THIS (2014)

 

This, at its core, is another of my “against interpretation” projects (à la Susan Sontag), continuing my interest in a move away from conventions of representation and instead aiming for an experience of the performance moment in and of itself.

By design, I worked with new collaborators for This: Steve Roden, who supplied “the spellbinding, subdued score” (New York Times), and Joe Levasseur, whose “inventive lighting” (ArtsJournal) was cast primarily from two tall lighting trees occupying opposite corners of the stage. Plunging into these unfamiliar relationships really upped the ante for me on the act of collaboration, as did working with dancers new to me, a group without as clear a center as in the past, when the hinge of the group was, I suppose, very much me. This decentering had the effect of extending the movement range even further, and increased the challenges of translating idiosyncratic movement material across the borders of the performers' trainings and histories.

It's important to me to note that my anti-interpretive effort in This is not just an esoteric mind-game for me. I draw a connection here to my experience growing up as a gay child in the 1960s. There I was, a boychild who loved show tunes, Barbie dolls, and dancing around the living room. None of this was a problem for me. But it was eventually understood—interpreted—as a problem by many around me (like the kids who jeered at me in junior high school). I think that this part of my personal history contributes to my desire to make choreography in which the viewer might experience each movement and moment in a setting that discourages easy labeling and instead accommodates for a complex multitude of resonances. Hence lies my interest, however utopian it may be, in somehow provoking an experience of the performance moment “in and of itself”—in addition to, and inclusive of, any interpretations or associations summoned for, or by, the viewer.

I draw an analogy to weather in thinking about This: full of affect and resonance, but without necessarily provoking interpretation, or even naming.

This premiered at New York Live Arts in New York City.
(54 minutes, four dancers)
Original Music and Lobby Video Installation: Steve Roden
Lighting Design: Joe Levasseur
Costumes: James Kidd Studio
Performed by: Molly Lieber, Omagbitse Omagbemi, Mina Nishimura, Connor Voss

  1. "by the time the lights faded for good, the dancers had told us so much, so quietly. And the world felt different."
    Andrew Boynton, The New Yorker (source)
  2. "I watched This enthralled… I'd gladly sit down and take in this busy, lucid little world (oops, sorry, dance) all over again."
    Deborah Jowitt, Village Voice (source)
  3. "the choreographer has ceded control to his four magnetic dancers, letting their distinctive bodies and artistry drive the exploration."

    Martha Sherman, danceviewtimes: writers on dancing (source)
  4. "This is a treat to be relaxed into, pleasure lurking in its dry playfulness. The regality of the performers elevates the vagary into something sublime, and what could just be an event, seen but not felt, becomes an experience."

    Erin Bomboy, The Dance Enthusiast (source)

THE COLLABORATORS

JAMES KIDD STUDIO

Jmy James Kidd lives and works in Los Angeles, California. She designs dances, clothing and community spaces as James Kidd Studio. Her dances have been commissioned by The Kitchen (NYC), Machine Project (LA), and The Skirball Cultural Center (LA). She was part of the Hammer Museum's Made in LA 2014. Her studio, Pieter Performance Space, is both her workspace and a community center, a refuge for dancer people to rehearse, take class and show work. Awards include CHIME Southern California 2012, an ARC Grant 2012 for NICK+JAMES (a collaborative project with Nick Duran), and a residency at Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2011.


JOE LEVASSEUR

Joe Levasseur has collaborated with many dance and performance artists including: John Jasperse, RoseAnne Spradlin, Sarah Michelson, David Dorfman, Jodi Melnick, Beth Gill, Maria Hassabi, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Lee Saar the Company, Anna Sperber, Megan Sprenger, and Christopher Williams. He has received two Bessie awards for his design work, including one with Big Dance Theater for Comme Toujours Here I Stand. In 2009 his Drop Clock installation was featured in the lobby of Dance Theater Workshop (New York Live Arts). In 2010 he showed a collection of original paintings at Performance Space 122. Ongoing projects include lighting work for Jennifer Monson, Big Dance Theater, Wendy Whelan, and Palissimo.


STEVE RODEN

Steve Roden is a visual and sound artist living in Pasadena, Ca. His work includes painting, drawing, film/video, sound, writing and performance. Recent exhibitions and performances include: Berkeley Art Museum, CA; Menil Collection, Houston, TX; Strasbourg Museum, France; First international Biennial of Contemporary Art, Cartagena de Indias, Columbia; Susanne Vielmetter LA Projects; CRG gallery New York. Grants and fellowships include: Harvestworks, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Chinati Foundation Artist in Residence, and a Civitella Ranieri Foundation residency. From 1978-1982 Roden was the lead singer of the Los Angeles punk band, Seditionaries.

© Frank Mullaney
© Frank Mullaney
© Ian Douglas

This was commissioned by New York Live Arts and made possible, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts and by contributors to the Dance Theater Workshop Commissioning Fund at New York Live Arts.

This received production development support from American Dance Institute (ADI)'s National Incubator residency program.

This was also made possible by support from The Yellow House Fund, the Leonard and Sophie Davis Fund, 2wice Arts Foundation, and research funds from Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts.

This was videotaped by the Dance Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts for preservation in the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image.