity of Eve’s lines exude incredible power, and how when she suddenly stops, alone in the middle of the space with her back to me as the others move to the sides, she seems small for the first time all evening. How Counterfeit seems so strong and steady, and how her limbs reach and fling and fly with such freedom, anchored to the strength of her core. How every joint in Leigh’s body seems to rotate around and orbit every other, as if her flesh is wrapped around a constellation that is constantly reconfiguring itself. How Noelle can stand on one leg and shift her weight dramatically in every which way, while still never losing track of where her support presses into the earth (and where it presses back into her). How Karen seems to be crafting, literally sculpting, a different world as she dances, tenderly opening and collapsing space around her, and how I feel as if I could spend the whole duration of the piece just watching her watching.
And see, there I go again, swept down these tangents of what I feel while watching…

At the end of the piece, the giant loading dock door is raised, and the dancers run out into the parking lot. The audience turns in their seats to look through this “reverse proscenium arch” to offer their applause. It is as if in here, inside FEVERHEAD, is the “real world,” and out their, in the streets beneath the stars, out their in the world, is where they/we have been training all this time to finally perform, to finally witness one another. It is significant that this piece features three dancers who are newcomers to dance training, but their dancing does not come only from their training in the last six-to-eight months. Their recent training and the creation of this piece has simply given them skills and opportunities to dance what they had been learning and practicing all along.

We are each and all a history.
When we dance, we dance those histories. When I watch, it is my history watching.
It is a perspective of the past looking out onto a horizon of what is coming into being, where history unfolds into potential. It is a perspective that is not singular; it is defined by those standing behind and standing on either side, hand in hand. And it is not an empty horizon that is faced; it is a horizon populated by the (dancing) bodies of those with whom we are becoming.

Whether it is the dancing of bodies looking back through now to then, or whether it is the dancing of bodies only beginning to form such a history, oriented towards what might be, what could become possible, the potential of bodies dancing, for both A History and FROM ONE FOOT TO THE OTHER, what becomes most prominent is that the dancing is dancing with. The body is always more: it is a history of dancing, it is a horizon of potential, it is the coalescence of relations and attention and awareness and contact and surface and inner worlds and outer worlds and and and and and. And with.

performance photo from FROM ONE FOOT TO THE OTHERphoto by Michal Mitchenson 

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rehearsal photo from FROM ONE FOOT TO THE OTHER; Zachariah Baird, Leigh Lotocki, Eve Hermann, and Counterfeit Madison
photo by CoCo Loupe

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Bebe Miller, A History; Darrell Jones and Angie Hauser



Double/Take
24 October, 2010, 11:36 am
Filed under: Dance, dance review | Tags: , , , , , ,

I posted the following on the “Dance in Columbus Online Community & Forum” discussion board:

I’m finally making some time to sit down with a cup of coffee and sketch out some of my ideas about “Double/Take” on Friday night.

Moving from the “outside”/large scope in, starting with something like the “circumstances of production,” I was impressed overall. I was impressed by Meghan and Karl’s initiative and commitment to producing independent work despite the density of their commitments elsewhere (other companies, OSU, etc.). I was impressed by the stamina necessary for a two-person evening-length show. I was impressed by this beautiful performance space (BalletMet) that I didn’t know existed in Columbus.

