When visiting modern/contemporary art galleries, the process behind the product is often illuminated by a caption next to the piece - something I always enjoy reading. In contrast, as a long-time viewer of dance, particularly contemporary dance, I am often frustrated at the lack of explanation behind pieces I watch. The overwhelming majority of these works are non-narrative, but they almost always have a story behind their creation. Sometimes I get a glimpse into this process by being a part of it or catching a choreographer after a show, but viewing the piece and reading its title are almost never enough to really understand as much as I want to. I cannot even imagine how alienated non-dancers must feel. My friends often tell me they don't "get it" after watching contemporary dance; this not a reflection on their intellect or insight, but rather a comment on the lack of information. To combat this effect, I've decided to provide the following as a "caption" for my dance, in long and short forms.
This piece was performed in Sarah Lawrence College's Open Dance Concert, Spring 2013. The videos are of Wednesday, March 6th's dress rehearsal and Friday, March 8th's performance. The dance meshes my formal dance training with my love for dancing in the club to electronic music. Dan Veytia DJs live for this improvisational dance.
If you want to read more, there's a longer version.
Anyone who has ever told me that they wanted to see my work - this is for you.
Anyone who has supported me through all my musical ventures throughout the years - Sarah Lawrence, my family, and beyond.
You asked for it! This is pretty long. Emily wrote it.
In middle, high school (and the beginning of college) I choreographed at least one piece that got performed every year, and imagined so many more in my head. I was so sure that was what I wanted to do with my life. Always having been moved by music, which I had strong tastes in, I was certain of my vision: dance WAS music, just presented in a different medium. Dance was to music as ice was to water and my job as the choreographer was to do that translation for my audience. I also relished in the fact that I was bringing my "weird" (mostly industrial) music to mothers and grandmothers, the typical audience for school-age dance concerts; and bringing performative dance to my weird-music-loving friends by enticing them with my music choices. I loved industrial and other electronic music for its "noises", which are usually computer-produced; and I often created movement to these different individual sounds rather than to the composition as a whole.
When I turned 18, I was allowed to express my love for dance in a slightly different venue - I could then get in to dance clubs. I made a weekly habit of visiting industrial, and sometimes 80's, club nights and danced my heart out every time. Some earlier experiences social dancing (at weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, school dances), a touch of jazz dance background, and a decent sense of rhythm from my dance training helped me get started on the dance floor. Layering exposure to the New York and Cleveland styles of industrial dancing on top of that existing background, I unintentionally developed my own brand of moving to this music. While I have no formal training or background in hip hop dance, popping-and-locking, breaking, or raver "light shows", I can somehow see elements of all of these incorporated into my movement too.
All the while, I continued my formal dance training in contemporary/modern dance, ballet, and more.
But somewhere in the middle of my time at SLC I became disillusioned. The dance department, I thought, was not friendly to my music-first approach and I no longer felt that I was a satisfactory performer or choreographer. With years more experience and wisdom, I now realize that it was more that my dance background hadn't meshed well with the SLC approach, that I hadn't gotten feedback on my choreography because I hadn't taken a composition course, and that factors like those made me cranky and unwilling to learn and adapt. I was young at the time and couldn't have seen that, so in 2003 I officially quit dancing for the first time since I was six.
I'm not sure why I came back to dance after I graduated other than that I figured out that I can't live without it in my life. I need dance so much. During my time off, I cried silently at concerts because it was not me on stage. So I came back, begging at the door of the SLC dance department. The inspiring faculty there have been so generous as to let me take class, perform in concerts, and even create my own work.
That's not to say I haven't been continuing my struggle to find my place with dance: I feel rusty at choreographing. I'm not as skilled of a dancer as most in this department, which is my only dance community. The old thoughts of inadequacy (real or imagined) still haunt me. I realize dance is not my whole life, nor do I want it to be anymore, but I still feel a tugging when others graduate and go off to perform and make work in the city. I never really reconciled my old conflict between how SLC teaches and believes in dance (which I now deeply embrace as a student of theirs for the past 8 years) and my former inspirations for my own work.
