the loneliest in WebZine

Click to page 96 to check out this sweet interview and photo spread for the loneliest part of here is now from the wonderful WomenCinemakers crew! I am so glad to have had the opportunity to write about and reflect on the work for this issue about art and independent women's cinema as it relates to movement/performance art. It's a pretty rad 15-page feature alongside some other awesome women artists <3

 

It's showtime

 photo by Sarah Navarrete

photo by Sarah Navarrete

It was a wild fall season of process followed by 10-weeks of travel, and I am still taking it in. 6 weeks in Peru making my loneliest solo and two weeks in Mexico sharing with Desiree and Chelsea… whoa. I don’t think the words or pictures or videos I have are eloquent or expressive enough to capture what I experienced, but I know it is engrained in my body. 

 I’ve been back in San Diego for just over a month now... I've been sharing my adventures through conversations, dance classes, creative exchanges... I’m still digesting the past several months of new experiences; places, people, food, history, movement, culture all registering to me in a different way as I navigate this thing called home with new exposure nestled in my awareness. I had a blast. I felt a lot. I learned a ton. It was a whirlwind of satisfying moments. I feel like a sieve. I am allowing this integration of new me and old place to unfold as softly as I can. I feel like that hourglass keeping time in my film.

 And now I’m here and it’s mid spring. It's funny coming back to a place: it seems like very little has changed and at the same time so much is in transition around me. I am trying to keep up and also remember to go slow, one step at a time… but the steps jumble time a little. I feel like I am simultaneously on the first step of being HERE after all that process, which is also somehow the last step to this chapter of the loneliest part of here is now: a performance.

We’ve got dates and a venue. Geminelle is flying in from NYC to perform with us. It is going to be special and oh-so-satisfying. I hope you’ll join us as we share these stories in the flesh and on the screen, in close proximity to you <3
June 7 & 8 @ 7:30pm
White Box Live Arts
Get your tickets here

“She is not just being seen, she is seeing herself and thinking about her own image. The image above, more than jus an image of her body, is a kind of reminder to the artist that she even has a body. That she is not just a mind and that she can’t just live or exist on ideas alone.” – Gabrielle Civil, Swallow the Fish

the solo I can't seem to make

As I was packing to leave for this 10-week adventure, I set aside a small stack of books I wanted to bring (some I knew I loved and wanted to spend time re-reading, others I’d purchased out of intrigue but had yet to read). Once the suitcase and backpack were full of the essentials, I realized I could really only fit two. So without much thought I grabbed one I love: Yoga of the Subtle Body: A Guide to the Physical and Energetic Anatomy of Yoga by Tias Little, and one I had yet to read: Swallow the Fish by Gabrielle Civil.  While I remember having chosen to buy the book out of interest in the author and content, I didn’t recall what the book was about. Little did I know as I slipped Swallow the Fish into my bag that it was exactly what I would need to guide me on this journey of self/artistic reflection. Civil’s book is a beautiful compilation of poems, short narratives, written logs of her performance art, and reflections on life as a female black performance artist, poet and academic. She has been prompting me with each passage I read to evaluate, question, and (most importantly in this moment) embrace what is now. As is one of the most valuable precepts of the loneliest part of here is now, there’s magic at work- Swallow the Fish needed to be in the bag, and so it was.

The reality is, I am not teeming with creative impulse to make this solo. Instead I feel, more often than not, heavy with the desire to be physically still- now is urging me to slow down. Mind racing off into future(s)- body insisting through its apathy towards movement that here is where I have to begin. When Geminelle and I were talking about sound for this solo I have been struggling to will into existence, she offered that she too has been experiencing fits and starts of creative energy lately… the fluxes of overwhelm, disinterest, inspiration and quiet are natural and necessary. Just as Swallow the Fish has been an amazing reminder that it is all art, Geminelle reminded me that sometimes the process is stillness. And so the sound score (and movement score) began to take shape: fits and starts, willing myself both into action and stillness, sounds of conflict resolving into acceptance. When I listen, art happens. Once again, the magic of creative energy meeting us where we are at- a reminder that the loneliest part of here is now comes back again and again to revealing our interconnectedness, togetherness, correspondence. Thanks universe.

