We pick up trash. We pick it up from the street, from the dumpster, from the park. We feel it’s weight, texture, size. We carry it around. Show it to people. Dance with it. Sometimes we keep it. We wear it, we find some use for it. Like a second life, keeping it away from the landfills and oceans just for a bit longer. At some point in the past few months since we’ve been doing the trash outings, someone mentioned the famous saying: “A man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Well, no. It’s not about that. That saying makes it sound light. It takes away the blame from the first wasteful man.
Because that’s where the problem is.
That saying makes it sound as if there were always two men. One throwing away and the other one picking it up.
The reality is that there is no way there could be enough people dedicated to picking up and finding use to all the trash that gets produced in the world minute by minute. It’s not getting recycled either. No one is cleaning up our mess, and we’re reaching a breaking point.
We need to stop looking the other way.
That’s why we pick up trash and make people hold it with their own hands, make people see it as part of a costume or as part of a performance.
We want to put trash at eye level, in the center of it all. Because trash is a treasure, it is very valuable. It was produced with very costly materials. It took designers, factory workers, electricity, water. It took oil and natural gas. It took land. It took lives. And we throw it away. Because it became cheap.
How come something that costly to make became so cheap to consume, so easy to dispose?
Who is absorbing the real cost of trash?
Poor people, brown and black people, indigenous people, and nature.
Poor folks in Oklahoma are now convinced that there always used to be earthquakes in their hometowns, although those started when fracking came, now they’re spending their savings in earthquake insurance.
The Dakota Access Pipeline was built on Sioux sacred land, national guard and police removed all protesters from the site. It is already leaking.
The United States violates the sovereignty of other countries in order to gain access to and control over their natural resources. Such interference includes bribing corrupt politicians, training and arming police, paramilitary or terrorist groups, or taking direct U.S. military action. Thereby, powerful economies like the U.S. take not only land resources, but they also take control of the markets, making others dependent on their manufactured products. They also get cheap labor, to further economize in the making of their products. That is called colonization and slavery.
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A poor person is someone who is trapped in a situation they can’t control. Someone who can’t quit their jobs, can’t negotiate their salaries, can’t protest. A poor person is someone who has been stripped of their autonomy.
In many places around the world people have lived and could continue to live off their land, with small agriculture, fishing, hunting and just knowing how to build and repair things, and how to heal. When land gets taken, their lives get taken too. They are forced to participate in the global economy, as cheap labor. That is when they become poor, or immigrants. No more fish, no more hunt, no more medicinal plants, no more knowledge.
We have been stripped away from ancestral knowledge.
Some people weren’t raised with it at all. The operating ideological system in America has been for the individual to get ahead, no matter the cost. That makes people poor too. They have to work long hours so that they can buy what they need. A person needs to work hard to make a lot of money to be able to access “good” housing, education, or healthcare. No time for cooking? Get delivery. It broke, out of fashion? Buy a new one. Food went bad (because of “busy schedules”)? Throw it away. It’s more convenient.
The livelihoods of immigrants, refugees, and indigenous peoples around the globe, have been sacrificed for our convenience. We have traded our own livelihood, our autonomy.
We have also traded natural diversity, clean water, clean air. We have pushed species to the brink of extinction, decimated entire ecosystems, to produce things that get used once. To produce food that doesn’t get eaten. There’s no quantitative worth to nature, so it doesn’t add up to the cost of trash.
Trash is trash because determined human lives are cheaper. That’s what racism is. Some lives are less valuable. That’s what the colonizer made the poor and the slave believe. And the poor and the slave, and their descendants, assimilated these values. We have been made complicit, through consumerism, in the violence that is made against each other and against nature.
Before we move with trash, we reconnect to mother nature, as a way to heal from the violence of the impact of our actions. Through sensation and movement, we get in touch with the love and gratitude to life. We bring to our process the awareness of the equal value of all existing life forms to de-center western capitalistic human experience. We propose an embodied practice to change our consciousness.