As time went on, I also shed some of my ties to the industrial music scene. I still love the songs I used to listen to, but too much clubbing and too much drama made me burn out, also around 2003. Lately I listen more to dance music - trance, house, etc. It feels strange not to know every artist, album, and side project like I did with industrial, but I'm working on coming to terms with deeply enjoying electronic/dance music in a different way than I did industrial. On occasion, I will even go out to an 80's, industrial, or dance music club night. While it will never quite be the same as it was when I was 18-21, dancing all night feels just as good as it did then.
While this will seem unrelated, I want to mention it here: In 2010, I began another project. It's related to my interest in manmade spaces and our relationship to them. I call the whole thing "infrastructure," but it's really bigger than that: buildings, abandoned places, bridges, trains, highways, and the way these different things interact to make a space we occupy. I'm interested in the everyday uses of the spaces, their histories including the people who influenced their creation and subsequent transformations, and most importantly, what it feels like to inhabit them. I have yet to figure out what the final product of this project will be - I want it to be some artistic form but nothing that's ever been done before. For now, I've been documenting my experiences in a blog. While I have yet to quite figure out how the infrastructure project fits in with dance, it does feel very related - the joy I find in these spaces is the same joy I feel when dancing or listening to music I love, they're both creative endeavors, and both things I want to share with the world.
In winter of 2011-12, I stumbled upon the social networking account for Turn It Around, an electronic music podcast. This description interested me right away. Digging deeper, the producer of the podcast went to SLC, and I sort of knew who he was. I decided to give a couple of tracks a listen and was almost immediately hooked. I downloaded new episodes right away. I populated my mp3 player with the tracks for on-the-go listening. I rocked out to them in the car, while working on my computer, and doing dishes.
That winter was a tough time for me, with some major life changes going on (all turned out positive, but the process was rough). From the contemplations of the changes to be made to the logistics and follow-through, the podcasts were with me. I cranked up the soaring dance music through good days and bad.
At some point, I decided to contact Dan, the podcast's producer, to tell him how much I enjoyed the series. After I sent a couple of timid emails, we ended up getting in touch and finally chatting.
I don't know how my ideas for creative projects come to me. At the risk of sounding cliche, it might be that creative spark, what makes an artist an artist, or something like that. Sometime in fall of 2012 I got struck by inspiration: a performed dance project that would hook into my interests in club dancing and electronic music. Many a piece in past SLC dance concerts past made use of our convenient pool of student musicians. Why not, then, ask Dan to be my musician for the dance I dreamed up?
My idea was that this would be a team improvisation. After all, DJing is a truly improvisational art form, as is dancing in a club. I wanted to make something real - to reject the artifice that so often comes with dance. Even contemporary dance can suffer from this ("Look! I'm wearing pedestrian clothing and not a costume! See how I'm commenting that dance is like real life!" or "Look at me do this thing you don't usually see on stage!") This dance is true to me in every way - it is what a real DJ set would be like, I dance how I would in a club setting, and we interact as we would in that setting.
But more than that, it's what I want to do. This type of dancing has always felt free to me, partly because of its improvisational nature. This style is what I default to in any social dance situation; it's what feels right to my body. I am at ease in clubs and other social dance venues because I have my dance style to rely on. And it doesn't hurt that I've been complimented on my dancing by strangers. That's circular: when performing something you love your enthusiasm is evident which makes the performance better, and when you're good at something, you're more likely to love it. While I can analyze much of this, it comes down to a pure feeling of elation when I dance my style to music I love. This flutter in my heart is why I started dancing in the first place, and what I forever chase whether through dance, infrastructure, or just listening to the music that moves me.
I hope you will see this enjoyment, and therefore beauty, in Dan and I as we perform this piece.