One of the largest themes that emerged for me throughout the evening has to do with the multiplicity of the body–its composite/bricolage condition–so excellently framed by the circumstances of this production. All dancers (bodies of dancers) emerge continuously from a rich nexus of praxis, a constellation of practices and participatory encounters with others. Our dancing lives are necessarily intersubjective, and our bodies become one of many sites at which we negotiate that densely intersubjective collaborative project. I’m thinking a lot here of The Body Eclectic: Evolving Practices in Dance Training edited by Melanie Bales and Rebecca Nettl-Fiol. Part of their project is the examination of dance practices as deconstructive and bricolaged; it is the bricolage that came to mind during “Double/Take.” But my sense here goes beyond the awareness of dancing bodies produced through the bricolage of training practices, and towards the participation of other individual subjects (who are always already themselves richly citational and intersubjectively constructed, carrying their own histories of what they have trained and by whom this training has taken place): I, for instance, haven’t just studied Butoh, yoga, ballet, modern, and danced with an series of unnamed choreographers. I have studied Butoh with Yoshito Ohno, Yuko Kaseki, and others; I have studied yoga with Scotta Brady, Edy McConnell, Bruce Bowditch, etc.; I have studied Vaganova ballet with Britta Wynne, modern with CoCo Loupe, Garland Goodwin Wilson, Cynthia Newland, Amy Roarke-McIntosh, Stephen Wynne (and a bunch of other folks); I have dance for Garland, Amy, Cynthia, Stephen, etc. etc. etc.—the point being that my dancing then becomes a citation of not only these practices and forms of moving, but the participation of these other individual subjects. Of course, there is a sense in which the performance of any dancing body is the articulation of a string of citations, synthesized before our eyes as a cohesive, individual form (which today seems to echo the writing process, the culling of sources and the synthesis/crafting of new ideas from those sources . . . and dancing bodies functioning similarly). But I left this concert with a strong feeling of this reality being demonstrated due to two conditions of this production: the array of choreographers involved, and the opportunity to observe just these two bodies as they moved their ways through that material. I was acutely aware not only of ways of moving that each body/dancer carried through the length of the program, but perhaps even more interestingly, the through-line of ways of moving that were shared by these two bodies/dancers throughout the program, to me an indicative effect of working together and working with these three additional choreographers, Susan Hadley, Bebe Miller, and Lisa Race.
That was the largest contemplation that lingered with me from the show.

I echo CoCo’s observation:
“continual refiltering and shifting of the lens between the sensation of being alone, in the company of someone and their beauty and weaknesses, and alone while delighting in the company of that someone and their beauty and weaknesses.” This swing between the complexity of relationships (how they start, how they are lived, how they end–including the relationships that were suggested/represented/acted in various works, the relationships between Meghan and Karl (there were many), the relationships between themselves and the choreographers (present in the space mainly through the program and the dancers’ bodies), and the relationship between them and us (which more often felt like just “us”), among others) and isolation, duets and solos, was a huge theme for me. These concerns were both formal (what are the spatial/temporal constraints of the solo/the duet) and emotional (how do I feel about what I am experiencing). I was faced with my own tendencies in choreographic construction, as well as my own baggage/hope/desire in the area of what it means to be with another person, both of which constituted significant journeys through the course of what was only about two hours.

Susan Hadley’s “Hello, Night,” read as extremely representational for me, and that representation ran the gamut of the seen and the unseen in relationship (one in this case that read fairly hetero, married/committed, etc.). It moved from tender to playful to hysterical to tumultuous to despondent in eddies all over the stage; it was not a linear journey for me, but the way we [might] cycle through each of these experiences in our attempt to be with another person. Representational dance can sometimes be distancing for me, but sitting as closely as I was (second row, near to the dancing bodies, which I prefer), I was struck by the fact that even if this was representational (and even narrative in that it was telling the story of a relationship that is not Karl and Meghan’s), it was also kinesthetically mimetic, and mimicry, whatever its source, is still felt/experienced by/as the mimetic body. This became another theme throughout several works for me: it was both “not them” and completely inescapably “them.” In Hadley’s piece, the relationship represented was not Karl and Meghan, but the labor of the bodies, the kinesthesia of tender/playful/hysterical/tumultuous/despondent bodies were being practiced as themselves (I think). This gave me an “in” to the representationality of it.
I had been offered a disclaimer before the show that there were themes of heteronormativity in this production. This piece may have been a part of that disclaimer, however, in examining the narrative content (to the degree that I might delve into some mild interpretation), I would say that there was a subversive element to the normativity that was portrayed. Throughout the piece I felt as if I was being shown aspects and facets of relationship (love?) that we are not always shown. I felt a pervasive sense of the question, “Why am I still with you? Why am I still in this?” (which could be as much “my stuff” as anything else), but having that question continually come up destabilized the potential idealization of heteonormative relationships, and that was another way that I felt invited into the work.

