Filed under: Dance, inspiration, personal | Tags: american college dance festival, annie sprinkle, autumn quartet, baton rouge, click here 4 slideshow or 6-8 character limit, coco loupe, cocoloupedance, columbus, columbus dance theatre, comfest, cuddle, deborah hay, dj moxy, elizabeth stephens, eric falck, feverhead, FIERCE International Queer Burlesque Festival, from one foot to the other, grooveasana, jeff fouch, loupe'd, of moving colors productions, queer porn, queer yoga, stupid cupid, the ohio state university, the runner, TRAUMA, wall street nightclub, wholly craft, wild goose creative, Yoga
I want to write about CoCo Loupe in Columbus, Ohio. Or maybe it’s more like: I want to write about CoCo Loupe and me in Columbus, Ohio.
I recognize the impossibility of this endeavor before I even begin, but the impossibility of an endeavor must not diminish the possibility of attempting it, because the attempt will surely produce something other and more than that which is impossible.
Impossible because it will never be a complete account; any trace that I can write will only thread together fragments and gaps to offer an incomplete view, a partial perspective, woven from memory and forgetting.
My life with CoCo begins long before Columbus.
CoCo’s life with Columbus begins before I arrived here.
My life with Columbus will continue once CoCo moves back to Baton Rouge—where we first met—although her having been here will always continue to be how I know this place.
This trace will not offer an account of everything. I doubt it will be entirely linear. But here it is:
I first met CoCo when I was in high school. She was my first modern dance teacher, at The Dancer’s Workshop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where we are both from. My memories of CoCo from that period: her shaved head, the intensity of her classes, the Run Lola Run soundtrack, something called “acid jazz,” learning to do “illusions” and something she called “shnorkles,” and lots of pushups and crunches—a series she called G. I. Jane.
She was teaching at LSU at the time, and sometimes her students from the university would come and take class with us.
I would often see her getting coffee at the CC’s around the corner before class. I knew of her before I took her class at Dancer’s Workshop; she had done a show called Loupe’d with the modern dance company with whom I would eventually dance, Of Moving Colors Productions (OMC), and I remember seeing the posters for the show at my high school. Later when I worked for OMC, I filed lots of flyers with her bio on them, and saw this photo all the time:
This was how I saw CoCo for many, many years.
When working for OMC, I saw a video of Loupe’d, and I watched it obsessively for years; she did not know this at the time. What I saw in CoCo’s choreography, and her collaborative work with Amiti Perry, was unlike any dancing I had seen in Baton Rouge. It was so strong and connected; I could hardly keep up with how one action became another and led into something else. I knew I wanted to dance like that someday.
Years later, I would create a solo based on a solo that CoCo presented in Loupe’d; I didn’t know this at the time.
Then she moved to Columbus, Ohio, for grad school, and I went to college in Jackson, Mississippi. We saw each other several times at American College Dance Festivals during those years, and I felt like our lives were being braided together somehow, from this starting point in Baton Rouge to somewhere I did not yet know. I took her technique classes a these festivals, and I remember being disoriented by how familiar it was, and also how much her dancing had evolved, the mix of the unfamiliar within what was already intimately incorporated into my body from years earlier. When I graduated from college, I chose to apply to the Ohio State University for my MFA in Dance because this was where CoCo went and because the work that I had seen her present at ACDF year after year was the kind of work I aspired to make. I was accepted to the program.
During those years, I devoured CoCo’s blog, From One Foot To The Other. The things that she wrote and thought about were the things I wanted to write and think about, and we left long traces of comments back and forth discussing things I can no longer recall but which gave me the first taste of what it would be like to think about and write about dance. I felt like my world was expanding line by line, post by post, thread by thread, comment by comment. Her blog gave me a connection to somewhere else, both literally her life and practice in Columbus (and then Oregon), and also a dancing life where dance and choreography functioned as research, where bodies were sites for critical inquiry, and dancing could ask questions about time and space and memory and cognition.
Year later, her blog would disappear—deceased—and it would be transformed into a zine and live on as a dance. We didn’t know this yet.
Years later, I would be teaching a course called Writing About Dance at the Ohio State University, and CoCo would come perform for my students so that they would have live dance to write about. We didn’t know this yet either.
When I first came for a visit to Columbus to find a place to live, CoCo met me for lunch at a place called Bodega. We ate salad and drank coffee, and she showed me a video of her dancing a solo called The Runner choreographed by Deborah Hay. Years later, words from Deborah Hay would become part of the structure and score for a dance CoCo would make called from one foot to the other, and I would see some of the words from Hay scribbled on the walls of a place called Feverhead, but we didn’t know this at the time.
In the years since then, I’ve seen CoCo perform The Runner several times. I saw it at least once at AGORA when Junctionview Studios was still in operation. And this is the dance that she would eventually perform live for my students, an updated version of the solo, formerly The Runner, now entitled 1976: a bicentennial death at the disco. we ran for our lives. I saw this dance for the first time on CoCo’s laptop on a hot June afternoon sitting in the front of Bodega in 2008.
At the end of my first year of grad school, CoCo asked me to dance in a new piece, originally to be titled 3 boys and an old prophetess, with Eric Falck, Jeff Fouch, CoCo, and myself, to be performed in a concert called Anthro(pop)ology II at the Columbus Dance Theater. I didn’t know Eric before this project, and I hardly knew Jeff. During the process of creating that piece, the four of us rehearsed in CoCo’s attic and a dance studio called Floorspace that no longer exists. During the process, it became unclear who were the three boys and who was the old prophetess; we all had prophetess solos, we all made solos to pop songs, we all danced together and with one another. And then CoCo got injured. Her role changed, and she became a figure who watched us, witnessed us, recorded us, and shared us. In the final version of the piece, she sat at a desk on the front edge of the stage with her computer and camera, watching us dance; on the opposite side of the stage was a large screen onto which was projected her computer’s desktop, and the audience watched as she watched us and uploaded comments and photos live to her Facebook. In the final version of the piece, we took turns dancing with one another and dancing for one another, watching each other and being watched by each other. The succession of solos was suffused with anticipation, I remember, charged with aggression and eroticism and tenderness, and each time we danced it, I think I fell in love with everyone involved again and again. The piece was entitled click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit, and we danced it all summer and throughout the autumn until it premiered in the fall of 2009.