“To allow for breath, space and time. To allow also for the body.”- Gabrielle Civil

process

I intended to have written something more about this process by now, but time slips by when you’re living. Suddenly, I am in Chincha Alta, Peru, and so much beautiful magic has happened since I last wrote. Over the 9 weeks leading up to my departure this past Sunday, Chelsea, Desiree and I developed what I would like to think of as first drafts of their solos. In that same timeframe, Geminelle crafted first drafts of sound scores for the pieces.  I am really excited about these new pieces; as with the film components of the work, they are explorations of universal narratives I find heartrending, embodied through present moment experiences the dancers graciously offer through collaborative research. Chelsea and Desiree (as well as Geminelle) have each poured a substantial amount of themselves into these solos that feels truly palpable to me as I watch (and listen).

Chelsea

aloneness vs. loneliness

When Chelsea and I first began, my initial line of inquiry revolved around the possible distinction between aloneness and loneliness. For the sake of our research, I identified my definitions of being alone (or aloneness) as suggesting qualities of solitude, autonomy, resolve, independence…. loneliness, on the other hand, carries an emotional tone for me- being without other(s) in such a way that elicits feelings of isolation, sadness or anger, longing…

In our conversations, Chelsea expressed her own experiences of aloneness and loneliness, which guided our exploration in a more specific direction: sometimes we create barriers within ourselves out of self-preservation, keeping everyone at arms length which breeds a self induced loneliness. Can we break that cycle when it isn’t serving us? Can we develop a relationship to softening and vulnerability that is an empowered offering and source of connectivity rather than an avoided state of being that we fear or reject?

  I used to think that saying “goodbye” to a love one was going to be the hardest thing in my life. That isolated experience, that exact moment of saying “goodbye” was actually the easy part. My Grandma Nellie lived with enduring pain for the last years of her life, from an injured shoulder, a broken hip, a knee surgery gone wrong and to top it all off, cancer was eating her alive.&nbsp;She kept telling me how bored she was and that she was ready for God to take her away already.&nbsp;It was actually a relief that she could finally rest in peace.&nbsp;The “hardest thing” (or “loneliest part”) is continuing to live without her, no longer receiving her phone calls or letters, etc.    I never fully understood the importance of funerals until now. I was not able to attend her funeral; in fact, I am not aware that there was one (complicated family relations).&nbsp;These events were created for the people who are still alive, to help them mourn and move on.&nbsp;Zaquia has given me the opportunity to start a process of commemoration with others. Through ritual and memory, I feel like her spirit lives on. What used to be tears of sadness are now tears of celebration.&nbsp;I rejoice, in gratefulness, that I knew a woman like my Grandma.&nbsp;She lives on through the traditions she taught me, through the music we used to listen to, and through this dance.&nbsp;Each time I practice this piece, I believe it is a movement prayer in honor of her and the many souls who have passed in and out of this world. *Thank you Zaquia for this opportunity to heal, grieve and celebrate.

I used to think that saying “goodbye” to a love one was going to be the hardest thing in my life. That isolated experience, that exact moment of saying “goodbye” was actually the easy part. My Grandma Nellie lived with enduring pain for the last years of her life, from an injured shoulder, a broken hip, a knee surgery gone wrong and to top it all off, cancer was eating her alive. She kept telling me how bored she was and that she was ready for God to take her away already. It was actually a relief that she could finally rest in peace. The “hardest thing” (or “loneliest part”) is continuing to live without her, no longer receiving her phone calls or letters, etc.

