Countdown to Gala 2017, Day 27: Excerpts from Issue #24 of the Movement Research Performance Journal

The 2017 Movement Research Gala on May 8 will celebrate 25 years of Movement Research at the Judson Church and 50 Issues of the Movement Research Performance Journal. As we count down the days until the Gala, we’re posting #50DaysOfMRPJ with Editor’s Notes and excerpts from each Performance Journal.

Movement Research Performance Journal Issue #24 was released in Spring 2002. You can view the full Table of Contents here.

*The Movement Research Gala will take place Monday, May 8 at 6pm at Judson Memorial Church. For more information, to volunteer or to purchase tickets, click here.

#MRGala2017 #50DaysOfMRPJ


MRPJ#24: Fragile

Editor’s Note

Editors: Sarah Michelson and Jill Sigman

THE VERY LAST PERFORMANCE JOURNAL, #23, WAS ENTITLED “NOW,” AND NOW, EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT.

–Sarah Michelson

PERFORMING IS ALWAYS SUCH A THING. I TRY TO SLEEP ENOUGH, EAT RIGHT, WARM-UP, CENTER… BUT IT’S NEVER ENOUGH. RECENTLY AT A PUB IN IRELAND I WAS AMAZED BY THE WAY MUSICIANS GATHERED AND SPONTANEOUSLY DID WHAT THEY DO. LIKE ANOTHER SPECIES.

SEPTEMBER 11 MADE ME THINK ABOUT HOW READILY WE USE OUR SKILLS AS ARTISTS AND PERFORMERS. FIREFIGHTERS RUSHED INTO BURNING BUILDINGS AND PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER SET FOOT ON A STAGE PUT THEMSELVES “OUT THERE” IN MOMENTOUS REAL-LIFE IMPROVISATIONS. I WAS HUMBLED BY THE MULTITUDE OF HOME-MADE PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES.

JOANNA MENDL SHAW FORWARDED ME AN E-MAIL. IT BASICALLY SAID, TAKE WHAT YOU’VE GOT AND USE IT. I STARTED PERFORMING IN PUBLIC — AN OLD SOLO ABOUT DEVASTATION AND GRIEF. IT’S MINDBENDING TO SEE WORKERS SIT DOWN TO WATCH YOU IN UNION SQUARE, FEEL COMMUTERS SWARM AROUND YOU IN PENN STATION, HAVE STRANGERS HUG YOU AT THE FIREMEN’S MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN UPTOWN. YOU REALIZE THAT DANCE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO AFFECT PEOPLE.

IT WAS FOR RELATED REASONS THAT I AGREED TO EDIT THIS ISSUE OF THE MR PERFORMANCE JOURNAL, ALL THE WHILE THINKING ‘HOW CAN WE DEAL WITH SUCH A CONFUSED SUBJECT AT SUCH A CONFUSED TIME?’ BUT THIS JOURNAL IS A WAY FOR PEOPLE TO “USE WHAT THEY’VE GOT”– TO SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES, THEIR UNIQUE MOVEMENT-ORIENTED WAYS OF PROCESSING EVENTS, AND THEIR MEDITATIONS ON THE CURRENT RELEVANCE OF THE ARTS.

I DON’T CLAIM THAT ART WILL SAVE THE WORLD. BUT IT IS CERTAINLY A PART OF THAT WORLD, AND WHAT WE DO WON’T BE IRRELEVANT IF WE PUT OURSELVES INTO THE LANDSCAPE… BY DOING AND MOVING AND ACTING, AND BY THINKING AND SPEAKING ABOUT THOSE ACTIONS. I AM EXTREMELY THANKFUL TO SARAH AND ALL THE CONTRIBUTORS FOR THEIR INSPIRING EXAMPLES OF THOUGHTFULNESS AND COURAGE IN THE MURKY TERRAIN OF PERFORMANCE AFTER 9/11.

Untitled

by Jennifer Monson

Oct 13, 2001

I teach dance at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in the Early Childhood Center. It’s quite close to the site of the World Trade Center and has just reopened. Last week when I went into teach, I gave the kids an exercise that they weren’t quite engaging in. Suddenly one kid said, “Look at me! I can be a building falling down,” and then for the next five minutes all the kids began falling — replaying the image of the WTC collapse in their bodies. It was such a direct physical representation and kinetic experience of what it means and how it feels to collapse. It was beautiful, not sad, just heroic in each of their little bodies — a way to keep moving and being in the world that at times makes so little sense.

The first time I danced after September 11th I had a similar experience. I stood up and walked into the studio space to dance for a friend and found myself instantly imploding, until I collapsed on the floor. Then the images of what it must have been like in those last few moments came to me, writhing through my body, aching, struggling, until eventually I found a calm space to look into the grief and hold it in my body. In my rehearsals I have been working on digging and burying. Originally the idea came from wanting to make a dance that could express the enthusiasm that my dog has for digging and playing with other dogs. But over the past month it has come to mean so many more things. As Erin and I delve under each other, feeling each other’s dead weight or strength, settling and unsettling, finding the dark places and moving out from under them to the light, I know that I am processing the experience of watching thousands of people caught in those buildings. Dancing has been the only way to get close to what is incomprehensible and unspeakable grief.

My brain and my body have never worked so hard to find solutions, to make sense of something. We have all had a crash course in Middle Eastern history and Islam. As artists I think we are constantly trying to tackle the contradictions of being inside and outside of other people’s experiences. Dance deals in delicate languages that reveal emotional subtleties from a personal place. Our bodies project our grief.

I am resistant to the smoothness of slipping back to familiar handleable emotions. The rawness left us all so open, so unified, so emotional — now we are slipping back into political rhetoric and sentimentality, not to mention the odd concept of patriotism. For a moment we really could make a difference. We could hold each other and contemplate what had been unthinkable. Now as opinions vary and spread across a broad field our differences become apparent. Rhetoric is easier to find, to lean on. It’s smooth.

How to hold on to the roughness, rawness, sharpness? Or how to understand the smoothness as the next development? The edge is too tender to stay open.

A smooth scar will grow over it. But as our minds pass along it over and over again, like fingers across an old cut, our common body will recognize how it has been permanently altered.