Sunday, February 6, 2011

Change My Mind

Yesterday made me happy. I set out to make a dance in one month, and I did. I am beyond pleased with the result. For those of you who came out last night in the epic rain, I really appreciate it. For those of you who tuned in online only to find that you couldn't watch my piece because of technical difficulties... I appreciate your effort. And for those of you who sent me an email sending me well wishes, thank you so much. I can't express how wonderful it is to know that I am supported by all of you. I mean check out my baby cousins. Who doesn't love this kind of support?!

What really made the dance though, or I should say who, is Tara. The fact is she's gorgeous, technically strong and emotionally committed. More than that though she understands my ideas and process, and is more than able to interpret those elements in performance. I told her maybe a week and a half ago that she had to dance in rehearsal as hard as she could, so that when she got to performance it would be that much more imbued with all the ideas that we had been discussing.

What were those ideas? During our first rehearsal we chatted for a bit catching up. We hadn't seen each other since mid-December, and even then we hadn't really spent much time together. As women do, we inquired about each others work and health and of course... men.

*sigh* "I've got a man story... but I can't tell it to you," I lamented. She laughed. "Good. I've got one too, that I can't tell you either."

My plan has been for Tara's solo to feed into a larger work that I'm going to produce this year called The Window Sex Project (you will hear much more about this is future posts.) The idea comes from feeling "window shopped" as a woman walking through the streets on your daily route. The project is an attempt to realistically and creatively respond to street harassment; for women to find agency through defining and celebrating their own bodies and sexuality as they see it, as opposed to how you are defined and perceived by others.

It is this idea of defining your body and sexuality for yourself that seeded Tara's solo. I told her in that same rehearsal, very simply, this dance is about your vagina.

I started by teaching her some lengthy phrase material that I had created in my own time. I was inspired my E. Badu's "Out My Mind, Just In Time" which begins in melancholy "I'm a recovering undercover over-lover..." That line is the story of my life with regard to my relationships with women and men, platonic and romantic. What I was finding in my own movement choices was this intense physicality that signaled some kind of guerrilla warfare in defense of my body? my heart? Other sections of movement revealed a sense of loneliness and longing, while others were about self fulfillment.

After putting together maybe 6 sections of movement material there seemed to be an ebb and flow, and uncertainty about it. Like every minute or so, Tara would just change her mind. Unlike my usual process where I will create tons of movement material and edit for conciseness and clarity, I don't think I cut any phrase or even one movement from this dance. It was all equally valid. To me it revealed the overall complexity of the self. All of the various choices and feelings and actions are what make up the whole self.

And then one day I asked Tara to tell me her man story through the form and structure of this dance. What followed were an emotional commitment and conscious decision making throughout that left me riveted. Even with no music, I could not take my eyes off of her because I didn't know what she was going to do next. I mean, yes, I knew what step was next, but I didn't know HOW she was going to do that step. Each of her choices were confident and deliberate and real. All of a sudden I wasn't putting my story on her, instead she was tapping into her own story; finding her own self in the movement.

The thing I loved the most about this creation process was time. With a 31 day commitment to this work (there were maybe only 15 in studio rehearsals) and knowing that this was just a piece of something bigger, I didn't feel a pressure to turn out a great master piece. Working with just one person, I was able to take the time to discover what this really was: a bunch of ideas about self hood and woman hood that I had not quite made sense of yet. In fact, what 20-something really has? The dance reflected that. 

What I do know though, is exactly where Change My Mind fits into The Window Sex Project. My brain is on fire these days as I delve more into all these ideas intellectually and creatively, while remaining present and aware of my daily experience. More on all that later... and I'll post a video soon too.

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