Fall 2021 In Dance

“Inspired by Jeff Fridman’s research on oral histories and ‘time consciousness and embedded communications,’ I recorded an oral history with my mother about her life as a six-year-old in rural Viet Nam during 1972-1974.” —SARAH

all have the ability to feel grounded in legacy and history. We must insist upon new, anti-colonial models for equitable archiving so that the legacies of Black people, Indigenous people, and other people who have historically been excluded from archival record and practice can connect with legacy mate- rials in the ways white people have long had access to. Still, I believe that none of us are owed a comprehensive, uncomplicated picture of any person or event from the past. Our ancestors were just as complex and multilayered as we are, and our encounters with archives cannot ever give us access to their full personhood, even as they can offer profound connection to legacy and history. I am arguing for privacy for the dead, even as I work in a field

delights in the fundamental incom- pleteness of both live performance and the archival record. I don’t believe I’m entitled to an experience of live performance which leaves me with clarity. Live dance is created in the gap between the audi- ence and the performer(s). Similarly, the archival record is composed of more gaps and silences than pieces of knowledge and information. Our contemporary bodies encountering an archive are not owed total under- standing. The intimacy generated by encountering archival materials is entirely one-sided; the contemporary party voyeuristically projects meaning and significance onto materials that have been curated by the whims and preferences of time. It’s crucial that we

is taken directly from the title of a dance by Sophie Maslow whose archi- val papers I processed at the Library of Congress. Maslow’s dances dealt a lot with Jewishness, as do mine, and I liked the idea of following the Jewish tradition of naming after the dead. The piece uses archival Hebrew and Yiddish music, and also fea- tures archival recording of my grand- mother, the late poet Anne Halley, reading her poems. I made this piece in an academic context and received quite a bit of feedback from my teachers and peers that was critical of how diffi- cult it was to understand portions of the poems because of the quality of the archival audio. I was frustrated and baffled by this as someone who

The same is true for me in making a dance. No one movement exists as a discrete action. The arc of the piece has to make sense to me before I can get hung up on specific gestures or phrases. And before I can shape the structure of the piece, I have to do my deep research and learning, which often includes study of history, texts, and the archive. So it’s a big cycle. Songs for Women, Songs for Men came out of my thoughts on sacred and secular gendered ritual acts, and how ritual can be both a tool of lib- eration and oppression. The title

understanding the archive is the same in that one has to get this broad, over- arching feel for the narrative of the materials before getting too involved with details. I enjoy going on a detec- tive hunt to identify a mysterious face in a blurry photograph, but with- out understanding the full scope of the materials and building the con- tainers and categories that contex- tualize them, it can be self-defeating to get bogged down in those minute details. No one object in the archive is distinct; context and interrelation- ships are key to our understanding.

traditional institutional context, I would be their number one fan. It’s all about caring for the materials, which involves an entirely different sort of labor than curating a social media page. How does your archival practice show up in your dance making and vice versa? HC: I tend to be a structural cho- reographer; the form or arc of a dance comes to me before the details of the movement. I find that so much of building, maintaining, and


in dance FALL 2021 16

FALL 2021 in dance 17




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In Dance | May 2014 | dancersgroup.org

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