Fall 2021 In Dance

Who are we? Why are we talking about dance & archives? Hallie Chametzky: While studying dance and choreography in college, I was selected for a Fellowship in the dance collections at the Library of Congress. That was my crash course training in archives — processing and making available materials from the Martha Graham Legacy Project. It blew my mind that I was able to get up close and personal with materials that belonged to modern dance icons and had hardly been handled since the early-to-mid-twentieth century. I worked a lot with papers related to the New Dance Group, who I consider my dancestors because of their radical, socialist, egalitarian approach to con- cert dance. I kept applying to dance archives gigs, which are fairly few and far between, and I’m now really lucky to work for Dance/USA, where I offer archives education, resources, and ser- vices to living, working artists, espe- cially those who have been historically marginalized in the dance world and the archival record. I wanted to talk about dance mak- ing and archiving work with you, Sarah, because I haven’t met many archivists who also have an ongo-

science researcher and dancer, I’m inter- ested in how lived experiences turned memories can trans- late to artful move- ment. I started to explore this idea when I started my Masters in Library and Information Sci- ence program and processed and digi- tized records for the Mark Morris Dance Group Archives. I grew up in studio competition dance so I never really consid- ered myself a dance

in one space. It’s not a new concept or method, but the nuances that differen- tiate information and memory on the physical body versus on visual or text documentation is often overlooked. After years of research and practice in information organization and dance, I look at what it means to create dance as my body ages and then share these creations for public access. Four different influences come to mind with this question: First, there’s Tonia Sutherland’s archival research, which looks at how archives and memory can be pre- served through non-print mediums. Sutherland focuses on dance and stories passing through generations of Pacific Islander and Black commu- nities. In particular, her work explores Dunham Technique vocabulary as a means to decolonize archival praxis 1 , the impact of digital records on Black bodies 2 , and Black communities’ use of digital social media as a means to create performative, autonomous, and liberatory spaces. 3 Her perspectives on the violence that existing archives have had on oppressed bodies reso- nate with me as I navigate through misrepresentation and undocumenta- tion of my ancestors. Then there’s the choreographic workshop that David Roussève,

from each other. Instead, lived experi- ences are interwoven throughout the past, present, and future of individu- als’ memories, movement creations, and daily life. This places value in the often forgotten care and maintenance needed to address traumas and nar- ratives stored within archives, espe- cially when we look at sustainability of born-digital records, such as those created by artists and hosted/pub- lished on third-party proprietary plat- forms owned by Big Tech companies. HC: I feel that there is real truth to the idea that we are repositories for knowledge that we can pursue through movement, ritual, and embodiment. In a totally different (and maybe more concrete) vein, I’m torn about other ways that I’m seeing “archive” used in the performance world. On the one hand, I’m delighted that more artists are considering their bodies and move- ments as part of a lineage. I’m all for expanded notions of the archive, espe- cially because “the archive” has been controlled for far too long by institu- tional, colonial forces. On the other hand, there are also artists who claim to be “archiving” their work by curating selections of pieces and processes on social media or YouTube. Without being too

director of David Roussève/REAL- ITY, taught in preparation for his New York premiere of Halfway to Dawn , 4 where we learned about Roussève’s process incorporating archival documents of the politically active jazz artist, Billy Strayhorn, into movement and onto the stage. It was the first time I experienced intentional archival references in a class/rehearsal space and saw how dancers can re- interpret a choreographer’s intellec- tual embodiment of archival records. I was inspired by the dancers’ abil- ity to uplift marginalized souls and voices and weave in the “past, pres- ent, and fantasy,” as they created rela- tionships with each other, the music, and quotes from Strayhorn’s diary entries on stage. Third, I think of Kathy Carbone’s research on activating archival mate- rials. She re-imagines archival docu- ments to commemorate the lives of the original creators and subjects of the archive, 5 a way to better under- stand, represent, and re-describe the intentions of a record outside of the colonial perspective that has been tra- ditional to archival practices. Last, there’s the concept of “jazz time,” 6 which posits that music, dance, and lived experiences are never compartmentalized or segregated

critical, I cringe a bit at the self- proclaimed artist-archivists who think that videoing and sharing their work is by default an archival pro- cess. Social media websites claim a level of copyright ownership over the posts shared on them. They are fully within their right to use posts shared by users however they wish, includ- ing removing them from the site completely. What kind of archive has so little control over its materials? An archive that isn’t concerned with who is granted ownership of the materials or whether they disappear without notice would be a sloppy archive indeed. Considering the eth- ics of the platform by which you share information is an essential part of responsible archiving, but it’s not very sexy. It’s easier to think of “the archive” as simply any collection of interesting stuff. There’s a difference between con- ceptual ideas of the “body archive” and this sloppy internet archive I’m complaining about. But both seem to come from the same place of increased interest among dance artists in participating in and cre- ating lineage and history. If art- ists wanted to, say, establish a dig- ital guerilla archive where they can share and preserve work outside of a

artist; it felt too formulaic, commer- cial. But when I interned at Luna Dance Institute library, I was intro- duced to critical inquiry and creative movement, which broadened my understanding of the mutable bound- aries of dance. Now that I’ve been a Dance/USA Archiving Fellow for AXIS Dance Company’s archives for two years, I’ve come to accept myself as both a researcher and creator of movement and information. Seeing

“If my artist brain and my archivist brain were a venn diagram, there would be a big overlap in the middle, but also some space on the sides” —HALLIE

your work, Hallie, Songs for Women, Songs for Men , I’m

ing movement practice, and I’m curi- ous about the ways you see those two worlds colliding. If my artist brain and my archivist brain were a venn diagram, there would be a big overlap in the middle, but also some space on the sides. I also saw your piece 30 x 3 virgin remy: $200 OBO r ecently, and I could see how memory, history, and the body are intertwining for you. Sarah Nguyen: I’m excited you saw my piece, Hallie! It was the first time I presented a work that’s directly about my ancestors, so it felt vulner- able yet healing. As an information

fascinated to learn more about your experience integrating archives into your dance practice. What is your relationship with the concept of the “body as archive” or the more general increased interest in “the archive” by move- ment artists? SN: For me, the term “archive(s)” in relation to body and movement art- ists is an exploratory fifth dimension intersecting information, memory, and the tangible physical body


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In Dance | May 2014 | dancersgroup.org

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