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MJ: Kegan [Marling] and I were talking about that. I hope not. I think many of us who run programs in San Francisco bring people here with excitement to share new ways of thinking but to also share the vitality of the area and to broaden what we know. To stay insular doesn’t make any sense. That’s why I travel to other places in the world as often as possible. That’s why I try to get people from as many different places as possible to come here and be in dialogue with my company or in CHIME. When I did CHIME Across Borders for five years that was the reason I brought David Gordon, Ralph Lemon, Dana Reitz, Tere O’Connor, Elizabeth Streb—not because they are better than anybody here, but they had other expe- riences to share and offered different ways of seeing, about art-making. Elizabeth made everyone think outside the box. There isn’t anybody who thinks like she thinks. SB: Well that’s for sure. MJ: My hope is that Vicky and Merián will do the same. The people that I know in the Bay Area that are over sixty, dozens, some of them really good friends and fascinat- ing artists, will welcome the challenge or the otherness of these artists, I think. And, also an ongoing question is what can I do to keep myself as an artist at attention and interested? How great to be able to curate a program and to continue to make work. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot. SB: It goes back to the question of whether older established artists need to step aside. If you have the power to provide platforms for other artists, that’s much more impor- tant than stepping aside or out of the realm. If you’re still in the funding cycle but it’s in order to foster other artists, then that seems like a better idea. There will always be grumpy artists in a culture that doesn’t support the arts enough. MJ: Well, I don’t think it should be either/or. I am interested in curating. I am interested in being a working artist. I think it’s extraordi- nary what we get to do with our lives. More often than not, getting to go into the studio and work with the people I get to work with is a breathtaking and great privilege, and that every so often you get to step outside of yourself and think about what you can do to spark the learning curve for yourself and others in some way. One of the things that’s very complicated about being an older body is that you can’t do it the way you used to, but you can do it differently. How glorious. One of the things I love about still perform- ing with Rinde Eckert is that I get to do it differently. I have no desire to do it the way I used to do it. I don’t bemoan that loss. There’s a kind of energy you can’t put into your work if it’s spent on the litany of complaints around the things you didn’t get, don’t get, or can no longer do. Maybe spend 10 minutes there, then move on. It really is a decision about what to focus on and how to spend one’s limited resources and energy. At some point, when I was 13 and it seemed like everybody really hated me when I was in school, my father said to me: “You know, if you’re any kind of a person, half the world’s going to hate you and half the world’s going to love you. Figure out what you believe in and move forward. The rest will follow.” SIMA BELMAR, PH.D., is a Lecturer in the Depart- ment of Theater, Dance, & Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and the ODC Writer in Residence. To keep up with Sima’s writing please subscribe to tinyletter.com/simabelmar. Encounters Over 60, Vicky Shick, Feb 7-12 and Merián Soto, Feb 29-Mar 30, schedule or activities and perfor- mances at mjdc.org/encounters
community of skilled improvisers in the Bay Area. This aspect was very important, so it wasn’t just that they land, do something and leave, but they interact and get immersed here. We want to find ways that the art- ist can both encounter our community and encounter themselves, perhaps in new ways within our community. And we’re excited for all the activities that will happen – there will be daily classes, workshops, and the perfor- mances by the artists and of the work they develop with the local dance community while here. All of which are pay-what-you- can with no one turned away, so these oppor- tunities can be available to as many people as possible. We want to fill the room with conversa- tions and provocations! SB: I remember seeing Nederlands Dans Theater III when I was in my twenties and was like, Whoa! Dancers over 40! I’m 48 now, but even then, I found myself drawn to these dancers, less interested in glossy, 20-something virtuosity. There’s nothing like witnessing someone who has been deep down into their work for a long time. I’m interested in what artists over 60 have to say about what it’s like to move now, what’s changed. I know some dancers in their 70s who are pissed that they can’t do what they used to be able to do, and others who con- tinually deepen their practice. MJ: The number of people in the Bay Area who are actively still working who are over 60 is really quite voluminous and many have been at the forefront of how the Bay Area has become such a rich landscape of diverse activity. Before making the choice of these particular women, I did a lot of talking to people around the country because there are so many wonderful women over 60 who are still at work and performing as well, about whom I knew so little. I was inter- ested in bringing people who I felt embraced where they are with their bodies at 60 or older. I too want to talk with these artists and those we gather about how they con- tinue to deepen their practice and challenge their assumptions. We also wanted to choose two artists who’ve never been seen in the Bay Area. Merián had been recommended by a num- ber of people that I knew, and I will admit that I didn’t know very much about her and what a treat to broaden my landscape with getting to know her. Then in talking with her I discovered she knew very little about the breadth of what goes on in the Bay Area and I thought what a great opportunity for her as well. When I said there are 100s of people working here and the issue of finding people to come to her workshops would not be difficult, she was delighted and surprised. Vicky was connected to enough people in the Bay to know that it was a vital center of activity and was overjoyed at the invita- tion, having never been here. So, their resi- dencies will be generative in multiple ways: we will meet two artists who have not been here with their work before and in turn they will learn about the wealth of artists at work
Vicky Shick / photo courtesy of artist
here and share what they learn in their home cities as well.
She worked for a number of years with the Trisha Brown Company, and has made many dances in collaboration with visual artist Barbara Kilpatrick and sound designer Elise Kermani. She’s an electric performer and commands the stage or room now even more than she did as a young performer. Merián is known for creating her aes- thetic-somatic dance practices, her Modal Practice , and her experiments with Salsa. Her meditative movement practice, Branch Dance Series , has garnered wonderful atten- tion and includes dozens of performances on stage, in galleries, in nature, as well as video installations and year-long seasonal projects. She was a central figure in the 80s and 90s Latina Arts, Equity, and Community Arts movements, and she developed numerous projects featuring works by emerging Latinx dance and performance artists, including producing the Rompeforma festival in Puerto Rico for seven years. She uses film and live performance to embrace who she is now and takes her audience and her performers on a journey that brings everyone together. SB: Do you think any 60 plus artists are going to be grumpy about not being the lead artists in this project?
SB: What are some of the qualities that drew you to Vicky and Merián in particular? MJ: They are two very different women dynamically, who have been involved in the field for decades and committed to very rig- orous practices in very different ways, who have an absolute dedication to their prac- tice. They care about the world, they care about human interaction, they care about how people are treated, they care about the state of the environment, they care about the state of the human body, and they care about the impact that their work and the body can have on the health of the human spirit. There are lots of people in the Bay Area who are teaching and making work that also care about these things. It’s not that all of sud- den we’re bringing people to the Bay Area who are going to enliven the Bay Area in a way that it hasn’t been enlivened before. I don’t have that presumption. I just think it’s another lens and another spice to add to an already rich meal that’s here. Vicky has been involved with the New York dance community since the late 70s, performing, teaching, and making dances.
Located in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, Mills College offers BA, MA, and MFA degrees in dance. Expand every dimension of your art through: • Choreography • Theory • Pedagogy • Technology • Performance GRADUATE FACULTY Kara Davis Robert Moses Sonya Delwaide Ann Murphy Molissa Fenley Sheldon Smith Cicely Hart, DPT Victor Talmadge thinking bodies moving minds
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