(For a Movement Research Open Performance)
Here’s something I wrote a few years ago in an article for Movement Research Performance Journal in response to Tere O’Connor’s “Rammed Earth,” that I saw at the Chocolate Factory here in the outer boroughs of Yoo Nork:
“Dancers and choreographers make work because they need to. They need to do it. They need to make it and they need to show it to each other. That is where the juice is.”
I really meant that. And this is why, after taking 2 years entirely away from the “community,” I’m making a little solo thing again. I think I used to see my trajectory from dancer to choreographer to critic as a ladder. Now I see it as a wheel. And I want to be where the juice is. In the trenches. Where, before the invention of film, dance lived like an oral history, passed from person to person in real time.
I’m remembering 2 summers ago at my friend Nancy Havlik’s son’s wedding reception in the park outside the Cloisters on the upper tip of Manhattan. Nancy, a DC choreographer, had a table of “Mother of the Groom’s Weird Friends,” of which I was one. With me were Cynthia Berkshire and Sharon Wyrrick, both also dance/hybrid artists who have left DC, all of us having known each other for 25 years. At one point in the beautiful boozy evening, Nancy asked us why we did it. Why we made dance when it gave so little back. I remember Cynthia and Sharon giving thoughtful answers like “I follow the questions, not the answers,” or “I’m interested in the process.” I said, “Because I love to be watched!”
For now that’s enough to propel me. Along with the clapping, the wine and cheese reception, the loving embrace of that biscuity mama!
But maybe I suck at it.
I worked yesterday on the solo material I’m supposed to be showing in raw form on June 16. Just doesn’t feel like anything yet, just a bunch of meaningless fragments and gobshite, as in “loud-mouthed person who talks a lot, but nothing with any value, as in shite coming out of their gob.”
Only I didn’t really even “talk” a lot, if by “talk” I mean move: generate movement, phrase material, movement invention.
Generating movement has never been my strong suit as a choreographer. I have always been more interested in framing devices, lenses, mise en scene. And most of the time, when I had a tanztheater “company” called Toothmother in DC and Baltimore, I didn’t work with trained dancers, but with regular people. Oddly shaped, but regular. Onstage we were people peopling, not dancers dancing that rarefied, buoyant, extended line based on a dead French king’s eccentricities. Or even the grounded pelvic girdle of the moderns. We just stood around, waving our arms and yapping. I suppose we looked like we were using what Elvis Costello called “sign language, Morse code, semaphore and gibberish.”
I’m going back today to make another stab at making something. I have 3 more 2-hour slots to pull this off. I feel like crap so far today, bilious as usual, metallic. Couldn’t sleep due to some piercing pain under my ribs on the left side, felt like organ failure but probably only a pulled latissimus. It’s hot and I was slug-like all day yesterday. Today so far, a Tim Buckley and Jeff Buckley morning.
What do you know. Hope springing eternal and tonight’s deadline huffing down my neck, I managed to squeeze out a strange little score that I’m layering onto a honky-tonky hillbilly song by Buck Owens. Somehow that tin-eared sound that was always on the radio of my father’s car feels right. And I have the structure I’d already made using Gericault’s “Raft of the Medusa.” Some text from a GMHC brochure called “Growing Older With the Epidemic: HIV and Aging” that I’ve cut up in the style of Burroughs and Gysin. Some elements to cobble into a pastiche, to project onto the palimpsest of my body struggling to dig into itself.
Throwing the spaghetti yet again at the ceiling to see what sticks.