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Pictured above standing (l to r) are Meredith Meiko Horiuchi, Jonathan Way, Jens Wazel, Erik Neumann, Adam Kozie, Levi Fuller, Jon Pontrello and Kevin Goldsmith and sitting (l to r) are Heather Stockton, Zoe Scofield, Alice Gosti, Jenna Bean Veatch, Stephanie Skura, Cara Siu, Heather Cullen and Jonathan Deschamps.
I would be lying and fibbing and warping the concept of truth and distorting reality and stoned and floating somewhere between south for the winter and out to lunch if I had expressed before Saturday, December 4th that it would very likely be a full house for Installment 7. I would have had to have had absolutely no knowledge of events at On The Boards and Velocity taking place the same weekend and absolutely no awareness of their potential effect. However, I was privy to the other fantastic events around town (Paige and I collectively attending both on various nights) and while I felt great about who would be participating in Installment 7 I also felt, well, not-so-great. Would there be a respectable mass of attendees? Would it translate to a less-than-electric performance experience for the talent-gorged participants? By design, HERE/NOW is about showcasing not only the depth of artistic ability of Pacific Northwesterners but their adaptability in a high pressure setting. Would a substantially smaller audience prove the perfect downfall of the evening? (Sidenote: if and when those doing research into consciousness-cloning (i.e., individuals experientially being in two discrete spacetime locations at once) publicly announce unequivocal success in their findings and we're all able to achieve the coolness that will be compartmentalized consciousness, the grip of my argument will be moot and academic and theoretical and insignificant and marginally worth the pixels its displayed on.)
I keep hearing from all variety of folks that Dance has a diminutive-scaled community faction who make a point to attend events billed, at least in part, as such. And for the first time I let myself believe this hebetudinous sentiment. Hogwash. Personally, I believe Dance is BY DEFINITION the most accessible art form being practiced. They say football (i.e., soccer) is the world's most popular sport because all you need is something round-ish and soft-ish to kick around... everything else is easily adapted from that which surrounds you embedded in the elements of your immediate environment. Well, Dance should be just as popular given that reasoning. Dance, it seems to me, is about the body and its ability to communicate and express and speak and insinuate and convey and discover and declare and expose and articulate and challenge using solely that which defines an individual's particular physique in combination with their ideas and areas of artistic interest. So, uhm, let me get this straight 'cause I'd hate to misrepresent: body (check), mind (check). Huh. That seems fairly straight-forward from where I'm skittering.
Thing is, it WAS a full house. And while a chunk of me was bracing for far less, I was gently reminded, as the steady flow of people climbed the spiral stairs of Open Flight Studio, that Seattle has a lot of soul and the capacity to ripple surprise as if it was as normal as sneezing and closing your eyes (accidental beat poetry anyone?). So, I would like to thank all those who attended Installment 7 from the dry tempered earthy bottom of my heart... it was an honor having you there/then. I humbly apologize for ever doubting your commitment. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Now, as far as the clarity and pumped-up brightness that was the eight duets' eight Dancers and eight Musicians I would like to say this: each and every one of you was poignant and beautiful and engaging and invested and stimulating and creative and inspiring and affecting and irreplaceable. You know, it goes without saying for the most part that Paige and I aren’t spending approximately eight months out of twelve curating and writing and organizing and producing HERE/NOW because it brings home the Field Roast®. And we don’t sweat every imaginable detail because we’re in search of an outlet for our combined obsessive compulsive tendencies (okay, in all fairness that one’s debatable). We do it because we know the Pacific Northwest is better off because HERE/NOW does exist and does so in a healthy, dynamic and community-engaging fashion. I could have never imagined, though, the extent to which I, the fader-in and fader-out of the “stage lights” (oh, man… what a stretch-fit pair of jeans that description is), could be so abysmally privileged to have a front row seat to every duet. To be able to sit there and take in every single arch and note and slide and nuance and breath and fumble and scream and stillness and sequence and run and dive and silence and chance and risk… it’s very often far, far too much to swallow and I find myself on the verge of small country creeks of tears at least twice during each installment. Installment 7 was no exception. My personal compensation, my most core raison d’être, if you will, revealed itself long ago as being able to witness all this sheer gorgeous nerve from my on-stage vantage point. It’s been inspiring as hell, truth be told.
I believe it was Gandhi who once said, “be the change you want to see in the world”. Well, I give what I give to HERE/NOW because it is an art-based event I want to see in the world. And, now, I do. And so can you. Hi ho.
We had our first international participant! Dancer Cara Siu braved crossing into the Homeland from sunny Vancouver, BC to officially plunge the Canadian flag into the decades-worn wood floors of OFS. It was tow-tallee an honor having her, ya-no!!!
