Lydia here. We have a premiere tomorrow opening at Diverse Works. As a part of the Diverse Works Artist Board I get to be a part of a show called L’Esprit de L’Escalier. And the best part? I get to collaborate with two artist whom I absolutely adore. The one and only Courtney D. Jones will be dancing the solo that I am choreographing and Mr. Mark Hirsch (remember “Quiver?) has made an incredible video and sound installation with radios, multiple screens, and some pretty fly 8mm.
The deets: Tomorrow (Wednesday) at Diverse Works Artspace @ 4102 Fannin St. We will begin at 6:30 and it is Free, Free, Free!
Rachel Holdt! She’s an emerging dance artist, choreographer, filmmaker, budding dance scholar and performance artist making work in academic and professional settings for the past six years. In the past few years, her practice has evolved to include technology for dance performance incorporating dance for film, gaming devices, projection, and software. She recently completed coursework at Mills College for her MFA in Dance Choreography and continues to create, perform, and research performance technologies.
Her research investigates the role of integrated technology for dance education at the university level. Future research will be directed towards required, integrated technology pedagogy for post-secondary education. She is excited to be creating and presenting performance works and critical theory focused on the intersection of dance and technology, and will continue to develop work that includes and investigates this developing field.
What music inspires you the most in the classroom; in the choreographic process?
Having recently completed my MFA at Mills College in Oakland—and having worked with and been exposed to the world-renowned experimental musicians there, I do approach this particular topic with a great deal of self-realized snobbery.
Inspiration comes from many sources, and less is definitely more, but soundscapes that evoke ideas are the most compelling. Jacaczek, a polish electro-acoustic musician is one of my most fruitful sources of inspiration in both the classroom and for choreography. I tend to lean heavily towards the electronic artists, but there are very few acoustic or traditional musicians that move me as deeply. I find that electronic musicians can create an environment that can be more loosely interpreted than direct methods of traditional musical artists, giving me freedom to create with the sound or directly oppose it. Some other favorite electronic artists are Squarepusher, Aphex Twin (AKA Caustic Window and AFX, Richard D James), Autechre, Ulrich Schnauss and Goldfrapp.
I had the privilege to work with two very different musicians during my time at Mills College and I will shout out to them here for their incredible work and amazing music. An electronic artist working with feedback loops and closed circuits is Nicholas Wang. Also, a jazz pianist who composed an entire evening length work for me in January is Brett Carson.
Since I am a writer and have a deep affinity for words, I also find that conversations, text, and spoken work inspire my work almost just as much as sound. The Prelinger Arcives—a free source for music, sound, video and more—are a wonderful source for sound of this kind. Their archive is expansive and has provided me with rich inspiration for many of my works.
Traditional musicians that are capable of getting my creative juices flowing are rare, but there are a few that inspire every time. A few of the old faithful’s are– Max Reichter, Morton Feldman, Wim Mertens, Zoe Keating, Yann Tiersen, Nortec Collective, Beats Antique, and Ludovico Einaudi.
What are your three favorite tracks to teach a modern dance class to?
When teaching a Modern class, the following three tracks are my top three picks– Jacaczek, album Glimmer, track Goldengrove. Autechre, album Anti, track Djarum. Max Reichter, album Memoryhouse, and track November (first runner up is also Max Rieichter, album Valse Avech Bachir, trach Into the Airport Hallucination. What are your top tracks to get the rehearsal process going?
When I’m floundering for inspiration, I listen to ABBA. Yes, they are old, but boy are they fun. I find their upbeat tempo and harmonies get me inspired to move around the room. For more reflective creations, I love Everywhere I Go by artist Lissie. John Cale also has some interesting takes on music, which can completely change my direction at times, and Sigur Ros evokes some interesting ideas. Pick 5 tracks that should be on every dancer’s ipod?
Aphex Twin, Polynomial-C
Darren Korb, (from Bastion Soundtrack), Build That Wall
Blumenweise Neben Autobahn, Ulrich Schnauss
Oltremare, Ludovico Einaudi
Zoe Keating, Legions(war)
Yan Tiersen, L’Absente Do you have a ‘secret weapon’ song or artist when you need go-to inspiration?
Video Game Soundtracks
Some interesting musicians to watch or Rising Stars – Rosina Kazi, Ensemble Mik Nawooj
Sarah Wildes Arnett is Founder/Artistic Director of SWADanceCollective and Assistant Professor of Dance at Valdosta State University in Georgia. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Dance Choreography at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2012 and a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Sarah’s interests are interdisciplinary as she enjoys integrating her talents in film-making, photography and music composition into her choreography while also expanding boundaries of genre and style. She continues to perform professionally with various companies and artists in the southeast. Most recently, she has performed and shown work at the MAD Festival (Atlanta), Alabama Dance Festival (Birmingham), NC Dance Alliance Annual Event (Greensboro) and RE:Vision by Forward Motion Theatre (NYC). http://www.swadanceco.com/
Stay tuned for her MFA-related musings!
It promises to be an informative and engaging series, we can’t wait!
We’ve been recovering from our jam-packed show week and Lydia’s tooth surgery 🙁 (Leave her a get well message in the comments!) Hope you have had a wonderful week! Almost the weekend!
Ecouter was FABULOUS last weekend – each night was close to capacity and filled with local talent! A BIG thank you to all who came out and supported the event!
