JANUARY 2017: REHEARSAL RESIDENCY, SMITH COLLEGE
The company assembles for three weeks as it continues to build the piece. This time helped us get to "Cut to the Chase."
Trio with Angie, Michelle, Bronwen. Picked up the thread from last June (seven months ago!) surprisingly well. Video is helpful of course but there’s also the affinity of bodies remembering together. What is harder to recall, beyond the placement in time and texture, is the float of attention to several things at once; that’s what first brought you to notice this particular arrangement of parts. Recall is laced with re-composing, with the next-and-newest accumulation of detail and interest, shooting between my "new" perception of what’s happening alongside their "new" recall of the thing. We finished the week with a new trio; the original material, a collection of bits from June, will wait until Sarah’s rejoins the women.
Before the week (three days, really) ends we’ve come up with a paired arrangement: Hero and Attendant. It’s a variation on a relativity that’s been fascinating me for some time. One person faces outward into their imagination, their personal scope writ large and free: the Hero. Another attends to them (Attendant) as Hero presses past them into their excess. I don’t know how to describe it in movement language; the metaphoric works, somehow. I’m reminded of those clips of Little Richard throwing off his cape at the end of a set—so theatrical!—while his handlers (Attendants) try to calm him down. I’m not after the drama, just the different spans of attention between them. Bronwen’s Hero wells up, and out, and up; Angie is her Attendant, matter of fact and complete on her own terms. We will work with this with the full group.
By the time we show them, in a sequence we decide on right at the moment, they seem fairly of-themselves.
I’m struck—throughout the three weeks—by the layers of practice—of different histories of making—between each of these artists. The layers of assumption, of how to rehearse, the degrees of comfort with ideas that take a while to bloom. And of course, their embodied artistries! They are themselves so completely; where does this work fit in with their work?
We switch partners often, I’m enjoying the potentials of each set up. It may be more nerve wracking for them: what’s being seen, what is "successful," what works.
A new score emerges, we call it At Speed. The aim is not to hurry; it is at the speed of what it is, what it takes to accomplish. I like the matter-of-fact-ness, the span between confusion and clarity. There is cueing going on, Cut To The Chase decisions. I think there’s a bypass of aesthetic reasoning—I like that—but perhaps it’s a new aesthetic, a new preference rising. That dang "and" beat between and before action is hard to disrupt, why is that?
There is a day toward the end of the second week , when we listen to KidFury and Crissie on their The Read podcast [from www.thisistheread.com: “Join Kid Fury and Crissle for their weekly podcast covering hip-hop and pop culture's most trying stars…. As transplants to NYC, The Read also serves as an on-air therapy session for two friends trying to adjust to life and rats in the big city.”) A sample from their June 30, 2016 podcast:
C: Did you watch the whole BET Awards?
K: Watch… is like.. is a word. Perused?
C: You fast-forwarded through most of it, didn’t you?
K: The vast majority.
C: Exactly what I should have done.
You need to say it out loud and fast, bambambam, to get it.
1:05: Angie askes D what draws him to it.
Darrell: “The rhythm draws me to it, the vogue-ing, the energy and directness as part of the aesthetic. Not confrontational, but in judgement. Responding to the underlying structures.”
“A certain approach, a rite of passage, so that if you go out in the world you don’t get your ass beat.” The Read is heard as a kind of training, not because we give a __ about Kanye and his baby.
Darrell: "The Rhythm, a kind of energy and directness that’s a part of the aesthetic."
Bebe: "Another instance of Cut to the Chase. If you back off, that’s weak."
1:45 Darrell: ”The way I talk in this studio, with this aesthetic…” He’s practicing it as he speaks.
"It can feel confrontational. It’s inspiring, let me practice this.”
Bebe: “For my generation, the care in my language, talking on many levels at once…how do we get all of that in, in a way to affirm some sense of the complexitiy of being one group together? Part of that singularity is another way of taking this complexity (way-high note!) into that.” (Reference to Wallace….)
Tré: “In every different context there’s the same type of thing, the same back and forth, who has power in the conversation. Insider/outsider.”
Darrell, Sarah and Tré join the group. It’s the first time we’re all together, minus Christal. Once again we start with improvising, taking turns, noting what’s new in play. I’m alert to the Syntax; I watch and juxtapose. Partnered pairs right away, Syntax Duets, playing off of specific descriptives of relation-in-action: relational, relativity; “syntax doesn’t exist without something to say;” continuing past where you often pause; the poetics and musicality noted.
They work separately on the three duets; I always enjoy the overlap of attention at work in the studio. There’s a choreography there that I can’t quite figure out how to craft.
By the Wednesday of the second week, after the first week with Angie, Michelle and Bronwen, we were well into refining our partnered version of prompts. I brought in references to a work I’d just seen (the weekend between, at APAP), which surprised me. (Bringing it into rehearsal so readily is what surprised me; the Joanna’s piece itself was a delight.) "Joanna’s Mind," a reference to Joanna Kotze’s wonderful trio It Happened It Had Happened It Is Happening It Will Happen (APAP showing, New York Live Arts, with dancers Stuart Singer and Netta Yerulshamy), a forthright, odd/looney full-bodied gestural physicality, like shouting the obvious up close. For us, the looney-ness inspired Cut To The Chase (If not now, when?): get to it, take away the "and" in phrasing, less twining and untwining of action.
By Thursday the work coalesces into form and questions:
12 second cohering trios, in circle then sweeping up and down
Matter of fact bleed of entrances, exchanges, assertive J-turns of the group in mass, all working as options
No Moves, a reference to an alert, minimal vitality—borrowed from a description of another arresting performance/performer.
How do we amp the relativity?
Darrell, Tré, and Rick Manayan, our DJ, brought The Read to the studio last August, around the same time that the Toni Morrison and Charlie Rose interview surfaced. I’m not sure which came first but both, together, shifted the tone in the room, differently personal, intimate, black. Between the two I get a hit of The Insider vocabulary, read from the inside on one hand, explained to the outsider on the other. In The Read, snarky-ness is the value point, between them and with their audience. Have I grown out of this, was I ever in it? The trivialness of the topic (Kanye West and his dressed-up child at the BET Awards) is not as relevant as the rhythm, the swing of the back and forth. They’re making a world; their minds are organizing around the incident, Kanye’s two-year old’s “stripper starter kit." You can feel the escalation.
We relate this kind of insider dialogue to dancers-talking-about-the-psoas, of all things! And it’s true, we get to drill down on the specifics of who carries that information correctly, who’s a complete idiot(!) and doesn’t get with the program. Yes, it’s the same self-referential back & forth, insider/outsider, who holds the power.
We as a community know we have read someone else’s physical effort, and have judged it. We talks about the difference between judgement and critique. Michelle: “Critique is information, judgement is power.”
[Are we referring to underlying structures?
Do you see a difference between judgement and critique? Critique is information, judgment is power. Judgment has right and wrong in it. And power.
And does The Read hold power? There’s a whole generation that’s listening to them. As in vogueing there’s a certain approach]
In cultivating critique….in the vogueing community it’s a rite of passage so that when you go out in the world you don’t get your ass beat.
Photos: Derek Fowles