Because that is the biggest challenge: to see that the reality that has been served to us is incomplete. That it doesn’t account for diverse forms of life, and it doesn’t account for a sustainable future on this planet. We need to wake up to reality. We need to find the root of the problem in our assimilated hierarchical behavior. We need to decolonize our bodies, our homes, our time. We need to reconnect to nature and its processes. Only through the recovery and the defending of autonomous ways of living, we can stand strong together and make a change.
Educate ourselves about and stand with indigenous and environmental resistance movements at home and around the world.
Educate our children about the impact of consumerist actions.
Spend time in nature. Observe animal life. Be quiet. Be humble.
Stop buying plastic.
Learn about the real cost of things, their carbon footprint, their manufacturing processes.
Learn how to’s (cook, build, repair, heal).
Observe hierarchical thought at the workplace, challenge it.
Get used to demand our right to a dignified life (access to housing, healthcare, education) from employers, institutions, politicians.
Reduce the amount of waste we and our families produce. Talk about waste.
Get involved. Find strength in the community of people who are fighting for justice.
“La Invasión”, es una colonia (barrio) de Tulum que se llama así porque sus habitantes han llegado como han podido y han tomado un pedacito de tierra para construir sus casas con materiales más bien improvisados.
Danny Alveal Aravena, chileno, videógrafo y fotógrafo, ha estado trabajando en temas de migración, en este caso, la chiapaneca. Yo, Maira Duarte, mexicana, desde el performance, educación y otras cosas, pues con la experiencia de migración y racismo en los estados unidos y en nueva york particularmente. Justo antes de conocer a Danny, venía de haber filmado una videodanza con niños de inmigrantes, en protesta a la violencia e injusticia sucediendo en la frontera US-Mexico, en colaboración con Semillas Collective y Mayday Space.
Danny y yo decidimos ruta, fecha, hora y acción. Me pongo una máscara de luchador que compré en la Avenida, mis tenis para bailar (cortesía de Justin Cabrillos), y agarro un costal de papas.
En los últimos años he estado metida haciendo Environmental Dance Research (Investigación de Danza Ambientalista), con Jo Stone, mi colaboradora en ya varios proyectos. Comenzamos siempre meditando caminando con los ojos cerrados, nos subimos al tono y ritmo de lo que nos rodea. Atestiguamos y percibimos al árbol, el árbol es testigo nuestro y nos percibe. Usamos esto como entrenamiento para la descentralización de la experiencia humana, para el entendimiento de la vida como un todo, para minimizar nuestro impacto, como ser imperialista y colonizador. Para de-colonizar nuestro cuerpo.
Con la danza, investigo las siguientes correlaciones: visión utilitaria de la naturaleza, visión utilitaria de gente considerada inferior (racismo) = perdida de habitat, y de autonomía para los pueblos originarios, y otras poblaciones discriminadas = conflicto social, pobreza, pérdida de cultura e identidad, extinción de formas de vida diferentes (humanas y no humanas) = homogeneización.
El capitalismo requiere de homogeneidad. En el capitalismo no hay cabida a la existencia de distintos mundos. La máquina, para operar bien engrasada, necesita que los individuos asimilen un rol uniforme, el de la narrativa dominante. Por lo tanto estrangula la diversidad en la cultura y la naturaleza. Especies y lenguas, hábitats y medicina. La autonomía, pluralidad y consenso, son tareas humanas arduas y lentas. No le sirven al máquino. Y sin embargo, comunidades e individuos marginados continúan levantadas en resistencia, ahora más que nunca. Como dijo Marichuy, líder del Consejo Nacional Indígena: “La nuestra, es una lucha por la vida”.
Y con todo eso en la cabeza, me echo a andar por calles no transitadas por los turistas de Tulum. Caminar en silencio ayuda a entrar en un estado meditativo donde una reemplaza los pensamientos con las imágenes y sonidos que la rodean. Mando la atención a lo desechado. Lo que alguna vez tuvo un uso, y ahora, no. Una botella de plástico con un palo atravesado. Parece ser que a este ya le habían dado una segunda vida. Lo escojo para mi costal.
