Friday, February 18, 2011

initial phrase.

Here are some videos from my first attempt to mobilize and visualize aesthetic ideas that I was otherwise theorizing about.

concepts for constructed improv:
dead weight
tracing-- tracing in sand, on body, on partner's body
sequential tension/release in certain parts of body: fingers, elbow, arm

Then we learned this phrase:

The phrase was initially inspired by a feeling of dead weight that I felt in my right arm after my ganglion cyst surgery. The story goes: my arm was still under the effects of anesthesia but the rest of my body was coherent--as I was sitting in the recovery room, I began to notice my right arm slip from the pillow on which it was resting. I reacted how I normally would; somewhere in my motor cortex, a sequence of action potentials told my arm to pick itself up, except it was completely immobile. My left arm came to the rescue. Now, at this point, while others may have reacted in panic or discomfort, my only thought was, I need to choreograph before this sh*t wears off!

And thus:

We then paired off and continued to improvise responses to each other in the negative space around partners who were performing the phrase. There were no set directions for the improvisation other than work around/with/under/over your partner. However,

3 relationship dynamics emerged:
Rafael--Sasha: Symbiotic
Morgana as the caretaker/sympathetic voice for Corinna's affliction
Dana--Robert: Antagonistic

Finally, I began to conceptualize the piece in space keeping with the same aesthetic impulses of dead weight and restraint. This is the beginning of that exploration.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


let me just be clear:

the goal of this project is to:
investigate the intergenerational effects of the trauma of war as an embodied epidemic.

the body remembers.

agent orange and VN are a prime case study:

it is an example, sadly not an anomaly.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The things they carried

They plodded along slowly, dumbly, leaning forward against the heat, unthinking, all blood and bone, simple grunts, soldiering with their legs, toiling up the hills and down into the paddies and across the rivers and up again and down, just humping, one step and then the next and then another, but no volition, no will, because it was automatic, it was anatomy, and the war was entirely a matter of posture and carriage, the hump was everything, a kind of inertia, a kind of emptiness, a dullness of desire and intellect and conscience and hope and human sensibility.

They shared the weight of memory.

-Tim O'brien

The things they carried:


The disabled body,
is too much in some places,
not enough in others.
Heads too large to know.
Limbs too short to move.
We would have had to stand on equal ground
to begin with
if we were to reallocate resources
and balance this equation
But 2 heads and no limbs
don't equal a whole
A hole in a heart
traced in a bloodline
giving breath to a memory I have not lived
and body to a soul I have not inherited.

The body is marked.
Stained in growth
and grown in soil
soiled in sheets
and cheated in game
played in war
and won in theory.

The politics of "disability" on stage

There is no lack of precedent when it comes to the exhibition of disabled bodies on stage.

We have all seen the Youtube phenomenon of Chinese amputee dancers who perform a ballet. Some titles of the video are more successful than others in their attempt at political correctness.
This video chose "She without arm, he without leg--ballet--hand in hand."

While the spectacle of the above video is undeniable, other dance companies have attempted to approach disability and dance in a more collaborative manner. Companies such as AXIS Dance company and The GIMP Project present "abled" bodies and "disabled" bodies side by side in choreography. Heidi Latsky, artistic director and choreographer of GIMP, speaks to highlighting the specific idiosyncrasies and unique elements of each dancer body despite its anatomy. Each dancer is asked to capitalize on the shape of their body, whatever it may be. There is no judgment surrounding a body that is too much in some places and too little in others.

There is a virtuosity to the performance that allows for bodies that were previously seen as DISabled to be viewed as specifically MORE abled on stage. Catherine Long, of GIMP, cites her ability to reclaim a sense of power when it comes to others' gaze upon her body: "I'm inviting people to look at me, and I'm controlling the looking, whereas when I'm in the street I'm not inviting people to look at me, but they do anyway."

The AXIS Dance Company, in this clip choreographed by contemporary icon Alex Ketley, serves a similar purpose as persons in wheelchairs dance alongside dancers not in wheelchairs.

These companies have long been commended (as seen in the NYTimes clip) for redefining the audience's notion of a "dancer". The work not only challenges the viewer's conception of the abilities of a disabled person, but I imagine that it also challenges the person's own conception of his/her own self-efficacy.

However, while these performances have the power to revolutionize concepts of beauty, creativity, and performance as it relates to disabled bodies--there has also been a dialectic surrounding the exploitation of disabled bodies in performance. Latsky, herself, stems from a background with Bill T Jones who Arlene Croce of The New Yorker so notoriously deemed a creator of "victim art" that was "beyond criticism" because of its portrayal of sick bodies on stage. While I will not enter into the politic of the exotified "different" body as it relates to the colonizing gaze (at this juncture), I will re-articulate the unease I feel around the separation of disabled performer and audience which emphasizes the spectacle of the disabled body, as well as the juxtaposition of "abled" (read: normal, normative?) body dancer alongside the "dis-abled" body dancer.

Ultimately, all of these examples are a superfluous way of explaining my hesitancy and unease around working with disabled bodies in a performance context. I simply am untrained and unprepared to do so at this point. Moreover, while the movement toward disabled persons' rights has gained ground in the U.S., there is not necessarily an equivalent advocacy for disabled persons in Vietnam. There simply is no disability culture. But before the U.S. sits on its laurels, I will reiterate that there is still a bifurcation between what is deemed "normal" and what is deemed "other," and the exhibition of such dichotomies are not limited to physical disabilities as they are commonly understood.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This is a record.
This is the beginning of a project that will address a specific example of a larger occurrence.
It is one iteration of an ongoing cycle.
It is defined by dichotomies held as constructed truths:



I aim, as many performance artists and theorists do, to blur these seemingly obdurate bifurcations, and explore, rather, the liminal space that exists in, out, around, under, and above this boundaries. While I am aware that many before me have paved the way in exploring these ideas, I hope to use movement, my first language, to articulate the tensions--and release; the relations in space--and dimension; the moments of stillness.

This is a record of a beginning, the mobilization of movement.

Topics addressed:

Dance Movement Therapy
Kinesthetic empathy
Notions of "retribution" for war
Transgenerational effects of war
Transgenerational trauma

Aesthetic concepts:
negative space
> How does one's relation to something change after it is no longer physically present?

1. anesthetize
phrase using large arm circles,
minimized to certain body parts,
anesthetizing certain parts at a time
shoulder blade, upper arm, elbow, wrist, ongles

2. crawling
pushing/falling from different parts in the body


David Alan Harris
DMT work with PTSD child soldiers in Sierra Leone

Trauma and Recovery
Judith Berman

Body in Pain
Elaine Scarry

Aspen Institute
Walter Isaacson

Of Performance and the Persistent Temporality of Trauma: Memory, Art, and Visions
Boresth Ly