That same fall, I began choreographing a new dance temporarily then permanently entitled Autumn Quartet, with Erik Abbott-Main, Eric Falck, Amanda Platt, and myself. It was an experiment with explicit violence and sexuality, with more pop music, with conventional vocabularies of erotic performance—pre-figuring my work in burlesque, but I didn’t know this at the time—and systems of determinate and indeterminate algorithmic choreography. More aggression, more eroticism, more pop music, more tenderness, more falling in love. We danced set phrase material, made choices within an algorithmic score, stripped for one another, rolled around on the floor biting each other, leaving our marks on each other, being naked with each other, getting dressed in each other’s clothes. I asked CoCo to come see the piece and give me feedback. This is not the only dance of mine to which I would ask her to watch and respond; it was not the first nor was it the last. She was my guide, my other eyes; I could trust her to see what I could not see and to show my own dance(s) to me. I was so lost in that lovely, unpredictable, structured mess of a dance, and the dance CoCo described back to me was perhaps the first time I realized that we are always doing so much more than what it is that we think we are doing, in our choreography and in our lives. It’s an intimate act, to ask someone to give you their view of your own work, to invite that view into the creative process, to let their words affect the choices that you make in the dance that you are creating. In life—by which I mean something like life beyond the dance studio, although admittedly the boundaries get blurry—I think we call this something like love. CoCo is one of the few people who I have welcomed again and again into that position.
Over the next year, we danced together sometimes, as CoCo healed from her injury. She played golf. And sometimes we danced.
One time we danced at a food festival in the Gateway.
[I’m forgetting all kinds of things, and leaving things out. Each memory unravels into all kinds of other stories, other histories, other connections. Why don’t I remember enough to write about BACKSPACE or the times I saw CoCo perform with them, all the different settings and situations in which we were together at Columbus Dance Theater? Why not explain that at the Gateway food festival, in the middle of an improvisation with whatever band was playing, I met Heidi Kambitsch who would eventually host the Queer Yoga classes that I teach at a space called It Looks Like It’s Open? How can I not tie together all the strings of relationships with other people and faces in these photographs? Isn’t it amazing that in trying to write one impossible trace, I can feel the pull of so many intersecting histories and how we’ve all made a life together here in this place called Columbus?]
That year—2010, the year I was accepted into the PhD program in the Department of Dance at OSU—CoCo did several performances/practices with the idea of “the other woman” (I think that’s what she was called). It was a version of CoCo, a video of her dancing, sped up and digitized, and the flesh-and-blood CoCo tried to learn this digitized, sped up version of herself, tried to dance like this other woman. Those were really important works for me to witness; I felt like she was dealing so directly with the impossibility of ideals, the intense labor of our bodies struggling to live up to standards that have been manufactured as digital images of ourselves, while also fully accepting our own cyborg statuses, how we are already actualized in conjunction with all kinds of digital software/hardware, and how our flesh-and-blood bodies have already become something other than they might have been because we have looked at ourselves in the mirror of technology and (mis?)recognized ourselves as our digital avatars. This is grown-up, cyborg “mirror phase” shit, and I was enthralled. She danced around this hybrid other woman for a while, at Wild Goose Creative, in the window of Wholly Craft, other places.
I didn’t know that soon thereafter CoCo and collaborators would stage an interactive dance/projected chat room spectacle at Wild Goose where I would be invited to be an “expert commentator,” to write about the dance that was happening live, to have that writing projected on the walls of the gallery for the spectators and performers to see, to have that text absorbed back into the dance. She has been dancing around our lives with technology for a while. I didn’t know that years later I would be dating someone that CoCo introduced to me who performs at Wild Goose month after month. There’s a lot we didn’t know all along.
A lot happened the following summer—2011. We did a performance with a lot of dancers at Comfest, and many friends I have since come to know and adore reference that performance as the first time they saw me (dancing with CoCo).
That same summer, Feverhead came into existence.
How do I even begin to write about Feverhead? It has been the setting for so many important moments in my life and in the lives of dancing and not-dancing people in this city. In July 2011, CoCo had the opening and tour of the Feverhead space, a space for making dances and for dancing, for performances and classes, the home of a collective of dancers called They Might Be Dancers and their collaborators. I showed up late after teaching yoga across town. I stretched out in the space for the first time that night.
I had no idea how many times I would stretch in that space, dance in that space, rehearse in that space, watch performances in that space, teach in that space, read my own writing in that space, teach and take Queer Yoga classes in that space, watch myself in a dance film projected on the walls of that space, cuddle in a bed with friends and lovers and strangers in that space, screen queer pornography on the walls of that space, cry on the floor of that space, pose for photos for a Valentine’s article about Columbus couples in that space, listen to music composed and performed by friends and loved ones in that space, discover new ways of thinking and moving and loving and performing all in this crazy little space called Feverhead. We simply had no idea at the time.
That fall, CoCo asked me to perform with her at TRAUMA, an annual kink/fetish Halloween event that has been happening in Columbus for over a decade. We learned choreography and rehearsed at Feverhead. This would be the first time I would perform in six-inch heels on stage. This would be the first time I would be flogged in front of hundreds of people. We danced for almost five hours on two different nights, on the main stage, on the dance floor, and again on the main stage. We left with welts and bruises from COREROC/Ashley Voss whipping us with floggers dipped in paint, marks on our bodies that would linger for days/weeks. It continues to be one of the most intense performances I have ever done, and I did it with/for CoCo. I have continued to perform in TRAUMA every year since then. Performing together was surreal and a total genderfuck: CoCo is this intensely muscular body wearing combat boots and I am next to her, long and lean, in six-inch heels; we were both wearing gas masks. I like to think that we brought something queer/genderqueer to the TRAUMA stage, that together/alongside one another, we brought contemporary dance to a non-traditional space, and performed bodies that do not readily conform with the normative expectations for what gendered bodies should be. I know I felt visible because I was dancing next to her.
