It all started with a residency at Azule in Hot Springs, NC in January of 2019! It is located on 35 rural acres in Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a needed respite as I rode off the heels of Bamboo Wind, our ambitious 2019 premiere that commissioned 20 local artists in the fields of music, lighting design, poetry, photography, sculpture, theatre, costume design, and dance for a multi-media performance installation.
Throughout the collaborative process of Bamboo Wind, I became increasingly interested in developing a diverse counterpart to its themes and wanting to explore ideas that challenged the ways in which we all perform identity. I was interested in attempting to design a process of dis-identification and reconstructing encoded cultural messages that expose the raw materials of identities and identifications. I looked to blur the boundaries of identity between masculine and feminine in order to re-imagine and reconstruct a broader challenge to social norms. Here is a sneak peek of the movement I was researching in my very first days at the residency.
I became deeply interested in when we assert movement and when movement is asserted. I wanted to feel my own struggle as if the movement itself was more like a cultural lens.
The usefulness of the term “identity” has become more complicated for me as I struggle with the dialectic of belonging/not belonging. The nature of identification by default creates a separation between that which belongs to an identity and that which does not, and so becomes labeled as “other.” The “other,” in its many meanings and makings, has become a catalyst for me as an artist and I see it emerging in encounters across difference. Identity as a concept seems central, and at times, empowering to the human experience, as well as analogous to the necessity of archetypes in story-telling. I am interested in how these complexities and textures press on the world and against each other, and how allowing difference creates a more inclusive experience of connectivity that outweighs its division.
I have been deeply inspired by the research of Clare Croft, Esteban Munoz and Nicole Fleetwood in tandem with Albert Camus’ notion that “rebellion cannot exist without a strange form of love.” Paralleled with the nature of queer theory, the productive frictions among identities of gender, sexuality, race, nationality, and diaspora, seem to present a natural neutralizer to identity. As the “queer” can only emerge among, across, and between, I am keenly curious about the bridge between identifications, and the ability of dance-theatre to address the radical act of otherness as a broader challenge to social norms.
When I returned to Durham, the Company collectively looked to a more expansive projection of self to discover what truly creates a bridge from one person to another and to simultaneously uncover how the symbolic implications could potentially respond to the separation and divide we feel from the identity politics in our world today.
Our work was enhanced and deepened by our time with Rosie Herrera, Artistic Director of Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre, through a two-week residency. Rosie provided a new and needed platform that nurtured us to dive deeper into our process and expand our creative capacity.
It is a rare opportunity to be encouraged as artists to challenge ourselves with in-depth approaches and to challenge our audiences with new ideas and methodologies. Through this work we share our personal identity stories, pleasures, and challenges. We move between multiple, layered identities. We wear masks and understand that it could be nothing and everything. We know that the masks could be both given to us and claimed by us. But we also know that what’s underneath is what we all share.