Thursday, September 27, 2012

Interview with Marion Ramirez, dancer-collaborator for SoMoS.

Q: What is your role in SoMoS?

Photo: Lindsay Browning
Marion Ramirez: I am a performer-collaborator in SoMoS. As performers we bring the branch dance practice alive through our work. Because of its improvisational nature, it is never same as the time before. Also by having the audience so close to us I have discovered that we are viewed as sculptures and/or as people, depending on our performative quality. It is important to stay present and open to all the information we are receiving but not to lose focus on the slow movements that emerge from our connection to the branch and other performers.
I specifically have a long duet with Jung Woong Kim as part of the spring season. I imagine that we are seeds and we grow through the branches and get trapped and survive by going around another branch, and get rained on, and grow some more. My relation to this dancer's body and energy grows from this imaginative nature being. One example is that looking at the other and sensing has more to do with what we perceive through our whole body rather than what we see with the eyes. The eyes are part of the body but not more important than anything else. This way of working which I often use in my own work is magnified in the branch dances.

Photo: Lindsay Browning
Q: How does the location of SoMoS affect your approach to performing?

Marion Ramirez: In performing outside but not in the forest or at the park, there is a different feeling than what I am used to. In rehearsal I continue remembering that being outside is being in nature. Sensing the air, the change in the position of the sun, the amount of light there is, the movement of the clouds above and the rhythms of the people around us. In this work people are nature.

Q: How long have you been working with choreographer Merián Soto on branch dances, and what was the process like to develop the practice?
Photo: Gabriel Osorio-Soto
Marion Ramirez: I have been working with Merián since 2003. I joined her for one of the first residencies of branch dancing, in Huntington, Long Island. At that time, I was more of a witness, outside eye, observing her process of discovery, documenting, and helping her understand or differentiate the different explorations with branch dancing as a solo/duet between dancer and branch. I was witnessing and supporting this way the development of her solo Three Branch Songs in collaboration with musician Elio Villafranca.

Later on, I moved out of US for a few years and upon my return I joined her again for more branch dance within an ensemble context. I participated in the first version of Postcards from the Woods at Pregones Theater in the Bronx in 2009. We rehearsed over time for a few months while I was pregnant. It was special experience for me to do this while expecting my child. I was naturally more inclined to slow down my movement (although my idea an experience of slow was often too fast for Merián). I learned a lot through it and the creative process revealed the different experiences between performing in nature and in a black box theater. Also in that performance we worked with projections, which also affects the performance significantly. One is aware of the show that is encased in the screen and relates to it as another partner.
Then I joined the branch dances for the 2011 project, for the Wissahickon Reunion, in Philadelphia, and the Wave Hill performance in the Bronx. For all these performances we would go in groups of two to six people to rehearse at the site, and align our practice to the specific qualities and elements of the locations. But to our surprise most of the time we had unpredictable conditions. In the performance we realized that the nature of the performance itself prepared us to deal with anything.

Photo: Wave Hill
In October 2011, we had a performance at Wave Hill and there was a snowstorm. It was very unexpected, we did it under a few inches of snow with trees falling down everywhere around. In the rest of the shows, we had rain and did a wonderful performance under the storm, and other times, it was incredibly cold, weather that made my limbs numb and I couldn't move well. But the work can adapt to any situation. I learned to be there with what I had and not try to make any one moment beautiful or attractive by trying to control the natural course of my responses in slow speed to the relationship of branch, my body in performance, and the environment.

Q: Merián has talked about how SoMoS is like a culmination of her branch dance work. How do you see this evolution?

Marion Ramirez: I see the progression from solo work—which always implied to be a duet, the branch with the dancer—to the simultaneous experiences of the performers in duets like Jumatatu Poe with my sister Noemi Segarra and then the group work in the park, like trees that are individual and by themselves but are sharing space and resources with others, to more ensemble work in which many branches, many people, many personal stories, collective stories, nature's shapes and qualities all come together. 
Photo: Lindsay Browning

I have especially enjoyed this last work, in which I duet with my husband in an impossible, delicious, and long duet for the spring season. We will be dueting for a few hours, since there are two runs of the piece the same night. We are improvising within the context that Merián has given us, and are framed by, and are following the specific images that we all discovered together and that relate to the branch dancing. At first I felt that we were doing something dangerous, soon after there was no fear. The vine and a plant have no fear of growing. This metaphor has given me much inspiration for my performance and for my life.
I also enjoy the simple stories we have developed for the group work, like a collective experience. I can't imagine this being a culminating event for branch dance. Every time I go to the park and see a fallen branch I grab it and practice, play discover. I hope to continue being part of these performances if Merián chooses to continue performing them, but I will also hope to be available and instigate more development of branch dances as I continue to collaborate with Merián.
September 25, 2012
Interview by Josh McIlvain

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