A month later, CoCo had an event at Feverhead called “Afternoon Delight,” a kind of mixed-media casual art event, with live music and visual art and dancing. She asked me to read an essay that I had written called “Who/How I?” We didn’t know at the time that two years later, this essay would be published on NPR’s This I Believe web archive. I thought this one public reading constituted the life and impact of that writing, and sharing it in public was a gift that CoCo gave me. We ended up dancing together that afternoon; it seems like we always end up dancing together.
In 2012, CoCo decided to create an event modeled on events that she used to produce in Texas (I think?) called STUPID CUPID, an alternative Valentine’s party. She asked me to contribute a performance, and I staged a piece called cuddle which I had first performed in U.Turn Art Space in Cincinnati as an homage to the piece by the same title originally performed by artists Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens. This piece involved installing a full sized mattress in what was then the gallery space at Feverhead. Over the course of the evening, I cuddled with partygoers for seven minute intervals, in solos, pairs, and trios. We may have had one quartet? I think I cuddled with around forty people that night. But one of the first people was CoCo. We were very quiet. Some people talk when they cuddle. Some want to chat or share intimate details or ask questions; we just rested together, for seven minutes, before the party really got going.
Shortly there after (maybe a week?), I hosted my first queer porn screening at Feverhead. I had attempted to have a queer porn screening in multiple other venues in the city, and it had never come together. CoCo offered me the space. It was an opportunity to bring more visibility to work that is already being done in pornography to bring visibility to more bodies, sexes, sexualities, and genders. We screened the work of Shine Louise Houston, Madison Young, and Courtney Trouble, all queer/feminist pornographers committed to ethical productions and ethical representations of bodies, people, and their sexualities. This was the first of two porn screenings that I have had at Feverhead.
The screenings were both followed by conversations in which a room full of people talked about their perceptions of pornography, sex, sexualities, what it means to be queer, what it means to be trans, how to stimulate the g-spot, what it means to produce ethical representations of sex and bodies, and the sheer excitement of seeing other people have sex in ways that you perhaps have never imagined. Feverhead has been an incredible space for many people and for may purposes, but hosting those queer porn screenings/conversations were pivotal for me: through those events, Columbus became more of the city where I wanted to live. I know I’m not the only one who feels like Columbus is a better place to live because Feverhead is here.
Sometime that spring, CoCo was training for a 24-hour or multi-day performance. She had a (I think) four hour performance in which people were invited to drop by for any amount of time throughout the afternoon. I stopped by for a bit. I ended up dancing with CoCo while DJ Moxy made sound with us live in the space. It was not the first time I had danced to Moxy’s music, but it was maybe the first time I had danced with CoCo to Moxy’s music. It would not be the last. I have lost track of how many times and the different places where we have danced so hard while Moxy dj’ed that we sweated through all of our clothes and closed down the bar, soaking wet and completely alight. We had no way of knowing that over a year later, the three of us and others would be grooving through a yoga practice that might be one of the most transformative physical experiences of my life thus far (also at Feverhead), or that we would be standing together on Gay Street watching Way Yes at the Independents Day Festival, or dancing into another sweaty mess together at the Columbus RED Party.
That autumn—2012—CoCo premiered a new dance called FROM ONE FOOT TO THE OTHER: what was once digital is dead & now lives on as a dance with 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. This was the dance that her blog became, the blog that I read before coming to grad school. It became a zine and it became a dance, made with and for three adult dancers—Zachariah Baird, Counterfeit Madison, and Eve Hermann—who had only begun dancing months earlier. I have written at length about that piece here, and if you have time, I hope you follow the tangent to read about that piece and come back here.
[There’s so much I’m leaving out. There’s so much I’m forgetting. There was the time that I desperately wanted to present my research at the Ecosex Symposium II in San Francisco and I did not get the travel grant I applied for and CoCo sponsored my travel so that I could present my research, where I continued to collaborate with Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens, about whom I am writing part of my dissertation, who first performed the cuddle piece to which I performed in homage, where I met Jiz Lee who performed in the queer porn that I would eventually screen in Feverhead, where I stayed with Karl Cronin who CoCo introduced to me years earlier and about whom I am also now writing in my dissertation. And the quarter that CoCo taught technique at OSU and I took her dance class again, six or seven or eight years after I had first taken her classes in Baton Rouge. And that CoCo performed with the Velvet Hearts before I did, and I watched her performing with this burlesque company on the stage of Wall Street years before I would perform with them on that same stage. And dancing into a sweaty mess at HEATWAVE. And the time we were both part of the Noble Peach Awards, and I gave Eileen Galvin the award for Biggest Genderfuck, and CoCo called the two of us goddesses, and she was given an award for—I think—most likely to dance into exhaustion, and I was so excited to be part of a community of people who would show up and celebrate and honor these kinds of people and accomplishments. And watching one another perform more times than either one of us could possibly count. And more.]
In the spring of 2013, I created a dance for the first FIERCE International Queer Burlesque Festival based on a solo that CoCo had choreographed that I had watched again and again on an old VHS tape of a concert called Loupe’d in Baton Rouge. CoCo let me use/adapt her choreography for this solo, choreography that was too difficult for my body to dance, choreography that had to be slowed down and altered to fit my body and to function as burlesque. Somewhere in what the choreography became, our bodies met (again). I made a video from footage that CoCo shot so that there could be a video component that approximated an idea that CoCo had for the original piece that had never been realized. She met me in a warehouse in Franklinton, and videoed me dancing this solo that I had made from her solo; in the final performance, the video was projected on five screens surrounding the audience at Wall Street Night Club while I performed the solo live on stage. This is the video that was projected, CoCo videoing me dancing the solo made from her solo:
There’s so much more to tell, about sitting on a couch at Impero and exchanging mantras to mend our broken hearts while clutching mala beads as spring became summer. About all the dances and classes and collaborations through which CoCo has made Columbus what it is, for which I was not present, for which I cannot account. This is, after all, an impossible trace. It’s all fragments and gaps and memories and forgettings. There are people who maybe should have appeared in these traces that have not, and tangents that I maybe should have followed. There are so many other accounts that could be written.
