City and City

As a dancer, you are one body, trained and clearly individual. What kind of movement allows you to explore the interstices between your body and that of others? To explore the boundary?

Every body is a series of open ended questions. Our sensing, thinking, sensate flesh handles the complexity of simultaneously breathing, dying, eating, birthing, grieving. Our material, our embodied mind, is a canvas of multiple futures that can pop in and out of possibility -  a mosaic, an assemblage. Each one of us is already a third space, already queering nature/culture, self/other; our bodies are home to many organisms and affects - they are already multispecies entanglements.

Contact is a study in epigenetics - what happens when this stock meets these environments, when this ephemeral archive encounters that one? What gets turned on? What other possibilities, what other bodies might emerge? Without conquest, without seduction, without necessitating harmony, what might happen when we uncontrol our sociability, unhold our sense of boundedness?

Our practice is one of unholding. Rather than emulating shapes, we seek sensation in that which is always free and available: in opening to gravity, in yielding to breath. We investigate what is weighty, low in tone, slow in time, unheroic, and we do it with an assortment of tools that hone our attention, that invite imagination to pour out of movement. We explore multiple registers of the gaze: how we look from the “outside in” or “inside out,”  and also: how can we look from the “inside in”? How do we feel the body with the body? Sense breath with breath?

The practice that I am currently involved in with Alexis, Rain, and Amelie is one of being alone together. Winnicottian theory in practice: playing in the presence of an other. In our practice, we are all creators. All making choices in the moment. We watch and listen from our own curiosity. We scaffold each other sometimes. We stimulate or saturate each other at others. Ours is a fleshy practice, an erotics of ambiguity, of multiple openings, of inhabiting soft containers, of letting our meat hang.

A big piece of concert dance training was learning how to attune oneself to the group, to dance in unison. This work together however emphasizes individuality. Each dancer is seeking their own pleasure, opening to the pleasure in looking and being looked at, of giving and receiving weight. Our practice relinquishes concepts of frontality, of linearity, of the hierarchizations and demarcations that narrate our bodies as tiny islands of monadic mediocrity. We seek to decolonize and unsettle the domestication of our bodies. We are not institutions, we are not museums, we are not abstractions, we are not sites of occupation or projects of improvement. Our dancing bodies are a symphony of polyglot, polyrhythmic conversations.

You are reading Olivia Lang's book, Lonely City, which is about the kind of perception possible in a state of chronic social alienation. How do you see the impact of this on your process for this performance? What do you draw from it?

Laing’s work deeply impacted me in its description of the feelings of exposure in loneliness and the sense of it as personal failure. What do you do with your feelings of personal failure other than manically attempt to compensate? This particular studio practice grew from such questions following a sense of queer failure after the breakup of a longterm relationship and subsequent sputterings to intimately connect with another love object. Failing in love, in self-care, and in self-containment, I needed to find a studio practice that had room for my tremendous sense of loss and precarity, the need to bear weight, to survive waves of loss. To endure the craving for touch, intimacy, for the appreciative coherence-giving gaze of the lover. Finding the dyad far too triggering to be vitalizing, my interest went towards finding inhabitable spaces within a group.

One manic defense to overcome alienation is the imperative to stand alone, to mobilize ourselves. Failing to do so allows the recognition of a reality beyond capitalism, which is that of eternally evanescent entanglements. I am thinking of Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s “The Mushroom at the End of the World” in which she discusses landscape modifications that priviledge, and capitalize on, one stand alone crop. Everything else denounced “waste” or “weeds,” and so once the desired object is used up, ruin is the result. Ruins tend to be abandoned, and the abandonment itself gives way to the springing forth of adaptive, creative, organismic vivacity.

When Elizabeth described her sculptural vision, I kept thinking about inhabiting that fecund gap between the cool stark angularity of metal and glass. A space that is hypervisible but impenetrable. The scentless, soundless, sterility of those shapes upon first glance giving way to the life that sprouts between and among the tiny cracks, the creativity of organismic vitality in tiny spaces. That is our urban life. In this city of interiors, everything that can happens does. Laing’s fertile ruminations on the explosive force of her subject’s practices inspired my decision to use this platform to loiter, non-productively, with what can happen in the margins. A sliver of space between a steel sheet and a pane of glass- between a rock and a hard place.

Pushed to the margins, not just in terms of space but possibilities of bodily comportment, other life takes hold. What are our possibilities for occupying space with a reparative gaze, non-productive labor, and pleasure in what is free - gravity, and breath. Explosion of possibilities for holding paradox when the conditions are right. In the dusk of fantasies of pharmacological redemption, many are turning toward plants for healing - weeds hold our medicine. Weeds that grow between cracks in the sidewalk have the the bitterness, the willfulness, the generosity, the doggedness that we also need to survive in between these monolithic squares. I am interested in the possibilities of these weed dances. These ways in which we grow an intimacy beyond the reproductive discreet consuming unit of the couple. I think perhaps it is easier for several to dance together rather than two, as the dyad tends to replicate the mother/infant entanglement, that first, most dangerous coupling.

Because of the precarity performed in the mother/infant dynamic, the stakes are always extremely high. It is our very dependence on the mother that sets up for the ensuing implicit and explicit violence of our relations to her. Consequently, misogyny is a mammalian thing.

Laing writes about the “perpetual, harrowing, non-consensual beauty pageant of femininity.” All of my work seeks to decolonize my body, to find ways of living beyond the punishment and policing of the gender binary. In training for concert dance, I learned to force myself to perform a specific kind of silent, hyperflexible, “resilience”-- to objectify my body and its possibilities for movement. How do i de-objectify my body with my body? How to move from desire and pleasure while participating in the long and torrid violence of representation. When i explore my own pleasure it is always in dialogue with a history of object/ivity, object/ism, with a body rendered speechless in my education in dance and white cisfemininity. Hysterical passivity into the fascia. This work for me also grows from a need to resist the tyranny of being in shape, being a shape, that is hypervisible as “feminine”- a kind of fetish object.

How do you conceive sound's role in your work? In this project specifically, but perhaps also in general? As a choreographer?

We begin life in a world of sound: the sound heard through the body of an other, the body of our mother. A symphonic world, a noisy world, the sounds of embodiment through the flesh of a body that is both one and not. The original submerged dyad.

The rehearsal space is a container, giving coherence through inhabiting talking, moving bodies. In this particular practice, voice and movement arise together, sound pours from the body, reporting the continuous transfer of weight, the exquisite attention of moving just one part. We use language and the sound of the breath. Sound contains and reveals and resonates and exceeds.

Life is noisy. Contact with an other makes sound. Sound is happening everywhere around and everywhere inside. We hear where we are in space: we use our sense of sound to orient. We can close eyes but not ears, and we listen with our whole bodies, receiving the the long waves that pass through and are felt as sound. Sound waves cannot exist in a vacuum- they are always making contact, passing through something. In this project, Josh layered beds of sound with snippets of text and reporting. Rosalind Crisp calls this reporting “news from the body.”

In this piece, language slips in and out of coherence, some it overheard, understated, overwhelmed by beds of sound, landscapes to lean on and into. In some spaces, selves might be spoken into existence through symbolic thinking, through linguistic meaning making. In this work, our entangled multispecies selves continuously emerge through thick beginnings, attention, and desire.