DANCING – A WAY OF KNOWING. Written for Triskelion Arts Center online Zine during the pandemic.
As a long time professional I could talk to you about dance in academic tones, but I reject this intellectualizing of dance now more than ever. For years I have proselytized about the J.O.D. (the Joy of Dance). I am both emphatically earnest and aware of how silly it sounds. This is entirely the point. It’s an invitation to remember why we got into this form in the first place. And it is what compels me forward now. Highly kinetic movement has always brought me joy, but I have also discovered as I age that dance is a way for me to understand what I mean. The knowing is embedded in the doing. Knowing not something specific, but something more primal housed in movement and image. As a dancer of many years, my primal intelligence is compounded by time. My body’s imagination allows me freedom from an overbearing intellect that is struggling to make sense of this dystopian time. As the uncertainty about the future kicks up dust devils darkening my mind, dance allows my body’s imagination to pour down rain and help me find my way to knowing. Through exquisite listening in the present moment, images arise in my improvised compositions that have meaning and a felt understanding.
As I create I am driven by an interest in the flux between the body as an abstract kinetic form in space, an amalgam of qualities and experiences that comprise a human identity; an individual who has history, expression, a sense of humor. Even as I embrace the ineffable nature of this art form, it is important to me that people find a part of themselves in the work, so I place my dances in settings that look like the dreams of the real places we inhabit. In this time of online site specific dance making my work more easily finds its place. At this point in my artistic development and in this virtual space, I find myself going deeper into the short form, dense, episodic work I had intended to set aside in 2020. Our attention span now only allows for these short blasts.
These pan-damn-ic dances are an autobiography and documentary exploring identity and the craving for communication, attention and sense making; it is an offering of the vulnerable dancer in the great pause. Like a collection of poems driven by a common theme, each short dance contributes a piece to the larger whole. The process of making and the meaning of the dances are not linear, but rather circular and shape shifting revealing their meaning in their own time. Like flashes of lightening in a dark sky, the dances shed light, if only for a minute.
As a mid-career artist I am at a crossroads. In returning to graduate school in 2013 I was afforded an opportunity to reflect upon my career thus far and position myself for future endeavors, including that of a U.S. ambassador in one-to-one diplomacy traveling to three different African countries. My concurrent experience as an associate choreographer for an original Broadway production, along with my work with contemporary choreographers contributed to the massive changes in my aesthetic interests. I am at a point where different priorities have emerged. These experiences act as a springboard for my work. I am interested in the malleability of performance environments, materials and storytelling through a collage of visual imagery and movement expression. More recently, I have been speaking to the audience and scripting dialogue in my work. I am committed to redirecting my focus to include each participant as a whole person, with their own multiple narratives co-existing in an environment we create together.
In 2019 I created “Luggage Lost”, the first evening length piece I have made in years. For me it opened a new door. I found myself working as a soloist within a group of people. I tapped into personal memories and stories from my family about birth, illness, traveling and loss. Although the dance was often funny it became an investigation of fear and anxiety, and a commentary on our contemporary experience of travel in a world of paranoid security checks and dehumanizing power dynamics. I worked with the idea of micromoments, small personal stories and how I could draw out and amplify a single person’s intimate experiences within a larger chaotic reality. “Luggage Lost” inspired me to go deeper, to be more honest and to take a closer look at issues of personal history. I realized that I am only scratching the surface of the kind of work I am compelled to make.
However, in 2020 I have been pausing to consider my work now in this very moment, in the context of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. As a privileged cis white woman, what do I have to say? Do I acknowledge the moment directly? And how? I don’t trust my endemic racism, inherited from my culture, to not cause me to misunderstand and pollute any well intentioned gesture. Can I source my life as I always have to find common ground with the audience to reflect? I have always used humor. Is that appropriate? Or is it necessary. I want to make space for others who need a quieter room to be seen and heard, but I need to make a living and dance has been my north star since I was eight years old. Is it really an offering that bears fruit to martyr that? I don’t have answers now. I am to perform a new commission in January. A solo of course. With a mask on, of course. I am in process right now. I go forward risking failure with good intentions. To be continued.