This autumn—2013—we knew CoCo would be moving back to Baton Rouge.
She also started this Friday night class called Grooveasana, a yoga/movement improvisation hybrid class the danced in and out of asana, that found asana and transitions between asana as we danced around them. I can’t completely explain why this practice has been one of the most fulfilling/generative practices in my life…it has something to do with my long-time yoga practice providing a trusted preparation and container for wherever else my curiosity might take me/my body. For many weeks, we were still trying to figure out exactly what it was we were doing, how to go about a loosely structure yoga asana practice that could dissolve into grooving and dancing and exploration and then easily transition back into savasana/relaxation. Sometimes Moxy dj’ed. And we found our groove, again and again and again, in different ways, along different paths.
But I don’t want to diminish the significance that it was CoCo leading the way, and my earliest experiences in dancing were following CoCo’s lead, as a teenager taking dance classes in Baton Rouge, following her lead to OSU and Columbus, OH, following her throughout this community, in and out of Feverhead in so many ways, and through this groovy familiar/unfamiliar yoga/dancing space.
It is no exaggeration to say that I don’t know where I would be if I had not followed CoCo, all the traces she left for me and in my dancing body/life; I know that I would not be here. I don’t know how my body would move; I would have never considered moving to Columbus or going to OSU; I’m not sure if I would have made the dances that I’ve made; I know I would not have danced the dances that I’ve danced. When and where would I have ever had queer porn screenings or cuddling performance art or watched my loved ones new and old performing together for the very first time or grooved my way in and out of yoga?
I have never lived in this city without CoCo, and Columbus will always be what it is to me because of CoCo having lived here with me.
But this is really just a concrete metaphor for something vastly more true: I have never lived the life I am living—and dancing and writing and teaching and loving—without CoCo, and it will always be what it is to me because CoCo has been braided in and through it for so long.
This is an insufficient trace. I can’t seem to put words to what it felt like, all these years, the ebbs and flows of inspiration and elation and hesitation and contemplation and perplexity and frustration and grief and laughter and seeing each other again after longer periods of time and the overwhelming sense of recognition, of having been seen by another for so long, and so much delight and so much relief and so much love… There is so much I can feel slipping just beyond the edges of the screen, and what I’ve written cannot begin to do justice to this person I love. But I needed to try to record what I could fathom of these years, pieced together from memory and Facebook. There’s a part of me—the part of me who is a writer, the part of me who writes in order to show appreciation, in order to extend the duration of that which I appreciate—that is already grieving the loss of being able to write about CoCo and her work, at least for the foreseeable future. And here I’ve found myself writing a trace of her/our dancing life/lives perhaps as a way of holding in the present—and into the future—the tangle of that dancing and writing that I will miss so very much.
Our lives will continue to braid, in Baton Rouge, beyond; the trace certainly does not stop here.
[Friday, December 13, CoCo is offering a gratitude and farewell concert at Feverhead: https://www.facebook.com/events/391730200961595/
On the program:
Noah Demland’s “Timelines”
Obstinate Robinson AKA Counterfeit Madison AKA Sharona Sharona Sha-ro-na
Corbezzolo – Marie Corbo, Philip Kim, and Noah Demland
“Very, Very, Very”: A new trio by CoCo Loupe with music by Noah Demland for Nicole Garlando, Leigh Lotocki, and Amanda Platt
New video work by Nicole Garlando w/ photography by Eve Hermann
“re: addressing”: A solo (CoCo) bon-voyage-dancing-gift
Friday, December 13, 2013
Feverhead: 1199 Goodale Blvd, Columbus, OH, 43212
Tea and BYOB party follows performance.
Free admission but donations happily accepted.]
Filed under: art, creative process, Dance | Tags: autumn quartet, click here 4 slideshow or 6-8 character limit, coco loupe, lady gaga, violence
We ran the piece twice Thursday night. It came in almost exactly 20 minutes both times. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but it works for me. To briefly describe what the choreography is as of now:
-a collection of set movement material (two long phrases, and several tasks)
-an algorithmic improvisational score that determines the structure of the piece (I may share the score here at some point . . . right now that feels like too much information)
-a set way of beginning and ending, and a momentum that carries through the enactment of the score. The decisions are different every time we do it, but it facilitates the accomplishment of certain things: we all get undressed. we all get redressed. in between, we dance phrases, make angry gestures, strip for one another, bite one another, roll around a bit, etc.
-there is a sound score at the moment, a mashup I did from a playlist that we’ve been using in rehearsal:
“Intro Versailles” by Reitzell/Beggs from the Marie Antoinette soundtrack
“Caddis” by ISAN from “Lucky Cat”
“Poker Face (Space Cowboy Remix)” by Lady Gaga from “Poker Face (remixes)”
“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga (single)
“Gwely Mernans” by Aphex Twins from Drukqs
then back to “Intro Versailles” by Reitzell/Beggs from the Marie Antoinette soundtrack
I think I am finally beginning to understand what it is that we’re doing. It just took talking to CoCo for a little bit. She helped me connect several “dots” that have littered my creative landscape for quite some time: the violent action and the integration of life and dance. These are very new ideas, but I’ll try to get them down somehow.
For years now I have had a mounting interest in violent actions of the body, for lots of reasons: their irreversibility, their potency for kinesthetic empathy, the fact that they cannot be faked, not really. And, on some level that I perhaps have not admitted before, because they leave a mark. A kind of testimony to the fact that the action was real, a real, visible, tangible effect on the body, a mark of how it is retained. This may have found a ready expression in my Lady Gaga “I Like It Rough” solo in CoCo’s “click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit,” (early version of that solo can be seen here), the bruises finally fading over a week later. I’ve had lots of questions over the years about “why the violence?” Talking to CoCo last night about the new piece I am making, I think I finally have a bit more of an answer.