De vez en cuando me ruedo por el piso o me cuelgo de una barda, para deslizar un poco la relación aceptada de calle y cuerpo.
Tengo una modesta y temporal audiencia, de la cual los niños son los que miran por más tiempo. Cuando camino hacia alguien y les sonrío, me sonríen de vuelta, a una señora le faltaban los 4 dientes de arriba.
La calle es una cosa, pero el terreno baldío es otra. En la calle hay dos o tres basuras, todo manejable, los terrenos desocupados, en cambio…
En uno hay un gallo. Nos atestiguamos el uno al otro. Nos identificamos con paciencia, y después, cada quien continua con lo que nos proponíamos, aquél buscar comida y yo basura.
En otro terreno, hay una televisión sin caja. Lo de seguir basura es preguntarse, ¿cómo fue a parar eso ahí? Se compraron otra tele, pienso. Se descompuso tal vez. La cargo y la llevo al camino, quiero que la gente la vea. La vida de tantos se ha construido alrededor de tener una televisión como para acabar así.
A pesar de las cantidades de desecho, en esta zona del mundo la selva combate como puede a la basura. Está enterrada, ya le está creciendo yerba. Hay cantidades de insectos y otros bichos, maleza, árboles tremendos. Recojo palos y piedras también. La gente de por aquí, construye sus casas con lo que puede.
Encuentro un árbol para abrazar que ya no es árbol, es poste de cercado, y ya no es ni eso, se cayó hace un tiempo y vive echado enmarañado de alambre de púas. Es basura orgánica, dale unos años y la madera se continuará descomponiendo, el alambre se oxidará y todo se hará polvo.
A la costa de Quintana Roo llegan unos 5 millones de turistas cada año. Tulum, en esta temporada, está lleno de sargazo. Montañas de sargazo, que los empleados de los hoteles apalean y suben en carritos y meten en bolsas de plástico para “deshacerse” de ellas. Pero, gracias al calentamiento global, el mar sigue trayendo más. Los turistas absurdos pagan un dineral para echarse al sol en medio de la peste.
Nos metemos al corazón de la invasión. Yo como invasor también. Los perros me ladran. Las familias están en el cotorreo post-navideño. Construyo mi casa con los materiales de mi costal y otros más que me encuentro por ahí. Dentro de mi terreno cercado, bailo. Bailo en ofrenda al barrio. Le hago una danza al espacio y a los vecinos. Los niños son los que miran más.
Juego con mi frontera. Se ma va volando mi costal. Ya que estoy metida ahí, me da miedo irme. ¿Qué tal que pierdo mi casa? ¿Qué tal que no me quieren pasando mi muro? El mundo de pronto se me figura que se divide entre los que están adentro, los que están afuera, y los que podemos entrar y salir. Se dice que la migración es un derecho humano. A mi me parece que, hacerlo legalmente, ha sido siempre el privilegio de los blancos.
Invito a mi publico de dos niñas a conocer mi casa. Hacemos una dancita juntas. Me dicen que han venido de playa del Carmen por navidad a visitar familia. Les veo sus caritas de rasgos antiguos de esta tierra. Las veo sabiendo que son ellas a quien esta sociedad, este mundo, les llama invasoras. Y en el otro Tulum, el de la playa, los gringos son huéspedes apreciados por su pudencia, aunque no hayan hecho nada por el lugar mas que llenarlo de sargazo.
Checa el trabajo de Danny aquí: https://www.instagram.com/dannyalvealphotographer/
Wednesday September 26, 3:00-8:30pm
Times Square (at 7:30pm)
Semillas collective FB Event
4 years ago, 43 students from a teachers college in the indigenous town of Ayotzinapa, were disappeared by Mexican police and then military. They raised their voices and their bodies to speak against injustice. Their voices got silenced since.
This crime of state has gone unpunished and unrecognized as such. Mexico's incumbent president, Enrique Peña Nieto is visiting the UN until this Wednesday. Will he get challenged for leading one of the most bloodiest presidencies of our times?
