Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Triangulations: Revisiting OYWPP

Taller Puertorriqueño will present my first one person exhibitionTriangulations: Revisiting OYWPP,  in  the Lorenzo Homar Gallery, from Dec 7, 2012 - January 19, 2013.  The exhibition is part of Taller Puertorriqueño's  2012-13 series  of exhibitions titled Claiming Spaces

Jumatatu Poe self documents. Photo: Pepón Osorio (2007)
 Triangulations explores the intersection of performance, place, and time in two,  three-channel video installations.  It features a number of performance documents of the One Year Wissahickon Park ProjectOYWPP,created through a process of self-documentation wherein the performer documents her/his own performance. 

OYWPP was a series of performances in Philadelphia's Wissahickon Valley Park throughout 2007-08, featuring dancers Shavon Norris, Olive Prince, Jumatatu Poe, Noemí Segarra and myself, and percussionist and composer Toshi Makihara.  I designed it around the concept of four--- four seasons, four sites, four performances in each site for a total of 16 performances.  Performances lasted 45 minutes and were held Sunday mornings at 10:30 AM, to take advantage of the crisp morning air and angled sunlight.  I am proud to say that we completed all 16 performances, in all sorts of conditions including temperatures ranging from 20 to 98 degrees, rain, snow, sleet, high winds, and bugs! 

The Lorenzo Homar Gallery is located at Taller Puertorriqueño, 2721 North 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19133.  The opening reception will take place Friday Dec 7 from 5:30-8PM.   Admission is FREE.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How did it feel to perform SoMoS?

Merián Soto
My students ask me: how did it feel to perform SoMoS?

There are so many details to look after in a piece like SoMoS, so many elements, so many people involved.   It demands enormous attention, coordination,  and effort. After three,  12-14 hour days in the parking lot, my body is tired.  The temperature continues to drop, is everybody ready?   So many things can go wrong.  No use worrying, I choose to trust.

I don't think.  I don't warm-up.  I just start.  Stepping out of the summer tent we are surrounded by audiences.   No way to move to our opening spots.  I realize immediately that everything is new, chaotic.  Its unnerving.  Nothing to do but  do what we do.  Do the practice.  Slow down. Connect. Accept the moment, the people, their reactions and behavior, the technical glitches, the cold.  People's cries of delight fill the air.   Whatever is going on is OK.   The audience is with us, delighted.  It is a carnival!  I've achieved my goal. Yes!

SoMoS Oct 12, 2012

After several minutes the video finally comes on. OK, the tech people are taking care of problems.  I see Lauren Mandilian by the projector.  No sound yet in the fall area.  

Fall: Megan Mazarick, Ellen Gerdes & Merián Soto
Ellen, Megan and I move slowly towards the beginning our score.   I inch my way into the projection with  audiences oh so close, almost too close.   I begin to expand my movements; audiences back off to give me more space.   They start to watch  the play of shadows and projections, opening  up the space  a bit more.  A good fifteen minutes into the piece we have arrived at the score.  We connect with each other, our shadows, our bodies.  We deal with audiences moving through our dance, the sense of crowding — Silvana and JMo have joined us.

Summer:  Elizabeth Reynolds as the mermaid

The audience has stepped away and given us the space.   Kariamu's laughter rings out regularly  in the distance or closer  throughout.  I notice constant traffic into the summer tent.

Jumatatu Poe under a pile of branches

                                                            My impulse is to leave my group;   I want to see the piece.  I need more space.   I move away from the projection and look to frame the action from afar, moving into areas of light.  Its my piece, I can do what I want, so I go for a walk.    I watch Jumatatu for a while, and then Olive. They are the only other dancers I can see besides my group.  Winter Spring and Summer are in their respective tents. 

Merián Soto
Its playful,  engaging with the audience up close, moving  in on them, turning through the space getting as close as possible without hitting any one.  I recognize several people.

This connecting with the audience  becomes a new thematic action.    When the group finale comes around I run straight towards groups of people.   I am amazed that they hold their ground, totally unafraid of a person hurtling at them with a huge branch.   I get close to people, very close. I remember  once again my sense that  this is a practice of peace.   Obviously, this is transmitted to the audience, they trust us.   The group is connected despite the sense of disorientation from the cold and the masses.   We hold together, we hold the score.  We find the end.  Together.

I'm surrounded by friends.  They are excited by the work, they want to talk but they need to get out of the cold and scurry off.    I'm freezing;  I look around for Michael. I don' see him so I move  around the site looking for my blanket, checking that everything is ready for the next performance.   Finally, Michael brings me a blanket.  Five minutes to places! I'm not ready to do this again. 

Olive Prince
I turn to Megan and Ellen.   Are you OK?    The cold is so impossible, especially since we are  sweaty from the final running, and the wind has picked up.  I don't want to give up my blanket.  "This will be a great performance,"  I say.  I know we just have to dive in.  Don't think.  Just do the practice.  Stay connected.  

We begin again.  The audience has thinned out a bit, its quieter, less chaotic.   We can move into the score immediately.  We connect.    Slohhhhhhw down, down, down, take turns, follow the shadow plays.  Fear creeps in at moments as the wind picks up (I don't want to get sick; I don't want  anyone to get sick).  My body drops low to the ground several times looking to move away from the wind. Nothing to do but commit, go slow, stay connected.

When its time to run I experience a moment of shock.  My legs feel leaden, so heavy,  no longer two, just one heavy anchor.  Thankfully,  the sensation is transient.  I fall into the weight and immediately I am moving swiftly through the space.   I have a sense of everyone, yes!  I remember the dance just 1.5 hrs ago.   I can see we all remember.  We have all entered the structure with a sense of connection to self and to the whole.   Yes! It feels right, un-rushed, self-aware, creative,  and free.

I see that the dancers are tired, they are ready to end this.  I see the video still has several minutes to go, its not yet time!   I too want this to end but I need it to be right.  I  slow down in the turning and fall into a zone.  I fall into a prayer for clarity and inspiration for everyone here, of thanks for the fulfillment of my vision.  I see dancers stop one by one as I continue to spin  spin spin spin.   Finally I stop, dizzy.    In moments it clears.   I release the branch and catch it.  I gently place it on the ground.   I step back. The end.
The End.

All too quickly we disperse looking for warmth in our cars, in layers of clothing.    Its over.   Everything must come down.

All photos: Lindsay Browning Photography