Now onto Thesis Thursday! Written by Frame Development Assistant, Lena Silva.
In case you’re not caught up with Frame’s newest weekly series, Thesis Thursday, you can catch up on the last three blog posts here. In a nutshell, this series features installments of my senior thesis written for Rice University’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality. It explores the topics of Contact Improvisation, Feminism, feminist performance art, and female empowerment through movement.
If you don’t have time to read through the past blogs, have no fear! Here’s a re-cap of my general thesis statement:
I will argue that CI is a complex feminist practice. The relationship CI has to feminism is complex because it is not inherently feminist, but enables women to have a feminist experience.
This week will feature Part I of II blogs detailing the connections between CI founder Steve Paxton and radical feminist Yvonne Rainer.
Ch. I Part III. Contact Improvisation and Feminist Influences
As a white, unconsciously ambiguous artist, oblivious to art world sexism and racism and ensconced in dancing (a socially acceptable female pursuit), I started reading…Sisterhood is Powerful…Scum Manifesto and…Dialectics of Sex. I had never thought of myself as belonging to an oppressed group – nor privileged one, for that matter – especially as I began to achieve recognition.
These words belong to Yvonne Rainer, a colleague who danced alongside Paxton under Cunningham and in the Judson Dance Theatre. She became intimately involved in the women’s rights movement and declared herself a “political lesbian.” She is today renowned as the quintessential feminist performance artist, and has received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1990 and two Guggenheim Fellowships. She is widely known for her solo dance “Three Seascapes” (1962), in which the female dancer performed a screaming fit downstage in a pile of gauze and a black overcoat. Sally Banes notes that critics have understood Rainer’s piece as feminist in the sense that the screaming dancer’s actions “…may be seen as a critique of hysteria – that is, of the female dancer’s image as gripped by out-of-control emotion.” This criticism of hysteria is common to many feminist writers of the time period including the author of one of the above-mentioned texts, Shulamith Firestone.
Yvonne Rainer on the cover of her autobiography, Feelings Are Facts.
In 1970, Paxton joined the Grand Union improvisational dance company spearheaded by Yvonne Rainer. The Grand Union was a collective of nine performers, many of whom had danced together for many years, like Paxton and Rainer, who gathered to investigate dance, theatre and performance. Rainer’s piece entitled Continuous Project-Altered Daily (CP-AD) was the pivotal work that led to the consolidation of the group. CP-AD was named to describe the ever-changing process that was the “show” seen by audiences. This “show” entailed an anarchic, free-associative performance with dialogue, props, costumes and music. The show was an exploration of the dance-making process, which included both improvisation and choreography, as well as pedestrian and professional movement.
The organization of the Grand Union allowed members to “participate equally, without employing social hierarchies in the group.” Paxton thoroughly enjoyed “…the development of trust within the group, the necessary precondition of mutual agreement for dependency, the pleasure of establishing firm communication and sharing explorations.” He was critical of the dictatorial hierarchies that were often imposed within traditional ballet, modern and even post-modern dance companies. He wrote: “It was the star system. It is difficult to make the general public understand other systems, inundated as we are with the exploitation of personality and appearance in every aspect of theatre. Though this basic poverty of understanding on the audiences’ part is a drag, unique and personalized forms have been emerging, such as those seen in…the Grand Union.” Yet again, Paxton prioritized the opening up of new “systems” of movement beyond the exploitative nature of commercial dance in a capitalist society.
The performances by the Grand Union would last for several hours often with no set beginning or end; the audience would ebb and flow. Grand Union performances were opposed to the commonplace paradigm of dance shows that relied on stylized manipulation of dancers’ bodies to entertain audiences. The emphases put on democratic leadership and decision-making led to performances in which no single dancer was the “star,” which also broke from the traditional dance show paradigm. The “star” was the spontaneous process itself that manifested onstage, a process that had been previously discussed and conceptualized in a democratic manner and a process that gave, according to Sally Banes, “…permission for the dancers to make choices and exercise freedom within an overall structure.”
With such a high level of cooperation and exchange, Yvonne Rainer’s feminist practices that were anti-hierarchical and overtly anti-sexist become more than perfunctory detail and venture into the realm of purposefully influential. Rainer was a self-proclaimed “political lesbian” who responded to Audre Lorde’s famous quote: “You can’t dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools” with “You can, if you expose the tools.” The main “tools” that Rainer may have been referring to are the patriarchal organization of society and commercialization of nearly every facet of humanity that, through art, can be exposed and symbolically challenged and changed. The political exploration and experimental dance processes spearheaded by Rainer and complimented by her feminist ideology epitomize the early work of the Grand Union, and strongly influenced the work of Paxton who was often featured in Rainer’s work and often used Rainer in his own pieces.
 Yvonne Rainer, Feelings Are Facts: A Life (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006), 385-386.
 Ibid., 437. The full quote reads: “Through most of the 1980s, in close friendships with a number of younger lesbians, determined not to enter into any more ill-fated heterosexual adventures, and already showing up at Gay Pride parades, I was calling myself a “political lesbian.”
 Banes, “Feminism and American Postmodern Dance,” 36.
 Sally R. Banes, “Grand Union: The Presentation of Everyday Life as Dance,” Dance Research Journal 10 (1978): 43.
 Steve Paxton, “The Grand Union,” The Drama Review (1971): 130.
 Banes, “Grand Union: The Presentation of Everyday Life as Dance,” 45.