In thinking about the integration of life and dance, I have for years been concerned about the fact that dance is an art that lives in the body, the individual person. I’ve always had a discomfort surrounding the “theatrical” aspects that come into dance, the characterization element, the idea that what we do in the dance is somehow separate from who we are as real people. I think that was part of what first attracted me to Butoh, the emphasis on the cultivation of an inner experience that then emerges as the dance. It isn’t something that is put on, nor can it be taken off. In the more theatrical heritages of dance (I’m thinking a bit of story ballets, etc., but maybe even into more contemporary dance theater), the character is something that is put on, it is pretend, an impersonation. I think there is a place for dance of that nature . . . but it is becoming further and further removed from my experience/interest in dance. I think what interests me is the actuality of the action in the body, actions taken by realm people with realm ramifications in the body (and thus, perhaps, who they are). This is part of what I’m interested in researching for my dissertation (if I am accepted to the Ph.D. program to which I’ve applied), the ramifications of the choreographic process for the construction of individual personal identity through the body. At the heart of this is not only the assertion that the body is the site of identity, but also that dance action is an actual occurrence within the body. We are actually doing what we are doing/dancing. And that action is thus part of our “real” lives, who we really are, our identity. Even if a dancer is “playing a character” or putting on a role for a dance, the actions taken in that part are still real, they emerge from and have an effect on the body/the individual. I think this is the fundamental awareness that has provoked my passion for figuring out the integration of life and dance, the fact that the two are not two, they are one, dance and life all comprising experience that is lived in the body. The conceptualization of the two as somehow separate is something reinforced (maybe) by “dance as profession” versus “personal life.” Or maybe it comes from the theatrical heritage, that dance is something like theater in which fiction is enacted. But while fiction may be enacted, the way in which it is executed in the body is not fiction, it is real action taken in the actual body/person with real ramifications (this can be said for theater as well).
So how does this relate to the violent action, or this new piece I am making?
The violent action may have been an entry point into the speculation for me. The action that overtly, audaciously, has real effect on the body, irreversible, unable to be faked, emphasizing the “realness” of the dance. I still have a lot of interest in this, but now this has expanded a bit; I’m finding other ways to explore the dance as reality in the body, thus reality in the lives of the dancers. In this piece, we dance phrase material. It has its effect on our lived and living bodies, the way each of us move. The more familiar it becomes, the more that way of moving is integrated into our bodies, the more it changes the way we move “naturally” (loaded word, I know; what I mean is something like the ways of moving that occur easily, consciously and subconsciously, in the body), thus potentially changing aspects of who we are. There is floor work, some that borders on violent, and it leaves marks on and in our bodies. We undress, and it is our actual bodies being uncovered; it isn’t faked. We bite one another, and it is really our teeth pressing into flesh, our real flesh in one another’s mouths, in between one another’s teeth. We take off our clothes and we put on one another’s (real) clothes. These are all ways I think of this dance privileging/emphasizing the fact that it is not separate from our lives, from who we are, from the actual lived experience of our bodies, and the community of our bodies.
But it isn’t only the dance extending into (real) life, but life extending into the dance via the choreographic structure. There are discrete components of prescribed movement material, and a multiple page algorithmic improvisational score for the dance, but the choices are made by us in relation to one another. Those relationships are not (cannot?) be separate from the (personal) relationships that we have created with one another. When I choose to strip for Amanda or bite Erik or roll around on the floor with Eric, those choices are made both within the context of the dance/movement/structure and our lives. And even more subtly, there are the ways we relate in the dance beyond our structural choices. The ways we look at one another, the ways we react to one another, the way we laugh or talk or adjust for one another during the piece, even the “rules” (of the algorithm) that we choose to break. All of it is not separate from who we are to one another.
I think I’ve run out of words. But that’s where this piece is, where my thoughts are.
Tonight I’m going to see the Resident and Visiting Artist Concert being put on by the OSU Department of Dance. I’ve seen some of the work and heard great things about the other work. I’m looking forward to it.
Filed under: art, creative process, culture, Dance, inspiration, research | Tags: amanda platt, annie sprinkle, autumn quartet, body culture, chakra, click here 4 slideshow or 6-8 character limit, coco loupe, ecology, elizabeth stephens, eric falck, erik abbott-main, jeff fouch, linda montano, love art lab, sexecology, sexology
I found out this morning that I have received funding for a research trip to San Francisco in December, to view work by and interview Love Art Lab (Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens). The hope is that I will write something for publication or conference presentation based on the research I do on this trip. I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that I’ll be there meeting them/talking to them about their work/seeing their work in less than a month. I have thrived on their work remotely for so long . . . I can hardly imagine preparing myself for first-hand engagement.
These are the (unfiltered) ideas I am interested in talking to them about:
-The implications for perspectives of the body in their work, both their larger project of Love Art Laboratory, the projects they have done year by year, and their recent evolution into “Sexecology” (the intersection of sexology and ecology). What does it mean that the whole Love Art Lab project is centered around the chakra system, which is a distillation of energy centers within the body (the body as the starting place for this project, via the work of artist Linda Montano)? What does it mean that these projects are predominantly performative (or artifacts of the performative), which situates the body at the (intersecting) center of political activism, environmentalism, interpersonal relationship, sexual identity, etc.?
-What does intersecting “sexology” (the study of sexual behavior, predominantly in humans) and “ecology” (the branch of biology dealing with the relations of interactions between organisms and their environment; environmental science) say about how we view the body, organizations/relationships of bodies (people), etc.?
-What kind of progressive “body cultures” or cultures for progressive perspectives of the body are furthered in their work (this might address anything from clothing trends, body modification such as tattoos or piercings, exploring the boundaries between the private and the public as it relates to revelation of the body and bodily (even sexual) acts, etc.)?
