For the last several years I’ve been quick to state that I hate performing, though I love dancing and moving. Growing up taking dance class after dance class I was always the blank-faced kid on stage, feeling openly resentful towards the artificiality of ‘pulling face’, but so eager to take on the physical challenge of dance. (Spoiler alert: I still feel that way - even as a choreographer that asks for facial involvement in some of my work - more power to those of you who enjoy that sort of thing.) In college I was really aware of my imperfect technique and lack of natural flexibility and a ‘dancer’s body’ and with the beginning stages of a hip injury that followed me through the past decade, my distaste for the ‘being on stage’ part of dance grew and grew and was easily justifiable in my own thoughts. Honestly there was nothing to miss by taking myself out of the performance equation; I’ve always wanted to create, never perform, and I find no greater personal satisfaction than in developing new work on a group of performers and watching it become their own physical and mental property - magic.
This year something happened.
A month ago I found myself in the midst of an hour-long solo performance, engrossed in what I was doing and truly enjoying it. Yes, it was a safe space and I was surrounded by peers. Yes, I had created the work from a completely genuine place with a collaborator I trusted. But… I [think I] was performing. And enjoying it.
I’m curious about everything - especially the inner workings of the brain - and have the tendency to crave the search for ‘why’, we can blame this on being the offspring of a therapist. Of course my brain jumped on the task of determining how and why this shift snuck up on me. I could track threads back to fall 2014, when I was participating in a choreographer’s residency at Green Street Studios (immediately after hip surgery) and had to share work that I was exploring with outside eyes. I remember being slightly terrified and equally thrilled when Karen Krolak and Lorraine Chapman pushed pushed pushed me one weekday morning just to be real, to be present, to deliver the movement I made as my own impulse dictated at the time. What felt right? Where did my body want to pause, and why ignore it? Karen, who I consider a great mentor, spent a few more mornings on the hunt for the identity of this phrase, continuing to (delightfully) challenge the process. Another evening Andy Taylor Blenis pushed me through that same phrase focusing on owning the physicality in the present. Real… present… These were things I totally stand behind as a human, and my conception of a performer based outside of one’s own true self started to melt. I’m not sure any of these wonderful women artists know what they jumpstarted, as they kindly shared their time, compassion and thoughts, or that it took me a full year and a half later to find the depth of my gratitude!
Another opportunity to be grateful for and the point of this entry... through the entire fall I was fortunate enough to work with a friend and fellow artist, Wolf Luman, and to sustain a deep dialogue through music and movement. He would communicate through brilliant sound that streamed into my ears, I would answer by following what my body needed to say in honest response. We never met in person, but kept a steady flow of tracks and filmed rehearsal sessions volleying back and forth. A few months later, Wolf had created an entire new album and without knowing it I created an hour of movement, obviously the fruit of both of which was a stand alone performance piece. And when you create such a beautiful performance piece, you have to perform it! And we did. And it felt incredible. And the audience was enraptured. There’s more to explore here about creating such a personal work through organic mediums (body and sound) with completely digital communication, but I’ll save it for another day.
I think the greatest takeaway is that a performance experience doesn’t necessitate ‘performing’ if you’re simply being authentic and present in live movement research. During each second of my hour long performance/sound exploration I was making choices - to move or not to move, if I decided to move what did my body need to do to fulfill my internal needs and the needs of the relationship between music and myself at that split second in time? What was I feeling at any given second and how could I merge that with what I wanted to say with my body? Yes, I recognized the fact that I was being watched and yes, those individuals viewing the performance shifted the goal ever so slightly just due to the fact that they were present in the space and all focusing their energy on the same subject (me!), but it was ok.
Looking ahead, where does this new found intrigue in exploring movement in front of others lead? Perhaps for me, a performance that is enjoyable and satisfying will always be improv so I can be absolutely authentic in any given split second of movement. In any case, I’m happy to have the beautiful ability to evolve, grow and see where the self exploration takes me.