I never fully understood the importance of funerals until now. I was not able to attend her funeral; in fact, I am not aware that there was one (complicated family relations). These events were created for the people who are still alive, to help them mourn and move on. Zaquia has given me the opportunity to start a process of commemoration with others. Through ritual and memory, I feel like her spirit lives on. What used to be tears of sadness are now tears of celebration. I rejoice, in gratefulness, that I knew a woman like my Grandma. She lives on through the traditions she taught me, through the music we used to listen to, and through this dance. Each time I practice this piece, I believe it is a movement prayer in honor of her and the many souls who have passed in and out of this world. *Thank you Zaquia for this opportunity to heal, grieve and celebrate.

death and ritual

Desiree’s solo explores ritual in relationship to death. How do we honor this kind of ending? What is lost? What remains? It was important to me that we attend to this particular theme with a sense of reverence for our personal experiences with death. Along with reflections on the loss of our friends and other family members, Desiree has been reflecting on the loss of her Grandmother Nellie, who passed away last winter, and the piece incorporates some of my memories of my grandparents who have passed.

<<--- Desiree wrote a little bit about her experience to share in this blog. 

Water and smoke became an integral part of this piece as means of cleansing and activating the space. Geminelle has infused the piece with reflections of her own on the passing of her father. The music she’s working on feels like the perfect synthesis of all of the reflections we are each attending to. It is a genuine tribute to love, longing, and reverence that come through beautifully in the vocals, rhythm, and trumpet creating the perfect sound-space for Desiree’s journey.

I am deeply honored that these women have been so generous with dropping in to this work. They will continue to work in San Diego while I am in Peru- serving as eyes for each other and sending me video along the way. I can’t wait to see how these works have grown by the time I see them again in Mexico City!

Now begins my next journey- diving in to my own solo. This may be (or more honestly, IS) the hardest part of the loneliest part of here is now to date. How do I begin? I am not entirely sure, but I do know that beginning is the first step ;)

“But all the fighting in the world will not help us if we do not also hope. What i'm trying to cultivate is not blind optimism or inane positivity but what the philosopher Jonathan Lear calls radical hope. 'What makes this hope radical,' Lear writes, 'is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.' Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice; it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as 'imaginative excellence.' Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence. And I believe that it will help us create a better, more loving future.” - Junot Díaz, Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times

 Berlin Wall, 2017

Berlin Wall, 2017

Radical Hope

As I really start to dig in to planning this mini-tour to Mexico for the loneliest part of here is now, I can't help but acknowledge that I am at a critical juncture in my little life. Having so recently been rocked by an inspiring grad school process (which gave me a way in to more deeply explore dance/movement as social justice) I have for some time now felt compelled to do more- not in volume or even scale of production, achievement or variety... but just to do more meaningful work. The radical in me is hungry to feel the vitality of hard work. The kind of hard work that is hard not because it is laborious and tiresome but because it is mindful, transformative, eye-opening, heart-opening, dynamic... I want to be engrossed in and committed to process. For me, the loneliest part of now is a unique opportunity for me to dig in to all of these desires with others, which is by far the most satisfying way to shake shit up!

SO... the plan is something like this: Between now and January, Desiree, Chelsea and I will be in the studio working through their solos. We will build these dances the same way all of the solos for this project have been built: with conversation, journaling, reflection, improvisation, investigation and feeling. At the end of January, I will be taking off to Perú for 6 weeks of volunteer teaching and artist residency with a pretty cool group called Making Dance Happen in partnership with Peruvian NGO Social Creativa. I will spend most of my time in Chincha Alta, teaching dance to youth, making dance films, and rehearsing, with some adventures around the country and a little touring of the dances we've created there. I plan to use this time to craft my live solo for the loneliest part of here is now. Thanks to technology, I'll be able to work with Des and Chelsea from over 4,000 miles away! THEN... using the funds raised by our generous community through our Kickstarter campaign, I'll meet Desiree and Chelsea in Mexico City. We will have a few days to rehearse together there, then hit the ground running! We are scheduled to be in Puebla for a week of awesome dance experiences at Performática. I'll be teaching in the workshop and we will share the loneliest part of here is now as part of the performance component of the festival. I am working on developing some other performance and teaching opportunities for our traveling trio (if anyone has any ideas let me know). I'm not sure exactly how long we will stay- it all depends on what opportunities arise. But when we return, you can expect a sweet performance in April or May! Many specifics are still up in the air, but my intuition tells me it's all going to work out!