-How does their work illustrate a conflation of art, life, and love? How has that functioned, the art seeming to be so entangled with the personal relationship between the artists (collaborators and wives)? How does that affect/direct the content of the work? How does the relationship serve as material in the art, and how does the art serve as a component of the personal relationship? Where is the line between public and private? What gets put into the art, and what stays out of it? What comes into the relationship, and what has to stay “in the studio,” as it were? To whatever degree the art functions as a profession, how does that affect the art or the relationship? I am fascinated by artist relationships, specifically in which both the relationship and the art are collaborative. I am fascinated by relationships emerging from the creative process (re: “click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit“; “Autumn Quartet“), how art furthers relationships, how relationships function as material for art, etc.
-On some (utopian, idealistic) level, I think I am looking to Annie and Beth as gurus of sustainable integration. That isn’t fair and I know it, but their work integrates so much: personal, public, professional, creative, political, sexual, ecological, etc. etc. etc. And somehow, from the remote observer, it seems to be working. I need this to be answered . . . disillusioned, nuanced, confirmed, whatever. The most difficult part of the creative life (for me) is the integration. I am interested in Fluxus artists. I am interested in early post-modernism, and how they worked so hard to dissolve the boundary between art and life, and at the same time I am interested in maintaining my connection to the art form, to the history of dance, the technique and craft and practice of it. I don’t want to integrate dance and life simply by considering my daily mundane life (the walking to and from school, drinking coffee, reading and writing papers, washing dishes, folding clothes, seeing friends, etc.) dancing (which it is); I want to maintain a dancing practice, a connection to dancing history and technique without those things feeling remote from the rest of life . . . by which I think I mean (predominantly) relationships. I mean cooking and cleaning and other life experiences as well, but I think the conflict I find most of all is the amount of time that the “dancing life” demands infringing on the quality and quantity of time I can spend nurturing and fostering human connection. The irony is that my art form is predominantly social; we do it in groups of people.
I should say that between the project I just completed with CoCo Loupe, Eric Falck, and Jeff Fouch (“click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit”) and the project I am working on with Erik Abbott-Main, Eric Falck, and Amanda Platt, I feel nearer to this “integrated living” than I have (in quite some time)(ever). And yet I feel like (I hope) Annie and Beth can say something to this.
That’s all I have time for. Ecstatic to have funding. Can’t wait to be in San Francisco.
Filed under: cosmology, Dance, Ontology | Tags: ambiguity with specificity, anthro(pop)ology, between, click here 4 slideshow or 6-8 character limit, coco loupe, columbus dance theatre, eric falck, facebook, jeff fouch, meaning
A morning reflection.
Two shows down. One to go.
Every time we do this piece, it’s different. And maybe it’s partly because of the way that I am thinking about my own work right now, but it is so completely conflated with life and living and loving, in the dancing, in the movement/content, in the structures and organizations of the content, in the facebook status updates, in the bruises and bouncing curls and kisses and massages and body piles and pairs back stage . . . it is in no way something that we put on, and for me there are not characters: the way that we are (I am) in the dance, what we do on stage, is coming directly from and feeding back in to everything else. This is us, this is Michael and CoCo and Eric and Jeff. That’s part of why I still have not yet completely made my peace with bowing after “the piece,” because the bow feels like such a theatrical trope, and admission of something like spectacle, a confession that “what has transpired here has not be ‘real,’ it is simply something we do, not who we really are.” But a good friend of mine said that it doesn’t feel that way . . . the whole thing has been so intimate up until that point, the intimacy carries into the way we stand there, looking at the audience, fold at our hips, and strike our “set.”
After the first show, I commented on my facebook status that it felt like an ending, and that from now on the piece would have to be something else. I think part of last night’s permutation of the piece was partially in mourning for the what the dance had been (what we had been?). Today will be something else entirely. In response to the comment on the “ending” quality, this dialogue unfolded via facebook status/comments between CoCo and I:
“Did it feel like an ending? For me it felt like I never got going. Could be b/c the wifi was dead at first. Felt like playing catch up the rest of the time. I could feel you 3 pouring everything into the space however. Also feel a bit like a traitor b/c I’m not observing in the way that I want to. Total immersion in other words. It’s all very fragmented for me. Like I’m not respecting the experience. I’m certainly getting a new perspective on this whole digital interaction/connection thing. And am knowing now that i want the real version of humanity as a general rule w/out the computer screen in b/w.”
“So I think you have landed on another potential “theme” of this piece. The potential between the digital and the human connection. And you situating yourself at the edges of both. Maybe you are revealing something more than just your personal predilections. Maybe this is part of the “commentary” aspect of the work. And maybe the unfolding “human drama” on stage is something like a commentary from the other side? If every human interaction has indeed become a collision, maybe we create buffers like facebook and status updates and video cameras . . . these are my morning ramblings, but maybe there’s something there.
Ambiguity with specificity. This was something that my brother said about the piece, the Friday night performance. And I think it has deep resonance for how I know the work, how it is unfolding for us (how I understand the universe right now?): each thing, each moment, each experience, each phenomenon is incredibly specific, completely and entirely itself and yet elusive, fleeting, gone into the next moment, another distinct intersection of complex contexts and perspectives and perceptions. Each moment is in itself constantly “yet to be revealed,” and yet is dissolves, evaporates, is lost into the next moment, full of its own ambiguity and specificity.
Then there is this quality in the gestalt of experience, the piece as a whole (life as a whole). We tend to be categorizing creatures, we tend to find names for things, labels, taxonomies for organization. I think we do this for ease . . . it’s easier to assume that identities are persistent, fixed, unchanging, recognizable, and not entirely unique. And yet maybe that is not the nature of things. As we look at a gestalt, this dance for instance, we tend to need to know “what it is.” We need to recognize it, to have a name for what it is, clear distinctions for what it means. And yet it may not be so pin-down-able. Besides the moment by moment shifting ambiguities, there is the ambiguity of what we read as the “whole.”
