When was a time you felt like you arrived somewhere? Tino Sehgal used this as a prompt for us to have discreet intimate conversations with one another in our orientation.
Yesterday, or two days ago depending on your global position:
I traded in the single bed with no sheets for my big American bed with cotton sheets and my grandmother's handmade quilt,
I traded palaces and sprawling gardens for the swamp and shotgun houses,
-six flights of stairs for one,
-my heavy pink impulsTanz-branded bike for my orange vintage cruiser,
-bustling streets of trams, bikes, buses, hybrid cars for empty, crumbling, flooded streets of Louisiana,
-fresh water for brackish water,
-stern looks for smiling sweaty faces
-order for flooding and normalized disaster
and when I arrived, I slept and slept and slept.
The way the bowl of New Orleans captures sunlight and filters it through my curtains and my body finally having rested, registered a kind of “home-ness,” so much so that being away feels like it was a different person, a different lifetime, or like it was an ongoing, hypercolored, psychedelic dream. My mind was altered by flashing lights, loud music, alcohol, proximity to drugs, not sleeping, being tuned into the ever-shifting sensations of my body, being so close to many other bodies, dancing, moving in a frenetic group rhythm.
The social experiment of danceWEB (66 people in a boarding school for 5 weeks on a 20 hour a day schedule) is a slow dissolving of boundaries of the individual into a pulsating group body in which you ride ups and downs – some are uniquely, historically your own (social anxiety, insecurity and the rest of crap that comes up when trying to find your place in a new group), but many things are not yours at all -- coasting into the feeling of someone else’s romance, hook ups, disappointments, ecstatic nights out, life confusion, art practices, experiences of oppression, survival tactics, frames of mind, and points of view.
In the effort to survive danceWEB, at a certain point, I had to stop really dancing as I normally do. To get up early and dive into an extremely physical practice would send me into dizzying spins or have my heart exploding in my chest from not having slept more than 4 hours, or having eaten enough in several weeks to sustain real physical, coordinated, muscularly supported operations.
Actions of cardiovascular endurance, musculoskeletal alignment, and harnessing momentum gave way to managing disorientation and non-alignment, sustaining multiple conversations and attention to details of performances (social endurance), and dialing dance practice down to various forms of of what Keith Hennessey calls international slow motion. I have come home sick and waify and somewhat surprised at how little dance practice was the center of the experience. Which of course begs the question – what is dance? Or its practice? What can it be? what is it shaped by? what does it shape? what can it shape?
The exploration of the mostly white Eurocentric body in contemporary dance practice at ImpulsTanz is on the one hand enviably liberated and on the other indulgent or oblivious. Practice isn’t more important than product (in that postmodern US dance history way) but IS the product of an artistic career. To be in a state of sensing and listening, embracing the erotic, tuning into the porousness of the physical body, playfully choreographing already existing elements is the norm. To understand these practices as political, aesthetic, and philosophical actions that are worthy, supported, and invested in is common sense. They are funded and presented in workshops, galleries, and on stages with impressive production value and cool props.
In some ways, the kind of dance experiences I had at ImpulsTanz (both in the studio and out) feels impossible to transfer to the context of the US, in the context of our own flavor of white supremacy, economic injustice, devaluation of art, conservatism and violence around queerness, and the problematics of even saying something like “the body” when people have varying degrees of bodily agency. I wish for a utopian present or future that would allow these ideas to flow into some sort of post race, class, gender, post western, northern hemispheric dominated space and illuminate a beautiful cultural fluidity that is already there but this is so mired in the obstructions of power, domination, and real material suffering.
[Shannon not in Vienna, not a danceWEB person, lives in a state that is half underwater, the worst flooding since Hurricane Katrina, where the poorest of people will lose the most and not likely get it back. Where I got a thank you card for a small donation I made to the dance center from a student that said her favorite part of dance camp was getting to eat healthy food.]
But to disrupt the either/or thinking feels important personally, socially, and globally. Where do these fields of reality and art making intersect and what intersections reinforce or disrupt the structures of power, the ability to feel freedom in the body or in a group body that pulsates together?
To live in a city that that is constantly performing itself and moves through time in a circular, ephemeral parade is the perfect set up for experiencing something like danceWEB. Like in parades, people slowly gather from disparate places until they form a large amorphous, somewhat directed, somewhat meandering organism, seeking pleasure, adventure, and encounters, moving through spaces where you are welcome as well as spaces you are not, quoting your various identities as much as you try on others. It’s a structure that facilitates profound intimacy and isolation in all-consuming, constant group motion. Music is constant. Desire is constant. Perpetually waiting while not waiting is constant. Touching, closeness, lost-ness, alone in togetherness, letting go-ness. Being wasted or just feeling wasted. Not wanting it to end. Not knowing how you will make it through alive. Not knowing what will happen next except that it will be amazing, and then boring, and then magical and then quiet and then confusing and then luminous.
I want to write about the performances (shouting out to Dana Michel, anotonjia and simone, alice chauchat, Roni, Louise, Stefan and all the webbers that shared their work). I want to finish the never ending list of experiences that really touched me, including how much courage was involved in the process of people constantly putting themselves in vulnerable places. I want to make sure it stays captured in time. I want the possibility of a life in Berlin or Brussels or anywhere away from the grind of being a dancer in the US (esp outside NYC). I want to remember my pole dancing and voguing moves. I want to remember Trio A and how Salma danced it. I want to stay in the indulgent practices long enough to really integrate something that makes sense in my context.
And I really I want to keep having this long unfolding, improvisational dance with you in a club, any club, or studio or street or anywhere, where I am lost in the space between us.