Dance To The People is joining Semillas collective's march, along with musician Ernesto Villalobos, Antonio Tizapa (father of one of the missing students) and other runners of Running for Ayotzinapa 43, members of the Marble Hill Artist Commune, members of Asociación de Mujeres Poblanas and members of the Shul Band, among other musicians and artists.
We're asking for dancers to bring their bodies into the space and use them as a form of memory and resistance (resistance to forgetting perhaps).
Antonio Tizapa shared with us last June, that he was looking around in the streets at people celebrating their graduation. His son and his son's classmates would have been graduating around this time as well.
We decided to wear graduation caps and/or gowns (if we can get them). Please email us if you're coming to the march, and if you have a graduation cap, so we can know how many people are coming and how many we need to bring.
As an alternative, just bring a red top and black pants as a sign of discontent and opposition.
We want to look united to attract the most attention as possible to this issue. But, if you know how to call attention, use your imagination.
But it's bodies in the space what matters the most. Email us and we'll send you the simple movement score we will be using.
We will be also collaborating with the musicians in the space, so we can create the magic there.
In love and solidarity
Dance to the People
after the fact
Funny how this can happen in the middle of a culture that’s all about consuming. The same culture that needs so much, that strangles other forms of life. In the middle of that madness we brought the energy of the dancing warriors. Thanks for everybody there for manifesting the memory of injustice, for embodying resistance.
This is a series from the class I taught at #performatica2018 called MOVEMENT IN NATURE. I teach this class because I want to share a practice I have been cultivating that re-patterns my relationship as human to the Earth 🌏. It was such a joy to teach this in Mexico and I am grateful for the opportunity.
By becoming more attuned to the structure and processes of our own bodies, we also have the opportunity to register the balanced wholeness of the world more vividly. Such heightened awareness may move us past abstract concern for "the environment" to a more immediate and physical identification with the earth"
This is a quotation from a book titled, BODY AND EARTH, written by Andrea Olsen.
I started teaching movement in nature because I saw a need for humans to remember their origins- the human body evolved from the Earth. I'm not sure why I came to teach this. For me, it gives me peace, it connects me to myself, and I feel that is not something I was taught in the civilization that humans created. How did we manage to get so far from our origins? How have we managed to destroy our home?
I am here speaking with a student after class. We talked of Authentic movement. We work on finding our authentic movement patterns as we dance with the Earth. Listening and valuing what the body has to tell us, remembering that it is our home and it is part of Earth that is our home
This is a powerful quotation if you are still reading 🤗
"Some students who protest the use of chemical spray on blueberry barrens in Maine, and...fertilizers in grain fields...and pouring raw sewage into streams...do not hesitate to take Ritalin (to stimulate brain chemistry) or Paxil (to slow down) or Motrin or Valium...what goes into the bloodstream enters the tissues, alters the overall balance of the body. Why is interconnectedness important when talking about migration patterns....but not the hormonal secretions of the thyroid gland." BODY AND EARTH by Andrea Olsen .
In the past three years I’ve been trying to…
break into, or more like
not play by the rules of a game that’s clearly not designed for ANYTHING useless (art) to survive
but to create my own rules, to survive, to be happy, to share happy with others, to find them first and then play. Because play will set our spirits free.
Today, I shift between that state where after a lot of listening, I become numb. I was forcing myself to care, and then I’m fearful of saying: I don’t care.
But I do, (this is the other, more hopeful state), I just can’t honestly care for everything
The act of listening to anything is to not listen to everything. Practice to discern, to tune in, to focus, to be a be fucking useful member of humanity, and fight the forces that overwhelm us and make us loose sight of the root of suffering.
I’m afraid of becoming sceptic of change. I roll my eyes at efforts of communicating ideas that hit walls. EVERYBODY HAS MADE UP THEIR MINDS. As a society, we are capable of very little, definitely not of achieving perspective. As individuals, maybe.