Durham’s solo “Ten minutes of your life you’ll never get back” was delightfully absurd in what read as its enthusiastic address of the question, “Why can’t I ______?” Framed in text (a series of statements involving the word “minute,” like the title), I was left pondering while watching: what is worth doing? how long has this been going on? how long is this piece/how much time does she have? The piece itself functioned as a string of disconnected events (to be considered as connected still, a consideration fostered by the through-line performer, the setting, the sequencing, etc.) asking continually “how are these elements related?” Sometimes I made connections, and sometimes my experience resided more in the disjunction, the discontinuity. Sometimes I found relationships between the text and the movement, sometimes I was asked to deal with the abrupt shift from spoken word to Meghan’s beautiful, articulate dancing. I also felt that there was a kind of critical commentary/question of “what will you spend your time watching? when has the performance crossed over your line of what is dance/art/etc.” There was exquisite concert-style (for lack of a better succinct signifier) dance, more vernacular “club dancing” jogging and shouting and (what looked like) lap dancing through the audience, sitting and eating a hamburger and fries, and just laying stationary on the stage, all next to one another, all framed as a way in which we (Meghan and the audience) were spending our lives, minute by minute.

Bebe Miller’s “Hands Down my Favorite Ever, Really, Now Go” was truly rewarding in the way that I often find Miller’s work to be: my inability to pin it down. Usually this is my experience of her work on the large scale, my reading of the piece as a whole as it develops. This was true/present in my experience of this duet, but also more precisely in specific actions of partnering. I felt constantly that nothing went (physically, gravitationally) where I expected it to go. The bodies felt as if they were in a constant state of redirection (which, to me, has profound phenomenological implications), as if constantly asking, “It feels like we’ll go here, but what if we went here?” And sometimes, “What if we had gone here?” Miller framed the piece (via program notes) as part of her current creative research into developing a ‘process’ archive of her previous collaborative work. The piece then took on a tone of memory and re-membering, history and revision, consideration and reconsideration.
The text/dialogue of the piece (written by Talvin Wilks) was poignant, and yet another moment in the concert of recognizing that this piece was both “them” and “not them”–they were saying these things, and in saying them participating in what was being said as their inescapable “selves;” however, the conversation they were having was not “really” between Meghan and Karl. It was referential, not only to the piece Verge for which the text was originally created, but also referencing those types of conversation (“I have to leave,” “I want you to stay,” “Come closer,” etc.) and how we live in them.

Rogers’ solo (ish) “Just knot enough” was an expansion of a work I saw Karl present in “Ten Tiny Dances” last year. The piece was successful for me then, and was even more so in this expanded iteration. This piece was the highlight of my evening. It was theatre (to the degree that I understand what theatre is, which is on some level predicated on simulation/make-believe), and uniquely successfully so (I am typically a little put off by the simulated quality of theatre; I feel manipulated by it. With Karl’s solo, I wanted to be manipulated, because I wanted to know where this journey would take me). Again, perhaps most poignantly so, the question of both “him” and “not him” came up. This piece (as explained by a monologue at the end of the piece) was not about Karl, and yet it was (for me) still completely him, and to that degree still very much about him. It was not “about” his life, his actual relationship situations. The “break-up” elements in the piece were staged, acted. But even though they were not necessarily grounded in actual events, they were (to me) inescapably grounded in actual experiences. Their success and legibility came from the knowledgable place from which they arose (somewhere between “Even though this isn’t real, I know what this fees like,” and “Even though this isn’t real, you know what this feels like.”). Similar to Meghan’s solo, there were moments in which I had difficulty navigating the disjunction between the theatrical/spoken text and the dancing (most specifically the “concert dance” style dance, as opposed to the sexy dancing with/for the beer on the floor, which felt completely integrated into what was happening). These disjunctions weren’t bad, just jarring between worlds for me, the abrupt shift between one part of life (the part of life spent in studios and on stages practicing/performing particular modes of bodily being) and another (the part in which we deal with life-stuff: breakups, presentations, relationships, etc.). The disjunction, in hindsight, feels startlingly accurate to life . . .
Having Matt Slaybaugh’s monologue at the end of the piece presented an interesting predicament: he spoke of this piece not being about Karl or himself, not being about anything, but not being about nothing either; and breakups are difficult (I think was the word he used). There was a sense in which, if I had taken the piece to be autobiographical (which I didn’t), I don’t think I would have been persuaded otherwise by this speech . . . or maybe I’m realizing that this was my experience. Again, I don’t think Karl was making a piece that was either a reflection of or commentary on his life/relationships/etc., but it read to me as autobiographical to the degree that this piece was the process of Karl’s choice making around this theme of breakups; it was for me (among other things, because my readings were multiple) a piece “about” Karl creating a piece that considers “breakups.” It read as an immense personal investment, and that was what was seductive and rewarding about it: I felt as if I went on a personal journey (even if it was one that is not intimate to Karl’s actual living).