As I prepare for this undertaking, I've been craving some words of encouragement- a reminder that to be bold and courageous is imperative in this time that we live in. To be awakened and resolute is vital. To have faith that art and movement are deeply important to the wellbeing of all people is a valuable and necessary motivation in my life. That rather than get bogged down in the overwhelm of one tragic global catastrophe after another, or allow myself to feel defeated by fear that what I am doing is unimportant in the bigger picture of all of this suffering, I have to trust that my intentions are good and that the path needs walking.

I have found the little boost of activist artist fire that I need right now in a moving book entitled, Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times, edited by Carolina de Robertis. The book "addresses the tumult and danger of these times, from the perspective of a range of leading novelists, poets, journalists, and political thinkers. The anthology offers readers an antidote to despair: it is a salve, a balm, a compass, a rallying cry, a lyrical manifesto, a power source, a torch to light the way forward" (carolinaderobertis.com). It is a motivating read and I plan to share many inspirational quotes and passages from it as I go along this journey. I recommend it to anyone who needs a reminder that we are, as embodied in the loneliest part of here is now, we are not alone in our loneliness. When we are affected by despair, we can rest assured that we are all connected and have the power to (re)write this story. I'll start with a passage from Cherríe Moraga's letter in this book entitled, "A 'Holla' from the West Side." She eloquently put to words what my heart has been feeling:

All this to say: I am fool enough to believe that storytelling matters; that metaphors make spirits sing; that only art can convince us- in its brutal complexity, in its myriad contradictions, and its nuanced portraiture of love- that we, as human beings, long for meaning in our lives and that this longing ennobles us. 

 I hope that you will follow this blog to stay connected to the project- I will share updates and process here along the way. I am excited about the next chapter of this story and eager to see how it will develop and take shape!

I hope that you will follow this blog to stay connected to the project- I will share updates and process here along the way. I am excited about the next chapter of this story and eager to see how it will develop and take shape!

about the loneliest part of here is now

We begin again and again… until we return to the beginning:
I didn’t cry
I just sighed heavily and began to breathe.
I was ready because I knew that all beginnings are endings.

the loneliest part of here is now is an immersive dance film experience which explores the dichotomic nature of desire for human connection and an endless struggle with self. It is a biomythographical assortment of abstracted memories embodied by a collection of women - connected yet alone. Through a synthesizing of our own lived histories to the greater collective memory, and a deconstruction of the collective memory to manifest story as individuals, the loneliest part of here is now is a magical reinvention and retelling of the self through connectivity with others.

The first phase of the loneliest part of here is now has taken shape as a 30-minute dance film. This work has already been shared in the Bay Area (Process Dance Festival) and San Diego (40 North Dance Film Festival) in an immersive format. I will continue to present at film festivals in 2018... But that isn't the end of this project. My vision for the loneliest part of here is now still has room to grow and I am excited by how this work continues to inspire me.

Phase two: With the support of community, we just concluded a Kickstarter campaign that garnered $5,000 in funding that will be used to develop a live performance component of the loneliest part of here is now. These new dances will be presented in Mexico and San Diego in spring 2018. The dances will be three live performance sections; short dance solos developed using the same process and premise as the solos in the film. These performed sections will live side-by-side with the filmed components to further cultivate the experiential nature of the work. With the film, I was curious as to how the medium could enrich and shift the meaning-making experience of the dances. With the live sections, I am eager to explore the ways in which these performed expressions can re-activate the kinesthetic connection that is unique to live dancing humans.

Project Collaborators
Sound Score: Geminelle Rollins
Film Dancers: Sarah Clark & Tenaya June, Sarah Navarrete, Sarah Larson, Sandra Ruiz
Live Dancers: Desiree Cuizon-Fejeran, Chelsea Zeffiro, Zaquia Mahler Salinas
Immersive Installation Collaboration: Trystan Loucado & Zaquia Mahler Salinas
Direction, Filming & Editing: Zaquia Mahler Salinas (special thanks to Cory Ring)