Winter 2022 In Dance

DEFAULT BY GERALD CASEL I reach to the high back diagonal, leading with distal fingertips and spoking my arms as I step forward with my right foot. Allowing the arms to drop, the knee swoops up in a counter thrust against the arms’ driv- ing force. The right arm circles up above the head while the left arm slices across in front of the torso reaching toward the side low diagonal. There is a lot of weight sequencing through my bones and the resulting wave of motion ripples through my muscles and beyond my nervous sys- tem. The arm upswings and I turn on the ball of my left foot as the right leg falls up to the side high diagonal only to fold down allowing the left knee to flex with the foot and wrists also bending as in the weighted, crumpled, and genuflected figures in Nijin- sky’s Le Sacre du Printemps . These descriptive words don’t actually describe how I am feeling while performing these movements. I wonder if it’s because as I think about the gesture, I can visu- alize postmodernism’s lack of affect – in the facial expression and in the absence of dynamic peaks and valleys. This insistence on not offering kinetic commentary gives rise to an embodied neutrality such that the body can/shall be read without any mark- ings that would announce its race, ethnic- ity, gender, class, or any other intersectional identifiers. When performing these move- ments, I am imagining the impossible, that my body can be read as neutral and that the movements I make can be translated and read as universal, without meaning or intent. Following Claudia Rankine who says, “I myself am overdetermined by my race,” my dancing body is always/already/ only read and preconfigured in the viewer’s mind as a racialized subject. Over the years, I have been improvising in a style that looks like a mix of Trisha

Brown, Bebe Miller, and William Forsythe. Maybe these three are the ones I try to chan- nel when conjuring movements that simul- taneously reflect both my deepest somatic self and a nonchalant stream of conscious- ness that is at once self-conscious and care- free. I call this my default. For me, this term captures the moment-by-moment work of improvising that acknowledges my teach- ers while trying not to look like I give a shit. Honoring my teachers is unconscious and unavoidable, but not all of them exist within these categories. For some reason, my somatic teachers disappear in my mind’s eye since so much of that work integrated imag- ery into an applied practice so that my body became more efficient, discerning, and clear – free from adornment and embellishment. In a way, somatic practices ask us to be a body that is unperforming. Lately, I’ve been bringing into practice the naming of people’s most influential teachers. I have also asked them to identify their teach- er’s race or ethnicity, the form they taught, and the cultural tradition from which their practice comes. It has been interesting to see the various ways people have processed this request – with some totally unphased by the prompt – while others expressing how, just by being asked the question, were reliving a difficult experience from their past. It is never my intent to ask people to draw on past trau- matic experiences and share them with the group, so I take it very seriously when some- one taps me on the shoulder to say that this might not be a good question to bring up in a community gathering. How do we create clear boundaries of care when asking about histories of dance training that have been harmful and painful? How do we hold space when the questions we ask unearth a trau- matic past? These are some of the challeng- ing territories my social and creative prac- tices have been merging. In asking about people’s training histo- ries, I am also interested in understanding the potential for cultural mismatch that may emerge. For example, one of my most influ- ential teachers is Kazuko Hirabayashi. Kaz

Collective Matters on Dance and Other Body

How do we create clear boundaries of care when asking about histories of dance training that have been harmful and painful?

Modifications WRITTEN BY MEMBERS OF DANCING AROUND RACE D ancing Around Race (DAR) explores the socio-cultural dimen- sions of race within the interconnected fields of choreography, dance presentation, dance training, funding, curatorial prac- tices, and dance criticism in U.S. contemporary and postmod- ern dance. Since 2018, DAR has been building momentum and relevance across the dance communities in the Bay Area as it grapples with systemic and institutional racism that require profound change. Looking closely at the Bay Area dance ecology and working with a systems thinking approach, inquiry examines how various elements contribute to or inhibit racially equitable distributions of power, access, and representation. We’re a collaborative of emerging and mid-career BIPOC choreographers working together to create platforms to explore racial justice and equity. Despite the pandemic, we continue to meet and assist the BIPOC community, finding reprieve while uplifting each other.


in dance WINTER 2022 30

WINTER 2022 in dance 31




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In Dance | May 2014 |

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