I appreciated the subtle and overt ways that both Meghan and Karl’s solos challenged the tropes of theatrical presentation: what is dance, what is not dance, what is the “distance” between the performer(s) and the audience, etc. I appreciate when concert dance, while operating within (some of) the traditional modes of theatre also disrupts some of the assumptions, structures, etc.

The final piece, “Thaw” by Lisa Race, was a great moment for appreciating both Meghan and Karl as extremely high caliber dancers. The movement vocabulary was demanding, and their execution of it was demonstrative of their skill and proficiency. This was the reward of the piece. It was not my favorite of the evening. It felt a little long, the narrative (what read as a simple “boy meets girl” story) which, however resonant it may have been with both Hadley and Miller’s thematic decisions was not enough to hold my attention, and I had some questions about the brightly colored shirts. This piece also raised the issue of abrupt disjunction between what I’ll call “dancey-dance” and more sentimental narrative moments; as a viewer I sometimes didn’t know how to get into/out-of/between coy smiles/trading notes and spectacular, rigorous dancing. I had moments of interest in the repetition phrase material and its manipulation through canon and unison, but these ideas also might have been explored more succinctly. Still, the demands of the choreography gave me the opportunity to appreciate the performers’ skills anew, and that was rewarding.

Overall, this was an extremely successful concert, locally generated and produced, profoundly collaborative, and a model (not to mention a high standard) for others making work in the area.

There is SO MUCH MORE to be said about this production, but my time/brain has run out.
I look forward to hearing other perspectives/thoughts/ideas.



Analytical Excavation of Autumn Quartet
11 April, 2010, 1:36 pm
Filed under: creative process, research | Tags: , , ,

As part of a course I am taking this quarter with Norah Zuniga-Shaw and Bebe Miller, I am working through an analytical excavation of the creative process of Autumn Quartet. There is such a density of material to consider. There is video documentation of the piece itself, the months and months of blogging here throughout the process, and two Labanotation scores that I wrote last quarter documenting the set movement phrases in the piece. A central consideration of this analysis is the identification of an “implied hero,” an ideal or perspective of “utopia” that is “worshipped/pursued” through the process of the piece. As of now I think what comes out most clearly are fundamental assumptions that if the body is the site of identity (I believe it is), and the body/identity is constantly participating in the performative reinscription of social normalities, and if physical practices/disciplines are methods in which this participation takes place, then dance and choreographic practices carry significant possibilities for the interruption/intervention/re-enforcement/reiteration/deconstruction/reconstruction/rethinking/etc. of those socially(bodily) regulated normalities. The investigation of this piece centered around issues of relational power, intimacy, trust, indeterminacy, and operating(moving) within/transgressing imposed regulatory systems (such as the algorithmic score for the piece).

In this post I wanted to share some of the collected materials through which I have been sorting.

First, there are the blog posts (anything tagged under “autumn quartet”). These posts serve as a chronological history of the lineage/evolution of ideas and my perceptions/understanding of the work. There is a sense in which this collection of writing in itself functions as an “analytical investigation.” My work with these writings have been seeking the meta-narratives in which the piece was participating. How does the language with which I discuss the piece (as a microcosm) reflect potential understandings (rooted in the performative bodily practice of the piece) for the macrocosm of societal regulatory structures, relationships, power(political) dynamics, and physical etiquette?