The truth does not set us free, we know the truth. There’s no conspiracy. All the mechanisms of corruption and greed exist at plain sight. It’s just fucking uncomfortable to try to do anything about it.
But the truth within ourselves. The truth of our actions. We have agency over the lies we tell ourselves everyday to comply, to merge, to feel accepted. Very seldom (and I believe mostly through art) we are invited to step out of the lie, to see that a life is possible without blending completely. That we can still have meaningful relationships, that we can still make a living.
That WE CAN stop lying to ourselves and others about how wonderful we are, even if instagram really wants us to believe it.
Technology has its own agency, and IT wants something. IT wants to keep us using it, developing it, "making our lives easier". Technology only moves forward, it never takes a rest to smell the flowers. It doesn’t fucking ever take a break. It lives out of our lies and out of our being forgetful of the past. And it sucks money and resources.
We are going to tell some stories that we are afraid will get forgotten: Journalists and students are being killed for exposing corruption. The government is controlled by businesses, drug cartels are just one of them, war is the main one. There’s no democracy. There has never been. Indigenous peoples continue to be dispossessed and trampled over. They’re putting the pasamontañas again, and they’re willing to die. Racism is still a reason for people to kill, imprison, and just plainly take rights away from others.
The wall has already been built.
Life feels like we see, but we can't make out anything. We hear but we can’t listen to one thing.
We are trying
We are blind leading the blind
But, at the risk of sounding super cheesy, I’m going to quote Saint-Exupéry and say: “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye”.
#alloftheabove is a dance piece about the artist’s role in times of conflict, born out of personal moments of doubt and frustration. The making of the piece posed questions of empathy, responsibility, and privilege. It also wants to defend the artists’ freedom to not be defined by their affiliation with any particular cause, while acknowledging the existence of suffering. The process is presented here as collection of written and visual sources and conversations with colleagues. I will reference Facebook (FB) often, pointing out that, although social media is now normalized as the core of our shared experience as a society, two years ago, when I started collecting these ideas, it hadn’t occurred to me that it would become so much so. I became interested in the habits of exchange of information of a certain group of people as a reflection of such group’s expression of empathy.
In August 2015, there was a post shared by Juanfran Maldonado, a friend from my hometown (Guanajuato, Mexico) with whom I haven't spoken in person in more than ten years. The post was shared from the ImpulzTanz Vienna Festival’s page, it was a picture of a printed letter, signed by “Members of the Mexican dance community”, which contained the following:
To the international arts community:
We are deeply shocked, hurt and angry about the torture and murder of Yesenia, Alejandra, Mile, Nadia and Rubén, in an apartment in the central area of Mexico City, this last July 31, 2015. This is not an isolated case, and it illustrates the escalation of violence across the country. The mathematics of terror under which we live add more victims everyday to the already thousands; people are murdered (close to 160,000 since 2007), disappeared (between 26,000 and 40,000), raped and abused in all kinds of horrifying ways without consequence. There is a pact of impunity signed by those who hold our government hostage of their interests. Neoliberalism has come to its purest form of cruelty in a situation like this. Bodies only matter as assets. The outrage we feel is very strong, and the strategies to face the facts are yet unknown.
One of the victims, Nadia Dominique Vera Pérez was well known to many of us, she was our colleague because of her work as a producer and cultural promoter. She produced the Cuatro X Cuatro International Dance Festival in the city of Xalapa, Veracruz, crucial for the promotion and development of Mexican dance.
. . . As an anthropologist, Nadia strongly believed in the arts potential for social transformation, and acted accordingly, Nadia practiced as well a strenuous political activity on behalf of human rights and freedom of expression, against the injustices of an oppressing government, and in solidarity with the victims, the dead and the disappeared of our country. More than once, Nadia expressed her fear: she felt watched, marked. More than once she was threatened because of her political activism inside the state of Veracruz.
We find it very important to spread knowledge of her work and life, to talk about her, to highlight her identity, farther than just her picture of the idea of her broken body.
