Class Descriptions

As a description of a kind of art, discourse, and political/cultural position, the word “queer” is really having its moment. It can mean identity or strategy. In my own history I have witnessed the evolution of this word as a slur to its “reclamation” as an intersectional identity by queer activist groups in the early 90’s to its incorporation into academic disclipline to its current resurgence with young artists who self-identify as queer performance makers. What does it mean in relationship to performance? If we are thinking about variance or alternative means of communication, isn’t dance always queer? In this workshop we use queerness as a lens for explorations in performance, time, composition and conversation, working with the shifting valences and meaning that the idea of queerness holds. Throughout the week our strategies will fluctuate between obvious and obscure, somatic and constructed, and something else entirely.

Instant Performance
What if everything we need to make a compelling performance is already in or around us? What if we practice harnessing a consciousness of immediacy, explicit mystery, relevance, irreverence and import? What if instead of worrying about money, time and space, we use compression and imagination to tap into somatic tuning, compositional accident and improvisational decision making to create experiences that are definitive and unstable? Can we identify and sophisticate a relationship between depth and speed? Let's spend a week re-invigorating our ability to discover through process. Let's practice making Instant Performance.

Old school technique class with new school questions. This is a warm-up for being a contemporary dance artist whatever that means. Real techniques, invented techniques, practising presence, practising hope, "releasing", sweating, thinking, feeling, moving for no reason and finding out how. I aspire to offer you ways of approaching dancing without fucking your body up. Each day will begin with a Feldenkrais Method Awareness Through Movement lesson. Then standing things. Then a phrase. You know how this goes. Exercises can be boring so let's make them important. Phrases can be patriarchal so let’s make them fun. Any way you look at it: smart movers make good art. I am the teacher and I will do what I can.

In this workshop we will engage an approach to improvisation and performance practice that has informed my work in the last few years. The center of the exploration will be a delving into the senses – the primary, movement, energetic and creative senses. We will challenge ourselves to uncover our questions and answers through movement, inverting the conventional proposition that thought comes before action. I see dance as a mode of perceptual inquiry, and I resist defining it as a non-verbal "language" because languages are meant to be understood and I like that dance defies linguistic comprehension. But since words are always present, always mediating everything, we will see how we can manipulate them to trigger non-rational, automatic, unprepared physical response. The goal of this training is to complicate our ideas of what constitutes “communication,” “good improvisation,” “listening” and “development” and to welcome the full range of emotional and expressive possibilities available to us as dancers, performers, and artists.

This workshop focuses on the creative process in making body/movement-based performance/dance. A variety of approaches to creating - intuitive, improvisational, and analytical - is exploited to uncover your individual interests, your process and your work. The workshop consists of unequal parts making, discussing, improvising and watching the work of other workshop participants. I distribute articles ranging from artist statements to critical theory to contribute additional “voices” to the mix. My interest is in creating a space in which traditional notions of dance are critiqued, absorbed or discarded in the service of creating performance that comes from a vital place. An ongoing question throughout the workshop is how to make work that is located in a contemporary context.

A vocal workshop with Miguel Gutierrez
?Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People's recent works have been notable for their expressive use of the voice. In this workshop, Gutierrez will lead the participants through simple exercises to help them to discover pliable, relaxed and expansive voices, ready for an array of approaches to sound making in performance. Influences include my studies with Barbara Maier, Linklater Technique, Alexander Technique, and the Feldenkrais Method. This workshop is open to anyone!

I am getting better at something that feels increasingly old and strange but necessary. I am getting good at being a person whose body is a channel, a medium for emotional/psychic conflict, immediate temperature taking of the context and the corporealizing of imagination in real time. Often I see my role as creating fissures in what might be otherwise be interpreted as “normal,” forward-moving reality. With my body, my work, and my collaborations with others I tear into the fabric of social codes that don’t really tolerate this behavior, even as they create the perfect frame to respond to/work within/crack open. Maybe it’s cuz I’m queer, or because I’m the child of immigrants, or because I struggle between wanting to be an artist recluse and a social monster, but I’ve only ever understood life as a collection of bifurcated, “doubletruth” experiences, where multiple realities hold veracity and allure. Most of my work is about my attempt to reconcile something about these bifurcations.

Appropriately enough, in the last few years I have been working on two parallel tracks. One the one hand I have invested myself in a research of the senses – from the primary senses to esoteric senses to “invented” senses that address the perceptual mechanisms that we encounter in performance. This research is slow, painstaking at times, and while it’s deeply introspective I think I am invested in it because of how it allows me to re-invite wonder into the banality of daily life. On the other hand I have been pushing at a performance/improvisational practice of irreverent immediacy that attempts to resist any kind of traditional cognitive thought to action matrix of working. I say “attempt” because it’s really a joyful battle to play in the spaces inside of and between thinking, doing, reacting, proposing, interrupting, fucking with and deepening.

I would like to use this weeklong workshop to share some of the techniques and ideological underpinnings of these disparate but related practices. This will involve a fair amount of immediate improvisational action, longer explorations into some of the senses, and a healthy combination of exhibitionism, introspection and willingness to be bad at something you might want to be good at to find out that you’re always good at things but better when you stop trying so hard.

In this research I am inspired and aided by my over 20 years of making and being in work that embraces a host of choreographic and improvisational strategies, by seeing tons of performance and by leading many workshops where I get to see the ephemeral genius of others, by my amateur investigations into neurological systems, by my studies in a variety of somatic approaches but most specifically the Feldenkrais Method, by my studies in vocalization, by my poaching and development of other artists’ tactics that feel close to what I’m already doing, and by my interest in the philosophical intricacies and frustrations of working intimately with a mind/body practice.

Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement Lesson led by Miguel Gutierrez
The Feldenkrais Method is a mode of somatic education that uses movement as a means for learning, improvement, and freedom from physical difficulty. Developed by Moshe Feldenkrais, who was an engineer, scientist and judo master, the method synthesizes physics, motor development, bio-mechanics, psychology, and martial arts to prioritize function as the means whereby a person can learn to use themselves more effectively and with greater ease. An Awareness Through Movement (ATM) lesson focuses on specific relationships and patterns of movement in a slow, detailed and comfortable manner. Structured as a class that usually happens on blankets or mats to insure total comfort, the student moves progressively from smaller to larger actions. Through oral instruction rather than demonstration, the student discovers their own way through the lesson, uncovering habits and unlocking new sensations and experiences that can lead to profound and lasting results in mobility and freedom from injury.

background photo by Alex Escalante