There are the hours and hours of video footage. Which I will not offer here. But what I can offer is a five minute “montage” video in which I identified “key” moments in the last few months of practice. It may or may not be definitive of the whole process, but it does create an interesting exchange between moments/choices/acts that occurred over months of time:

There are the Labanotation scores. These are the source materials that I have taken the least amount of time to analyze, but there is something in how they may reveal structures, implications for bodily deportment, assumptions concerning space/body, etc.:

As part of my analysis/thought process, I constructed a “mind map” for conceptual lineages within the process. I organized these in a Presi site that you can explore. Interesting to me are the networks of meaning, the paths that can be followed from one idea to the next, the relationship between “initial interests” and “emergent interests” and how they create circuits of meaning. The Presi interface is fairly simple. You can zoom in and out using the controls, move around the map by clicking-and-dragging, and move through an example of tracing a conceptual lineage on the map by clicking the forward arrow:

I also wanted to offer the original algorithm for the piece. Typed it is about a page and a half (originally three pages hand written). It is the regulatory structure for the piece, describing the situation in which we made choices and formulated each iteration of the piece.

Autumn Quartet Algorithm

This project will likely continue to evolve throughout the quarter, but these were my initial sources/findings. As they constitute both an evolution of a creative process and a new creative research model, it felt appropriate to share them here.



Autumn Quartet: Next Phase
6 January, 2010, 11:23 am
Filed under: creative process, Dance | Tags: , , ,

Tonight I am beginning work again with the “Autumn Quartet” that I began in September. The piece has reached a certain identity at this point. It is consistently twenty minutes. We know the material well, we know the algorithm by which it is driven, and we are continuing to know one another. The question over this break (the last month almost) has been, “where will it go next?” These are my thoughts about that. I wish I had time to elaborate and explain each of these ideas in context, but this quarter already feels like it is dragging me behind it. So, for context, find “Autumn Quartet” in the tag cloud to the left and refer to the related posts:

I’m interested in pushing the limits of what we are doing in a lot of ways, making the piece more of what it already is, and finding places to ask what else it might be. These are some of my specific areas of interest:

-The biting: We bite each other in this piece. And I am interested in more . . . ferocity in this biting. But I don’t want to use that word. It has so much implication, connotation. What are the formal qualities in which I am interested? Longer, harder . . . The question becomes, “What is the biting?” It was inspired by the vampire craze in pop culture. But what does it mean to us, to this piece, in this context? What function does it serve? Something like “biting as a way of knowing, a means of exploration.” Something like KNOW(TOUCH)ME(YOU)(MY/YOUR BODY) (which, recently became historically situated for me as relating to a portion of Anna Halprin’s Ceremony of Us), but with our teeth. Not just doing the action, but noticing what each person feels like in between my teeth, noticing if I can feel the layers of tissue through the pressure of my bite, staying with the bite long enough to notice, to recognize, to learn, to recall something of the person that I am biting (and perhaps myself as well . . .)

-Undressing each other: We strip throughout this piece, but an option that is given in the algorithm that is rarely enacted is the action of undressing someone else. I wonder what would happen if at the end, in which we have ended up wearing one another’s clothing, rather than undressing ourselves and returning articles of clothing to their rightful owners, we located our own clothing and removed it from the other person’s body. Undressing each other, and what that might add/reveal to/of the piece.

-Finding the danger/risk: this is a notion presented to me by Bebe Miller last spring, and is discussed by Anne Bogart. I’m interested in pushing the limits of the algorithm, finding what choices we might make that radically alter the piece and our experience of it while still “following the rules.” Examples of this might be the evening in which Eric Falck did not respond to my biting. He just laid there, unresponsive, as I bit him long and hard again and again. This choice was completely within the algorithm, but dramatically shifted the form, content, and tone of the piece. Another idea I have had is making choices of things/actions/phrases within the piece that one will not do, from the beginning personalizing the algorithm to reflect this choice. Etc. I am interested in how the piece might take on new forms/structures/personalities/atmospheres as we continue to probe the outer limits of the algorithm, rather than staying near the predictable.