. . . We need your help and collaboration. We need the entire world to talk about this, because it just cannot keep going on. We live in a Mexico in which more than 90% of crimes are left unpunished, in which state violence is exercised more cynically every time, in which the notion of justice itself seems to be inaccessible. Our country is falling apart, violence gets worse, and we are subject to a greater danger everyday. Nadia was a fundamental element for art in Mexico, for dance and as members of an international community that intends to be reflexive, sensitive and critical, we believe that we are in this together. No matter if we met her or not, if we had similar aesthetic interests or not, if we are Mexican or not, a member of our community has been tortured and murdered in a failed state. Nadia’s death concerns the art community all over the world. It concerns us all. International pressure is one of the few effective protection mechanisms. We ask you to speak out with us, and since many of you perform, speak, write, screen, show . . . We ask you to take a moment during your presentations to talk about the five. We think that it is important to talk about this in spaces open to direct effective exchange.
Michelle applebaum's reflexions on her new piece
Reflexions and interviews on Dance to the people's first open class series at bax
An elementary school student might think her teacher lives under her desk to awaken only to teach and to retreat under after the school day terminates. Adults know that teachers lead lives outside of the classroom, though not necessarily separate from teaching. My definition of a teacher is one who began to study because of a strong pull or desire to master a certain area. A teacher knows more than a book or paper can explain and has experienced the lessons she passes on to the students. A teacher has the aptitude to convey knowledge and simultaneously gain knowledge. He is an improviser, a leader, a sage, and a life changer. I am interested in how teachers become a master of their subject and what knowledge they have learned from other teachers, from life experiences, and from mistakes. I interviewed two teachers, Angel Kaba and Melissa Lohman, who both taught for Dance to the People’s (DTTP) Open Class series at Brooklyn Art’s Exchange (BAX) this past fall (another series will start in the Spring). Here’s what they had to say about teaching.
"I must have been 9 years old and My body was changing and I remember feeling stiff and awkward. My teacher simply stated out loud that I was struggling, without making me feel bad or good about it. Acknowledging that I was going through a change, but that the disaster was not the end-all, was a crucial lesson for me that I still grapple with today. "
Do you have a story of a dance class that you can share or a dance class experience that you remember and think of often?
Angel: One day I was packing my bag in the dance studio and a 5 year old girl came with her mother to ask me to teach her dance classes. I had never worked with someone so young, so I said no. Persistently, the mother asked me to put on music and watch her daughter dance. Her name is Elya and as of today it’s been 11 years that I have taught her. She is one of the best dancers in my company.
Melissa: I must have been 9 years old and for some reason my jazz class choreography became a challenge for me. My body was changing and I remember feeling stiff and awkward. My teacher simply stated out loud that I was struggling, without making me feel bad or good about it. Acknowledging that I was going through a change, but that the disaster was not the end-all, was a crucial lesson for me that I still grapple with today.
What inspires you to teach?
Angel: Life and People.
Melissa: I learn things that I want to share with others and I believe that part of the learning process is sharing.
How do you think that non-dancers view your profession?
Angel: Some people will say that dance is not a real job, just a passion, but I think it’s funny when they say that.
Melissa: I think in general non-dancers are in awe of the dance world. It is a kind of mysterious profession that entails a lot of training and dedication in order to make beautiful things with the human body. A general stigma attached to dance and art at large is that it is not a necessity for society and so, the hesitation to view dance as a profession and to be paid fairly for one’s work remains a problem.
Environmental Dance Experiment
In Aldo Leopold’s view, conservation of wildness was self-defeating. ‘When we cherish nature,’ he said, ‘we must see and fondle it, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.’ Leopold contested humans should experience nature through perception and not through recreation. A photograph is one of the few hobbies in which a human can perceive nature without ‘writing one’s signature on the face of the land.’
Leopold believed in order to conserve nature we needed to establish a land ethic that focuses less on our enjoyment of nature but more on our human connection to ecology. Environmental philosopher, J.B. Callicott, furthers Leopold’s argument by advocating for a human land aesthetic that appreciates an ecosystem for its function and all of its biotic components, versus an idealized beauty that appreciates just the photo.
