Class Descriptions

Queer Choreographies: Whatever the Fuck That Means.
A decomposition workshop

There's a resurgence of performance that identifies as "queer." What does it actually mean? What are the contexts that invite artists to use this word again, which stands in for otherness, anti-nuclear family aspirations, failure vs. capitalism, an aesthetic, inclusion and radical politics, and the foregrounding of sexuality or gender identity issues? These definitions as well as ideas from queer theorists such as J. Halberstam, Jose Muñoz and Lee Edelman will frame our explorations.

Instant Performance
What if everything we need to make a compelling performance is already in or around us? What if we practice harnessing a consciousness of immediacy, explicit mystery, relevance, irreverence and import? What if instead of worrying about money, time and space, we use compression and imagination to tap into somatic tuning, compositional accident and improvisational decision making to create experiences that are definitive and unstable? Can we identify and sophisticate a relationship between depth and speed? Let's spend a week re-invigorating our ability to discover through process. Let's practice making Instant Performance.

Old school technique class with new school questions. This is a warm-up for being a contemporary dance artist, whatever that means. Real techniques, invented techniques, practicing presence, practicing hope, “releasing”, sweating, thinking, feeling, moving for no reason and finding out how. Exercises are boring but strangely important. Phrases are patriarchal but can be fun. Smart movers make good art. I am the teacher and I will do what I can.

In this workshop we will engage an approach to improvisation and performance practice that has informed my work in the last few years. The center of the exploration will be a delving into the senses – the primary, movement, energetic and creative senses. We will challenge ourselves to uncover our questions and answers through movement, inverting the conventional proposition that thought comes before action. I see dance as a mode of perceptual inquiry, and I resist defining it as a non-verbal "language" because languages are meant to be understood and I like that dance defies linguistic comprehension. But since words are always present, always mediating everything, we will see how we can manipulate them to trigger non-rational, automatic, unprepared physical response. The goal of this training is to complicate our ideas of what constitutes “communication,” “good improvisation,” “listening” and “development” and to welcome the full range of emotional and expressive possibilities available to us as dancers, performers, artists.

This workshop focuses on the creative process in making body/movement-based performance/dance. A variety of approaches to creating - intuitive, improvisational, analytical - is exploited to uncover your individual interests, your process and your work. The workshop consists of unequal parts making, discussing, improvising and watching the work of other workshop participants. My interest is in creating a space in which traditional notions of dance are critiqued, absorbed or discarded in the service of creating performance that comes from a vital place. An ongoing question throughout the workshop is how to make work that is located in a contemporary context.

A vocal workshop with Miguel Gutierrez
Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People's recent works have been notable for their expressive use of the voice. In this workshop, Gutierrez will lead the participants through simple exercises to help them to discover pliable, relaxed and expansive voices, ready for an array of approaches to sound-making in performance. Influences include Linklater Technique, Alexander Technique and Body-Mind Centering. This workshop is open to anyone!

I am getting better at something that feels increasingly old and strange but necessary. I am getting good at being a person whose body is a channel, a medium for emotional/psychic conflict, immediate temperature taking of the context and the corporealizing of imagination in real time. Often I see my role as creating fissures in what might be otherwise be interpreted as “normal,” forward-moving reality. With my body, my work, and my collaborations with others I tear into the fabric of social codes that don’t really tolerate this behavior, even as they create the perfect frame to respond to/work within/crack open. Maybe it’s cuz I’m queer, or because I’m the child of immigrants, or because I struggle between wanting to be an artist recluse and a social monster, but I’ve only ever understood life as a collection of bifurcated, “doubletruth” experiences, where multiple realities hold veracity and allure. Most of my work is about my attempt to reconcile something about these bifurcations.

Appropriately enough, in the last few years I have been working on two parallel tracks. One the one hand I have invested myself in a research of the senses – from the primary senses to esoteric senses to “invented” senses that address the perceptual mechanisms that we encounter in performance. This research is slow, painstaking at times, and while it’s deeply introspective I think I am invested in it because of how it allows me to re-invite wonder into the banality of daily life. On the other hand I have been pushing at a performance/improvisational practice of irreverent immediacy that attempts to resist any kind of traditional cognitive thought to action matrix of working. I say “attempt” because it’s really a joyful battle to play in the spaces inside of and between thinking, doing, reacting, proposing, interrupting, fucking with and deepening.

I would like to use the weeklong workshop at Ponderosa to share some of the techniques and ideological underpinnings of these disparate but related practices. This will involve a fair amount of immediate improvisational action, longer explorations into some of the senses, and a healthy combination of exhibitionism, introspection and willingness to be bad at something you might want to be good at to find out that you’re always good at things but better when you stop trying so hard.

In this research I am inspired and aided by my over 20 years of making and being in work that embraces a host of choreographic and improvisational strategies, by seeing tons of performance and by leading many workshops where I get to see the ephemeral genius of others, by my amateur investigations into neurological systems, by my studies in a variety of somatic methods, by my studies in vocalization and singing, by my poaching and development of other artists’ tactics that feel close to what I’m already doing, and by my interest in the philosophical intricacies and frustrations of working intimately with a mind/body practice.

background photo by Alex Escalante