the female body; the body politic

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I recently attended the Body-Mind Centering Association conference in Montreal.  Sylvie Fortin, the keynote speaker and a professor of somatics and aesthetics spoke movingly about the way that the female body is regarded, or rather disregarded; about the introjected hatred and mistrust of the female.  And now we are watching that play out in excruciating detail in the grind of electoral politics.

Her public record is only part of the problem for Hillary Clinton. Her mistakes or misjudgements are far less egregious than those of many, many white male politicians. Her big problem is her gender. Untrustworthy and dishonest are gendered words too often used to dismiss or diminish women.  This rhetoric is not only on the right. When Bill Maher calls Donald a “whiny little bitch”, he is insulting the man by glibly participating in the continuing, unconscious ridicule of women. Stop it.

A recent article in the New York Times, How Wall Street Bro Talk Keeps Women Down, talks about the way corporate executives degrade women, casually tearing them apart, reducing them to body parts in their “bro moments.”

That sexism is the unspoken, foul groundwater of this particular moment in the body politic is not surprising, flowing as it does from the culture at large.  The rejection of the body, of sensorial experience, of our bodies and the body of the earth is woven into the tissue of the body politic, the cultural body, the personal body. We expect it, we accept it, we embody it.

What is surprising is that it is not named, not called out.  Hillary can’t really call it – she will be accused of playing the victim card. But we can. Stand up for the woman: your mother, your sister, your wife, your daughter, your granddaughter, your friend, your candidate.  Stand up.

 

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outside the box

DSC03763Photo:  Pam White

Spent the afternoon in Boston yesterday, performing at the Outside the Box Festival. It was very, very hot – 95 degrees.  However, I was a “roving” performer, so I could choose my moments, choose my time and place.  There was something wonderful and rigorous about being a part of this flow of people, discovering more about relationship, audience and the ephemeral, fleeting performative moment.

I found myself bowing, often to young black men and women. I have felt devastated by the happenings in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas, and the long list of other beings and cities. I feel helpless, disconnected, even though my son in law is black and my granddaughter a beautiful blend of Nepali and African American.  Perhaps the anonymous, concealed envelope of The Traveler allowed me to cross a bridge, even momentarily.

I want to connect, communicate. I want to say that your lives matter to me in a very personal and immediate way.  It is not abstract.  I want each and every one of us to have limitless opportunity, a deep sense of safety and nurturance, and the boundless ability to pursue happiness.

Bowing was a way of saying “Hello. I see you.”  It is not enough, but it is a beginning.

 

aftermath

messenger

I have not recovered or slowed down from last weekend’s performances at The Dance Complex.  Like The Traveler or The Messenger pictured above, I am moving on, still dancing. Tomorrow I will be performing SPEAK at the Performance Mix Festival at Abrons Arts Center in New York.  Then off to Montreal for the Body-Mind Centering Association conference where I will be teaching and performing.

I want to thank with all my heart those who came to the performances, and all who supported us.  That includes our generous Indiegogo donors, my friends Annie and Stan who hosted some of us during our time in Cambridge, my fabulous, stellar creative team, and the superb staff at The Dance Complex.  And of course my lovely, wise wife and creative partner, Pam White.

Read Marcia Siegel’s review of Of This Body

 

La MaMa

Paula Josa-Jones 2 HR 4 1786 - Version 2Photo:  Darial Sneed

I had the great privilege of performing the premiere of MAMMAL last weekend at the venerable La MaMa Theater in New York.

I first went to La MaMa around 1981 to see the brilliant Kazuo Ohno perform.  Watching him slowly raise a single chrysanthemum into the air, his whole body a trembling stem is an indelible kinetic memory.  It is also where I first met Eiko and Koma, who later, during a Delicious Moving workshop in the Catskills, dismantled and then re-calibrated everything that I had previously understood about all things performative.  I had just finished the Laban program, and my body was full of spirals and space.  I will never forget Koma saying tersely to me, “Just go down.”

Eiko came to my performance.  It may be the first time that she has seen me perform.  I was deeply honored by her presence, and by the opportunity to be dancing in this iconic space.

On the second day of the performance, while warming up, I suddenly felt the unmistakable presence of my old, wise stallion, Capprichio – in me, in the space.  I felt his head, the weight of those bones, the mass of him.  I remember thinking, “You can’t move like this.”  And he showed me the quiver of himself, the wildness and the unpredictability.

I am reading Kent de Spain’s wonderful book, The Landscape of the Now.  It is a breathtaking compendium of improvisational practices and reflections by the Big Ones:  Steve Paxton, Lisa Nelson, Nancy Stark Smith, Ruth Zaporah, Simone Forti, Deborah Hay.

MAMMAL is a choreography, but it is also an improvisation, and much shaped by what shows up in the room with an audience and how deep I can drop into that well as I set foot on stage.  It is about gaze and stillness and impulse.  Connection and curiously, faith – that the dance is there, and that I can let it come to me as I also plunge into it.

MAMMAL and the other two dances from OF THIS BODY, THE TRAVELER and SPEAK are coming soon to The Dance Complex in Cambridge, MA.  It is the world premiere of THE TRAVELER, a piece that has been more than two years in the making.  You can buy tickets here:  Of This Body
http://ofthisbody.bpt.me/

Come and see!