THE SOLOS: Of This Body


Solos have always been my way of digging into the dark light world of movement. Many years ago, Bessie Schonberg taught me to look for the obsession, for what consumes and ignites me in movement. That still feels like the most important guidance.

OF THIS BODY is an multi-disciplinary dance theater project conceived, choreographed and performed by Paula Josa-Jones in collaboration with her design team. OF THIS BODY integrates projection and lighting, set and costume design to create seusual worlds that draw the audience deeply into the physical and emotional currents of the dance. Projections are a seamless element of the choreography, another character in the space. The digital world weaves through the piece alongside the performer, transporting the audience to various settings, in and out of literal space, shifting the perception of time. Content ranges from rugged landscapes to unique structures, metaphorical imagery to a distinctly present secondary character. The figures in the video fade into and out of the changing landscapes in constant conversation with the live performer.

THE DANCES

SPEAK springs from questions about language and the absence of language in its usual form. It is about obsession and excavating meaning from the body when words cannot be shaped. Speak is inspired by fifteen years of working with my profoundly autistic godson and physical research into aphasia, apraxia and synesthesia.

THE TRAVELER is set in a turbulent landscape of crumpled and suspended archival maps, explores how unpredictable, volatile change can fracture our sense of self and disrupt our bodies. Inspired in part by W.S. Merwin's surreal Book of Fables, it asks what it means to find oneself in terra incognita, not once or twice, but throughout our lives. Set to music by Hugues Le Bars and a sound score by Josa-Jones, the traveler navigates perilous topographies, finding and losing balance as physical and dream terrains shift and buckle.

MAMMAL is a shape-shifting dance, a cellular, poetic echolocation that viscerally connects male and female, human and non-human, self and other at the porous borderland where they intersect and blend.

RAVE lives in the hollow boned, winged world of birds and the ecstatic madness of unexpected flight. It is inspired by Ann Lauterbach's poem Rancor of the Empirical.

DARKER, set to "You Want it Darker" by Leonard Cohen, embodies what it is to be both flayed and emboldened by these brutal, raw times when we are all dancing on the precipice between darkness and light; falling and flying on the rim of a vortex.

OF THIS BODY collaborative team:
  • Projection Design: Katherine Freer
  • Set Design: Paula Josa-Jones and Christine Joly de Lotbiniere
  • Lighting Design: Susan Hamburger
  • Costume Design: Christine Joly de Lotbiniere
  • Photography: Pam White
  • Director/Outside Eye: Paola Styron.

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    REVIEWS

    Read Marcia B. Siegel's review of OF THIS BODY

    Paula's work is a virtuosic exploration of character and movement detail. She creates mysterious and startling solos which are reminiscent of the portrait work of photographer Diane Arbus. This work is fresh and challenging, pushing at the parameters of dance to create an exciting new form.
    New England Arts Biennial/Advocate

    In DOORWAY, a section of THE TRAVELER, Josa-Jones is imprisoned in her body. She interacts with a video of a brick wall and a closed door, scratched with graffiti. We viewers feel locked out as the dancer attempts to move the wall; she wills her body to push against it, but the wall does not move. The dreamlike performance becomes myth.
    Carol Dine, Writer, author of Places in the Bone

    You transcend age and you transcend gender!
    Peter DiMuro, Executive Director, The Dance Complex, Cambridge, MA

    The Messenger gets more subtle and complex every time I see it. You seemed truly torn between your desire to be both man and woman and were at one and the same time both. The movement phrases are like complex sentences full of adjectives and metaphors echoed by lip and ankle and shoulder - never truncated, never cut off. The image I got when your fingers started signing in the middle of your belly was of a nebula whirling from your belly with long arms of energy flying off at intervals.
    David Miller, High Performance

    I've consistently been impressed with the subtlety of articulation she achieves; her ability to embody distinct states of being through movement which seems planned but not choreographed, and is neither classically shaped nor task-oriented. It is a matter of summoning personas and being empty enough at the core to let them live.
    High Performance

    Paula Josa-Jones comes to dance by way of theater and has garnered strong virtuosity in heightening impact through the evaluation of small action. She has a keen awareness of the sources of comedy in theater: the use of timing for surprise, patience with the simple task, solemn obliviousness to seeing oneself through the eyes of the world. I shall not soon forget the rapt attention of Josa-Jones arranging eight or so carrot slices on a napkin as though on a chess grid, then maniacally rearranging them to determine - by some delusional scale of values - in what order to eat them.
    The Berkshire Eagle

    About Ofrenda:
    The opening image in Ofrenda is riveting. The colors of your costume, your profile, were at once a painting by Frida Kahlo and a portrait on an ancient Egyptian frieze and you the leader in the procession bringing gifts to the gods.

    Juan Alonso, Killing the Mandarin

    The most danceable work, and the most appealing came from Paula Josa-Jones. In the provocative solo Ofrenda, Jones was gorgeous as a creature seemingly possessed by spirits not of this world. Angular, sculptural posturing was sumptuously fluid, with Jones' arms alternately reaching, enfolding, beseeching, sometimes seeming to turn back on themselves as she slowly traversed the space in this unsettling and riveting work.
    Karen Campbell, The Boston Herald

    As if a hybrid of a Pierrot and a rose, beginning in a two-dimensional silhouette, fingers splayed, she deftly and pointedly alternates between flat positions and increasingly expansive three-dimensional movement. She traverses the floor in simple patterns (and with an occasional Duncan-esque leap) that clearly define the space and her relationship to it. An almost balletic presentation of each (long) limb to the audience defines a uniquely delicate strength in the process. Ofrenda is ultimately as close to perfection as a dance can be.
    T.J. Medrek

    In a black Victorian dress of voluminous proportions, Josa-Jones sits on a pile of bones that are revealed as she gathers the dress around her in Bone Field. She gathers the bones, separates them and goes about the task of putting them in order. She caresses the skull of the beast, places it between her legs in a bizarrely erotic way. She sets out the ribs, fans herself with a scapulae, twitches her own neck as she finds a cervical vertebrae. It's a puzzzle and it's funny.
    Lisa Friedlander, The Boston Phoenix