" An autonomous natural aesthetic should involve so much more than the visual appeal of natural environments...the appreciation of an environment's natural beauty should involve the ears (the sounds of wind, insects, birds, or silence itself), the surface of the skin (the warmth of the sun, chill of the wind, textures if the grass, rock, sand etc), the nose and tongue (the fragrance of the flowers, the odor of decay, the taste of saps and waters) as well as the eyes.”
J.B. Callicott from an essay titled, “The Land Aesthetic”
Callicott believed in order to establish an ethical and aesthetic kinship with the land, the human relationship with nature needs to shift to support a non-anthropocentric value theory that recognizes the intrinsic values of all species to the function of the ecosystem. This shift opposes the current theory that places human as the center.
Evolution is not Anthropocentric was a scientific inquiry that began with a Research Question in 2010: Can dance be a method to discover the innate human connection with the Earth, to support a non-anthropocentric dialogue of species, and to experience the land aesthetic? The Hypothesis, derived after five years of research (shorted version in the first three paragraphs) evolved to be: Yes. The role of an environmental dancer, and any environmental activist is to find a practice that habituates ‘listening’ and non-anthropocentric values. From that practice, a dance would then emerge from assessments and artistic choices with regard to eco values.
The process of creating and performing Evolution is not Anthropocentric was the Experiment/Test.
We began by dancing outside in five New York City sites: Prospect Park, a park alongside the Gowanus Canals, Central Park, Red Hook Recreation Area, and Rockaway Beach.
The first sessions in Prospect Park began with contemplative dance practice: 20 minutes of meditation, 20 minutes of warming up the body with the eyes closed, and 20 minutes of open space (open eye) improvisation. We generated movement patterns from the last 20 minutes and shared it with each other, collaborated on more movement ideas from that place, and did some contact improvisation in the park with each other.
A journey into a piece of Madness
On the first day of rehearsal when the director of Dance to the People (DTTP), Maira, said, “this dance is inspired by ideas from Foucault’s Madness and Civilization,” I knew I was in the right place. I had originally arrived at the DTTP rehearsal in January to take advantage of the free training and open collaboration opportunity. I openly admitted to Maira and the rest of the DTTP crew that I was (and am) a dancing fool. Like the character I portray in Dance to the People’s Narrentanz (Dance of Fools), whose masked smile first alludes to her normalcy, I too entered the dancing space with a façade. But just as my rapid and uncontrollable hand jitter develops in the piece and the smile graduates simultaneously into a forced grin, my attempt at deception deteriorated and I revealed my real fool by the second day of rehearsal. The other dancers reciprocated.
Narrentanz formed with the support of the CUNY Dance Initiative, which gave Dance to the People a residency at the College of Staten Island. The making of the dance came from ideas of spectacle. The dance examines the discourse involved with putting on a show. Coincidentally, Foucault’s examination of the discourse associated with madness overlaps ideas of spectacle. Being mad, or a fool, wasn't always associated with medical institutionalization. Renaissance people put their mad denizens onto ships, instructing the seamen to rid the city by taking the fools out to sea. Hence where Bosch got his inspiration for Narrenschiff, the ship of fools. The spectacle of the ships, full of foreign lunatics, created great excitement for onlookers when they docked at fresh harbors. I myself had a chuckle when I looked at Bosch’s painting and thought of the boat-landing sight. Is it the familiarity with the mad that draws us to their spectacle? Is there an inner reality in folly that we possess but hide due to societal constraints?
In Narrentanz the dancers play a game, each coveting the other’s chair, dressing up in clothes, and running in space. The spectacle of the game is enticing. The challenge to win brings out the madness within each player. In rehearsal for the game section I felt unrestricted, as if I was in grammar school again. The social pre-occupation attached to the folly of wanting to win that I adapted in adulthood disappeared when I got more comfortable with the other dancers/players.