This relates to the perpetual idea of the “in-between,” an idea I return to again and again. We know a thing by what it is not. Knowledge is contextual, established by contrast (we are aware of light because there are shadows, we establish what we think of as male because we compare it to female, etc.). We do not simply know what a thing is, we know what it is in-between. We know that it is not this or that, but it has a kind of relationship to both. For many of these experiences, we either as individuals or as cultures have established names, labels, categories. I would question the fixity even of these experiences. But besides that, there is the question of all the experiences that lie in between our categories, our labels, our recognizable forms. We know them, we experience their specificity, their meaning (more on this later?), but it is completely embedded in its ambiguity, its in-between-ness.
Meaning. This is a question that has continued to come up in a course I am taking this quarter called “History, Theory, Literature of the Analysis of Movement.” Most analysis assumes a meaningfulness, attempts to identify and illuminate the meaningful. This has raised the question over and over again, “What is meaning?” or “What are we referring to when we refer to ‘meaning’?” I has established a working definition of meaning for myself. It is something like: “Meaning is the substance by which a thing is recognizable.” It is broad. I do not intend meaning to be a synonym for “interpretation.” It is before interpretation. It is similar to recognition, but recognition implies a cognitive process, and I think meaning is more sensation, situated in sensory perception, not the cognition of those perceptions. It is the substance of that by which a thing is recognized. It is the specificity in the ambiguity.
The meaning for “click here . . . ” changes every time we do it. There are elements that are persistent. The choreography is set, the sequence of the piece is set, the points of my body that hit the floor, the expanding bruises, they testify to the persistence of certain elements. And yet there is something about it that is continually unrecognizable. It’s meaning, the experience by which it might becomes recognized, is unfamiliar. It is not a situation or intersection I have experienced before. As we go out onto the stage with CoCo and take our poses upstage in the red light, it is something new and unfamiliar, even as we are enacting familiar actions. I don’t yet know what it is, and part of the dance is trying to come to more of a place of knowing, maybe even recognizing the gestalt.
All over the place . . . this post is all over the place. To cap it off, some images, taken by CoCo on stage as part of the piece/performance. Something of the dance is recognizable in these images, and yet I am acutely aware of the fact that they are not the dance nor are they what will transpire at 3pm today at Columbus Dance Theater. One more show. Another permutation/translation/expression/specificity.
Filed under: art, creative process, Dance | Tags: amerifluff, anatomical scenario movement theatre, anna sullivan, anthro(pop)ology, autumn quartet, click here 4 slideshow or 6-8 character limit, cocoloupedance, tupaco dance
I don’t have time for paragraphs today. Or maybe even sentences. But I have these little snippets of info pertaining to the dances in which I am involved. Here we go:
Jeff said this and it feels true: “click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit” almost feels too intimate to share. It’s been our little secret since June, and now doing it in front of people . . . well, it feels very different.
I felt really unstable (physically, emotionally, contextually) last night during our piece. I think so much shifted so quickly from the private to the public. I hope to find my ease and grounding by tonight. This is such amazingly familiar material, it’s been living in my body for months . . . and yet that quickly, given all these intersecting/shifting contexts, it changed.
The dancing feels like loving, in both projects, and the loving is complicated as loving often is.
Even though it was necessary, it feels strange to think of Erik and Amanda rehearsing the “autumn quartet” without Eric and I last night (we were at dress rehearsal for “Anthro(pop)ology II”), almost as strange as Eric and I rehearsing without them last week. It almost feels illicit when the dance is so tangled up in interpersonal intimacy.
I saw Anna Sullivan’s new piece for “Anthro(pop)ology II” last night and I was stunned, amazed, horrified, and elevated, all at once. I think it is wonderful. Shocking. I didn’t feel that there was anything about it that was not fucked up, and somehow it embodied that condition so completely . . . it’s sexy and dark and twisted at parts, athletic at parts, lots of skin, lots of touching and contact and an exciting sound score . . . I am so happy to be dancing in a show with this piece.
So come see the show!
“Anthro(pop)ology II opens on Friday, November 13th and closes Sunday, November 15th. Friday & Saturday shows at 8 pm, Sunday matinee 3 pm. Buy your tickets early at www.amerifluff.com
Anthro(pop)ology is an on-going theatrical series of collaborations between edgy performance art groups committed to creating works that think and frolic outside the box. Each group presents a sharply honed 30 minute performance that showcases its unique artistic panache while at the same time re-enforcing a playful, unifying agenda aimed at critiquing pop culture superficialities, incongruities, and/or injustices.
Anthro(pop)ology II includes premiere performances by Anatomical Scenario Movement Theatre, TUPACO Dance, and cocoloupedance.
purchase tickets at www.amerifluff.com“
Filed under: art, creative process, Dance, yoga | Tags: abby yager, amanda platt, andrea olsen, autumn quartet, bhagavad gita, body history, click here 4 slideshow or 6-8 character limit, eric falck, erik abbott-main, gaga, love art lab, marcia siegel, ohad naharin, pleasure, trisha brown, Yoga
I am behind on my work. I still have an article by Marcia Siegel to read and generate a kind of abstract of for a class that’s in a little over an hour. But I need to write right now, not read. I have ideas spinning, coming out of dancing and choreographing and relationships, and I think that’s is primary purpose of this blog, to note those contemplations/processes, and offer them as entry points into the creative process.
I am thinking about the line between sensation and interpretation. This is not a new speculation for me . . . I think it began with taking a class in Gaga (Ohad Naharin’s “movement language”) last Winter and being asked to expand my concept of pleasure. We worked in pairs slapping one another’s bodies as hard as we could, and inviting ourselves to interpret that sensation, both of slapping and being slapped, as pleasure. Before pleasure and pain there is sensation. What we think of as pleasure or discomfort or pain or exhaustion, etc., are interpretations of physical sensations. In that Gaga class we were being asked to reinterpret, to intercept ourselves before interpreting sensation and pain and potentially reinterpreting the sensation as pleasure. I remember that for the rest of the quarter, into the spring and my Somatics Survey course with Abby Yager, I continually brought myself back to the place of sensation, trying to intercept interpretation and perhaps discover new possibilities for pleasure.
