Barbara Morgan (American, 1900–1992), Pearl Primus, Speak to Me of Rivers (1), 1944, Silver gelatin print (printed 1970s – 1980s), University Museum of Contemporary Art, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Courtesy of the Barbara Morgan Archive. (UM 2009.12.1)
WCMA Blog

Working Together/Declarations of Independence

We want to invite you to rest, to listen, to wonder. We’ll pay you to do it if we have to. We want to invite you to be disoriented, willingly, just for a moment. I want to invite you to enjoy yourself. We will try to help you do that if you need us to. What would it be like to experience pleasure right now, for a moment, and to be able to say that you are experiencing pleasure?

We want you to look at some bodies, some bodies moving in front of you. Look at these bodies. Listen to them. Look at these bodies wondering, resting, not knowing. Together. And alone. Look at these bodies touching, shaking, jumping, getting exhausted. Look at them making chaos. Look at them maintaining some kind of order at the same time. Look at them looking at each other. Look at them looking at you.

Listen. Do you hear your own voice?

Asher Woodworth, Karl Mullen, Kelly Wang, Audrey Kwon, Monel Chang, Stephen Simalchik, Tracy Hu and I are barreling along with our quick process that will culminate in the WCMA at Night event Working Together/Declarations of Independence next Thursday, January 17, 2013 from 5 to 9 pm. While we are moving quickly we are also taking time to look, listen, and rest carefully. Its integral to our work, to advocating for more time to slow down, notice, and choose new pathways. We let ourselves get disoriented in the service of not-knowing in the service of being surprised in the service of making change.

In this process we are collectively finding embodied rather than representative manifestations of the balance between disorder and order, the individual and the collective. I am so impressed with the willingness of this group of students to take on the huge and esoteric questions that we are asking through the work, and their ability to jump in whole-heartedly to the rigorous and intense movement practice we are doing. Collectively, we are developing experiments that the audience can look at and listen to, but also ones they will be asked/invited to participate in.

One participant, Stephen Simalchik, says of the process:

Things are moving quickly in preparation for our January 17th performance of Working Together/Declarations of Independence. Our rag-tag group of movers has been rehearsing for just about a week now, and the progress we’ve made in such a short amount of time excites me. Central to our process is the question of order versus disorder; how are both created and sustained, how can either be repressive, and how can we organize ourselves to maintain a healthy balance.

Our first steps involved exploring ways of subverting and redirecting forces of control. Perhaps even more fundamental is the question of  why we would want to do that in the first place—I suggest you come to the performance and decide for yourself.

In rehearsal, we spend time looking inwards at ourselves and our interpretations of our bodies, and then outwards to our relationship to other bodies. We’ve considered kinds of power like money, capitalism, and the allure of profit. We fight the tendency to simplify these complicated subjects, but as we physicalize and live the reality of these forces, it becomes apparent very quickly what is and is not real. And that encourages us to constantly question and re-question what we should concern our all-to-precious life with.

Guided by the keen eye of Hana Van Der Kolk, we’ve been creating dance-inspired “experiments” that grapple with or demonstrate questions around these subjects of order/disorder. So far we’ve spent a significant amount of time freeing impulses; allowing eroticism, play, anger, and pleasure to break through the censoring mind. To me personally, these processes help release fear, shame and other forms of internal conflict that result in disfigured and distorted external relationships. This can be explored in a dance so simple that its only choreography or instruction is to say “yes” to any and every impulse in your body. That is not easy to do, and requires great trust and control. Through the experience of doing and watching that movement however, forms of power and control over the body and space it inhabits become apparent and questionable.

I find this kind of dance lends itself to political thought easily, and that is what we hope to achieve in our performance. From small, personal subversions of power that result in healthier living—similar to how the ordering of galaxies resembles the ordering of an atom—we’re finding new ways to question and think about order and disorder.

—Hanna van der Kolk

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