Dance is an art that employs the human form as its tool of expression. Due to this we tend to view Dance through the lens of personal relationships, our knowledge of our own body and its movements and physicality-based belief systems and the images they convey. Consequently, body shape, age, gender and ethnicity all start to play a potential role in the act of making as well as viewing Dance. And while a Dance work's main purpose may be to study and present a commentary on contemporary cultural assumptions and belief systems regarding body shape, age, gender and ethnicity, to fully digest such Dance requires the viewer to confront their own preconceived ideas regarding these factors and to understand that what is being presented is exposing potentially oppressive, hypocritical, violent, ignorant and/or antiquated viewpoints. Powerfully resonant performers tend to be aware of these viewpoints and address them during their work. During Installment 7 two participants, Stephanie Skura and Heather Stockton, challenged viewers by confronting some of the preconceived notions regarding age and body shape respectively.
I find it unsettling that at 34 years old I sometimes think I am officially "old". In an email conversation with past HERE/NOW participant and Dance pillar, 55-year old choreographer/dancer Wade Madsen, I wrote: "I think a lot about the aging process and a dancer's relationship to this process. At the Gyrotonic studio where I work, I interact with people ranging from 16 to 70 years old. I am witness to their coping with pain and to the measures taken to heal, both physically and psychologically. Being an active participant in this aspect of people's intimate lives can be poignant, inspiring, sad, grounding and heroic. How we choose to accept ourselves requires discipline, openness, compassion and patience." It appears that as we age our bodies change... often these changes are qualified and experienced as a "negative". And understandingly so, fatigue and pain aren't normally accepted as "positive". I want to empower those experiencing these changes in their bodies and present their Dance work as potential doorways into unknown territories of expression.
The duet between dancer Stephanie Skura and musician Adam Kozie inspired perseverance. Stephanie has been professionally choreographing, teaching and performing for the past 45 years. She jumped high as well as quietly and finitely expressed her limbs. She yelled, "change location!" after bursting and passing through many forms. I laughed. I wasn't alone to say the least. She became a regal showgirl and then an absurdist commenting on avant-garde performance; she attentively sculpted each moment. Adam moved between explosively complex and precise minimal rhythms on drums and calmly reflective sustained tones on glockenspiel created by the slow pulls of a cello bow. They listened to one another and supported each other's craft while perfectly demonstrating power, quietude and skill.
I found particularly serendipitous the duets between: dancer Jens Wazel and musician Jonathan Deschamps, both had a sense of playfulness, theatrics and elegant and crafty clowning with a sentimental undertone; dancer Meredith Meiko Horiuchi and musician Jon Pontrello, both had a grassroots, innocent and humble yet bold sensibility; and dancer Zoe Scofield and musician Kevin Goldsmith, both haunting in their efforts, feeding a dark, unknown, emotional, physical/sonic space.
In order to generate content for the printed programs, Christopher and I ask the participants to answer questions that are one part biography, one part interview. These questions and their answers induce diverse responses from participants and audience alike. And while they are intentionally broad in scope they simultaneously tend to resonate on a hyper-personal level. They were created in order to provide knowledge, insight and inspiration regarding each participant as opposed to highlighting solely career achievements as seems to be the norm for program content. One of the questions is to recount your "Most Cherished Artistic Experience" and Heather Stockton wrote: "Being cast in Amy O'Neal's Full Tilt, my body singing, heart pumping... it was pure joy. I realized I had let a rejection letter to an arts school due to "excessive weight" dictate my decision to take a break from dance. I am free again." This pristinely illustrates the contemporary opinion on Dance and the beautiful power of an individual to challenge and change this opinion. Heather's honesty is courageous and her actions are self-, life- and art-empowering.
I believe while viewing work that curiosity is essential. HERE/NOW urges this of the viewer and participant alike. The simple and firm format of HERE/NOW creates a realm of new possibilities by acting as a mirror for cultural and artistic assumptions while simultaneously breaking them. All things considered, Installment 7 was yet another evening featuring risk and inspiration. Thank you.
The evening's duets in chronological order:
1. Heather Stockton (D) + Heather Cullen (M)
2. Jens Wazel (D) + Jonathan Deschamps (M)
3. Jenna Bean Veatch (D) + Levi Fuller (M)
4. Cara Siu (D) + Erik Neumann (M)
5. Zoe Scofield (D) + Kevin Goldsmith (M)
6. Alice Gosti (D) + Jonathan Way (M)
7. Meredith Meiko Horiuchi (D) + Jon Pontrello (M)
8. Stephanie Skura (D) + Adam Kozie (M)
If you attended this installment take a minute and share your thoughts. What did you feel was the most engaging moment of the evening? Whose duet resonated with you the most? How did you hear about HERE/NOW and why did you feel as if you wanted to attend? Were you familiar with any of the participants? Did the evening serve as a catalyst for discussion amongst friends?