Last night the I met with the “cast” (I hardly even consider us a “cast” . . . I am not yet sure what the purpose of this process is . . . it has to do with the present, with the doing, with what we are doing, not yet the “why” we are doing . . . what are we then, a group that does things together? Is that a “team” or does “team” necessarily denote competition, opposition? Community? Kula? Autumn Quartet?) to review the movement material for the dance that we’re creating, then we reconvened at my house for conversation. We each had generated a writing of our “Body History” (a concept from Andrea Olsen’s Body Stories that was adapted by Abby Yager in our Somatics course in the spring). The format/prompt was as follows:
“Body History (adapted from Andrea Olsen’s “Body Stories” via Abby Yager)
Write your personal body history. Allow yourself to collect memories over time.
-The story of your birth. Include the exact date and time of the day, season, and year. Include pre-birth, if possible; the mood, health, and activities of your mother affect life in the womb.
-Your earliest movement memory. Go back as far as you can to the point where memory blurs into dream.
-Your earliest kinesthetic sensation. Again, go back as far as you can. You might not be able to locate or identify where this sensation came from.
-Physical joys/physical pleasure/physical training
-The environment where you grew up, your favorite place, and where you feel most at home.
-Comments you received which shaped your self image.
-Attitudes towards sensuality, sexuality, and gender
-Injuries, illnesses, operations. Note differences you perceived in yourself pre/post event. Identify scars on your body and where those scars came from.
-Nutrition/food. When do you feel most alert? Sluggish? Revved? Calm?
-Anything else in the history of your body that interests you.”
We (Erik Abbott-Main, Eric Falck, Amanda Platt, and myself) each shared our body histories, aspects of which were extremely personal, aspects of which were vulnerable, etc. My evening concluded with a feeling of so much more insight, connection, understanding of these people with whom I am working. There was a sense in which I felt that this was a continuation of our experience with KNOW(TOUCH)ME(YOU)(MY/YOUR BODY). A more holistic way of knowing. Amanda made the statement that these were the kinds of things she wanted to ask/know about all of her friends. I think we all agreed. It’s a level of knowing that we don’t always get to with the people we know/work with/love. I adore these three people . . . because of what I know of them. How their bodies feel, how they direct my attention, my hand and focus and care, over the surface of their bodies, how they execute my movement material, situating these parts of myself in their own bodies (by which I mean their own selves), how they think of and remember their own histories, the histories of their bodies. It is intoxicating, the amount of knowing. I think it is a kind of knowing that provokes loving, in a sense. I question how I could know all that I know and not adore these three individuals. Somehow I feel that this way of knowing, maybe even loving, is at the center of this piece.
Erik made the observation that a kind of vulnerability seems to be what I am getting at in this process . . . and I think that is incredibly astute. It has to do, again, with getting inside who another person is . . . through all these various methodologies . . . and that somehow informing or contributing to the dance itself, its movement material, its choreographic structure, its content, and the more subtle qualities of how we experience one another/move with one another as a dancing ensemble. I love that these experiences are part of the work . . . and I wonder if there is a way to more specifically allow the work to emerge from these vulnerable, personal, intimate experiences with one another.
Of course this makes me think about Love Art Lab and the conflation of life and art, love and art, life/love/art/relationships/gender politics/sexuality/etc. I am pleased to recognize that connection.
One of the questions in the body history related to the concept of physical pleasure . . . which, I realized after I read my body history, I had interpreted in an incredibly limited fashion. Given the speculation on sensation and interpretation, why had I limited my description of my physical pleasures to “expanding awareness in movement as in practices such as Butoh”? What about the pleasure of white wine with brie, honey, and red pears? What about the pleasure of hugging or kissing or sex or masturbation? What about the pleasure of the wind blowing on me, warm blankets, or throwing myself across the floor in a dance studio space (re: “click here 4 slideshow or 6-8 character limit”)?
In this speculation on pleasure and sensation, I am brought to an idea that I am teaching/offering in the yoga class that I am teaching this quarter at OSU. It comes from the Bhagavad Gita primarily, the idea of taking action without concern for results of actions. I can offer a couple of quotes:
“But the man who delights in the Self,
who feels pure contentment and finds
perfect peace in the Self—
for him, there is no need to act.
He has nothing to achieve by action,
nothing to gain by inaction
nor does he depend on any
person outside of himself.
Without concern for results,
perform the necessary action;
surrendering all attachments,
accomplish life’s highest good. (65)”
“You have a right to your actions,
but never to your actions’ fruits.
Act for the action’s sake.
And do not be attached to inaction.
Self-possessed, resolute, act
without any thought of results,
open to success or failure. (Chapter 2, stanzas 47-48)”
In returning to sensation itself, before interpretation or expectation, we are thrust back into the present. Sensing, not considering sensing. Focus on action and the sensation of the action. I feel this when I am dancing in Abby Yager’s modern technique class this quarter, mostly phrase material from works by Trisha Brown. The execution is something like “this right now, bending the leg, now spearing the arm, now dropping the weight, now pushing away, now, and now, and now . . .” I think the movement lends itself to this sort of approach. It means letting go of what comes next, what just happened. It means letting go of expectation and even interpretation (for a bit).
And that’s what I am thinking about right now. That is what is coming into the work, influencing and generating the work. Back to Marcia Siegel and the development of lexicons for the observation, analysis, and critique of dance.
Filed under: art, creative process, Dance | Tags: amanda platt, andrea olsen, anthro(pop)ology, autumn quartet, bebe miller, carnivale, click here 4 slideshow or 6-8 character limit, coco loupe, columbus dance theatre, eric falck, erik abbott-main, kill bill vol. 2, the l word
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: