Explorations of Fluidity

By Julieta Varela

Photography by SJR Photography.

A response to MICHIYAYA Dance’s newest work-in-progress /wē/ pt 1. On April 6–8th, 2018, MICHIYAYA Dance premiered /we/ pt 1 at Gibney’s new studio U in New York City. An immersive and interactive multimedia experience was created by Artistic Directors Anya Clarke and Mitsuko Verdery, in collaboration with MICHIYAYA Dance artists, movement/sound duo slowdanger, and lighting designer Alejandro Fajardo.

Upon entering the audience found themselves immersed in saturated blue tones, with smokey projections of aquatic shadow forms, highlighted with reflective synthetic materials. Some sat in chairs, while others were on floor cushions. The soundscape and aesthetic atmosphere of the space engulfed everyone in a fluid environment, preluding the /wē/ performance piece, that
meditated on personal and collective journeys with fluidity in the face of rigid constraints.

The dance artists appeared one at a time, allowing the audience to observe individual experiences. Many seemed to be flowing through struggles against an invisible force, both internal and external. In order of appearance, Belinda Adam, Alexandra Wood, Núria Martin Fandos (Breeanah Breeden on April 7th), Aliza Russell, Stephanie Carlos, and Hannah Seiden arrived to tell their stories, interwoven between focused individual narratives and perspectives
on the larger social dynamics of the group.

Company member Hannah Seiden filled up with rage, while dressed in a white garment that resembled that of someone who is institutionalized. Her movement vocabulary communicated painful struggle, and vulnerability as she lay on the floor with her lower body cornered by the group’s zombie presence. She rose to join the mob of low vibrational forms, but escaped their
trance. Free from the masses robotic synchronicity, she removed the white garment and explored her body’s expansion throughout the space. Eventually the mob dispersed, but continued to move in unison. The dancers threatened alienated Hannah with their elegantly drawn finger pistols. The guns were released with a collective exhale, and the group began to move into couples with Hannah joining the rest.

Each pair of dancers engaged and then released one another, while a pattern of unease, frustration and exhilaration started to take care over. Company members, Belinda Adam and Nuria Martin Fandos (Breeanah Breeden on April 7th), struggled against invisible resistance as they moved towards each other with determined locked gazes. They seemed to be walking through water, with a deep sexually charged yearning pulling them closer. Audiences seemed to be witnessing a moment of suspended time, during which deep lure had been stirred into motion by an alchemical force beyond themselves. Once they finally arrived to one another, time seemed to resume its normal pace, as they rushed off in opposite directions. Audiences were left with a strong sense of voyeurism, as though their watching presences prevented Belinda and Nuria from embracing.

Their absence lead to the soundscapes’ transition from abstract to narrative. Voices of adults and children reflected on experiences with gender performance, norms, and roles in their community. Dancers individually appear, eventually becoming a collective embodiment of the stories, as they presented themselves to the audience. An interview about the gender identity of a young voice continues as one dancer approaches another. One dancer moved in an out their own realm, as they kept being pulled out of their trance, by the other who seemed disparate to be heard. There was a disconnect in their dialogue, and frustrated anxiety radiated from them. The entranced dancer left the dynamic, as the other deflated with their absence. Their gestures became increasingly physical as their performative characters faltered away.

With momentary darkness and a flash of red light, Belinda and Nuria reconnected in a passionate embrace. They shed their clothes during a flirtatious dance, while the room was drowned in red hues. The rest of the dancers began dancing ecstatically, speaking to their sexual liberation. They collectively outstretched their arms and open hands, holding space for
each other to release the tension in their beings. The whole group eventually move in gathered formation, making vast strides throughout the room.

As the group slowed their pace, they organized with the return of the focused finger pistols aimed throughout the room. After releasing their weaponry, they lept and bound in liberated union, only to find themselves on the ground injured. But they slowly rose, comforting and embracing one another. The audience was ushered to join them in a tight circle, as the show concluded. Among others, this final scene seemed to balance delicacy and strength, qualities that are made to seem in opposite when that need not be the case. /wē/ presents journeys through challenging binaries, as the dancers explore queer magic, sexuality, taboo, instinct, intuition and prejudice in the face of social norms.

The full version of /wē/ will premiere April
25–28th, 2019 at the 14th St Y as a part of their LABA 2018–2019 Season.