-I am especially interested in cultivating increased awareness of/in this piece, and of ourselves in the piece. Questions such as (as these questions may constitute an exegesis to be enacted after a run-through/each run-through, deepening our understanding of what we are doing, who we are, and what possibilities there may be through this process of questioning):

-What does it feel like to dance these phrases, do these actions? What are you thinking while you are doing?

-What leads you to make the choices you are making?

-Why do you bite when you bite?

-Can you sense the space between yourself and everyone else as a volume throughout the piece? Do you know what everyone else is doing while you are doing? And how does that change what and how you are doing? What is the physical attention of the piece?

-How do you feel about the other three during the dance?

-How do you feel about yourself during the dance? Who are you (not who are you pretending to be) in this piece right now (EMPHASIZING that the answer will be different with each run-through, because we change and the piece itself changes, thus our answers change)?

-What are you censoring, and why? (both in the dance itself and in the exegesis)

-I am interested in Erik’s suggestion of doing “the piece” without the rules, just to see what happens. This might be the foundation for an improvisation, perhaps post-exegesis/as exegsis.

-What would be scary about stripping to nudity ion this dance? What’s intimidating about being naked together? How might that change with an audience? When in the dance might nudity occur?

Those are my questions as of now. Excited to see where it goes. Off to class now.



Autumn Quartet

I have been neglecting my blog ever since this quarter of grad school started. Which I regret. I have rehearsal in less than an hour for “click here 4 slideshow or 6-8 character limit,” the piece previously entitled “3 boys & an old prophetess,” to be premiered in a couple of weeks in Anthro(pop)ology II at Columbus Dance Theater downtown. The piece is devastatingly beautiful, and rocking with pop culture. This is one project on which I am working, and hopefully in the next half hour I will have time to share some info about a few other things I’ve been doing.

I am creating a new piece right now with three amazing dancers (Erik Abbott-Main, Eric Falck, and Amanda Platt). I feel like I hardly know what to say about this piece yet. The creative process is very different than anything I have ever made before. It reminds me modes of approach that we explored in a “creative processes” course with Bebe Miller in the spring. In the spring this way of working was so foreign, and frankly frustrating. It has to do with pursuing points of interesting, interrogating those interests through exploration, and spending time with a thing to discover what it is rather than starting out with a concept to materialize. In a previous post I detailed the list of interests in between which this piece is evolving. Rehearsal have involved exploring some Butoh, enacting KNOW(TOUCH)ME(YOU)(MY/YOUR BODY), a piece I designed last year intended to privilege the body as the site of identity and interpersonal knowledge, learning and repeating movement material, discussions, writing exercises, degrees of undressing, watching video clips (Uma Thurman’s way of moving in Kill Bill vol. 2, a kind of snapping wispy-ness, the cooch dancers in Carnivale, a kind of disinterested, detached, and almost clumsy attempt at sexy, and the angry crowd of men watching Jenny strip at the end of season 2 of The L Word, my source material for escalating angry gestures, the kind that are demanding intimacy; all of these have shades of movement interest that relate to the movement I’ve been generating for the piece.)

If there is an idea or concept about which the piece seems to be orbiting, it is “getting inside who one another are,” through movement material (by learning my movement the other dancers in the piece are accessing something of my identity), by biting (coming from my interest in the vampire craze in pop culture, but also relating to a forceful entry, and welcome intrusion), undressing/being undressed/perhaps redressing in someone else’s clothes or literally getting inside their clothes with them, writing and reading (personal body histories adapted from Andrea Olsen’s Body Stories, and answering a series of questions offered below), etc.

Some of the questions we’ve answered and shared with on another (maybe you would like to answer them and post them as a comment, contributing to creative research?):

“My body is _____.”

“Sex is _____.”

“A man is _____.”

“A woman is _____.”

“I am ashamed of _____.”

Describe when you were most happy, or a memory of a time when you were truly happy.

Finally, I can offer a video clip of our progress. It is a rough cut, mainly for our own purposes of seeing and analyzing the movement, but I offer it as further insight into what is being made. Enjoy: