Sunday, September 18, 2011

Margin to Center

“The significance of feminist movement [The Window Sex Project and its performance space] is that it offers a new ideological meeting ground for the sexes, a space for criticism, struggle and transformation.” bell hooks From Margin to Center

I'm not gonna lie. Yesterday morning I was hella nervous. Ebonie couldn't figure out why. "You're not giving people enough credit," she said. "People will stand with you on this issue." Still. I worried. There would be children in the audience -- and the opening dialogue is not for the light-hearted, although we did bleep out the profanity.

The language of my contract with the Harlem Arts Alliance kept floating to the forefront of my mind:
No interpretive dance... only traditional dance such as ballet or African. 
Ha. Don't they know all dance can be interpreted? And they definitely saw the clips of my work... I'm not a ballet choreographer.
The sections I showed were 2 out of 3 sections I've made. Those two are the beginning, "Keep it Moving," and the ending, "Margin to Center."

While watching the work on stage with fresh eyes, absolute absurdity is the phrase that kept returning to mind during the first section. Absurd like, did he just say that? Did they make that up? No. All those comments are quotes. Absurd like women as plastic Barbie dolls with limited mobility in their movable parts whose sole purpose is to be manipulated to someone else's satisfaction. Absurd like toy monkeys banging symbols. What "Keep It Moving" needs going forward in the rehearsal process is Rockette-precision. Arms this height. Legs that height. Counting out the 5 AND 6 AND 7 AND 8 AND... That section reads best when it is crispy clean as Auzriel's cheerleader pep song resounds "What you lookin' at? Huh? What you lookin at? Do you like what what you see? Do you like what what you see?" I also want to re-examine the opening with the ladies "walking in the street." Their walks happened so fast -- I wanted more variation. Sometimes there was too much walking and sometimes there wasn't enough.

[Click Here to see Performance Footage]

Moving into "Margin to Center," I was so happy to see that the movement did exactly what I set out for it to do even though I think that it could have been more extreme. I borrow the title from bell hooks because the dancers finally take on some agency. They slowly begin to choose how they want to be seen, adjusting themselves and their clothes and the physical space that they choose to dance in. Still, in the performance I felt like the dancers were playing it safe, and that is largely due to the limited amount of rehearsal time we've had -- we just "finished" the piece last week. The performance qualities I need from them come from knowing the material so well that they can take risks and make choices within the construct of the work.  This section is the moment where they are allowed their freedom and opportunity to express their individuality. In terms of movement that means they can jump HUGE, turn a million times, move in and out of the floor and I think there could be more (or revised?) partnering with more contact, weight sharing and lifts. I literally want them to share solidarity in this section's celebratory physicality. Between sweat and smiles there is intimacy, mutuality, camaraderie, and sisterhood -- bonds formed over shared experiences.

Regardless of my endless list of critiques forming while watching the piece with fresh eyes (seeing it along side a live audience and seeing it on video) the work accomplished exactly what I set out for it to do. The park was a perfect place for this performance. The reach of the sound system spilled over and beyond the borders of 145th Street and Bradhurst Avenue making the performance a head on confrontation with the daily street commentary directed toward women passerby's. Reverberating through the trees, grass and pavements was a booming tenor voice "I bet if I hit you in the head with a brick you'd turn around."

After the performance I eavesdropped on multiple thoughtful conversations, and so many people came up to me wanting to talk more about the work. Women told me they felt uplifted and inspired after seeing the work and that made me happy. My goal is that any and everyone watching the work will want to get up and dance after being a part of The Window Sex Project performance experience.

So we'll see how it goes, next time

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