Personal Statement for SODA

Below is my personal statement that I wrote in applying to the SODA program here in Berlin.

My interest in the S.O.D.A. program stems from a desire for a more profound connection and dialog with the dance/performance community. I am looking for thoughtful, candid feedback about my work that is more constructive than the often superficial comments traded after a performance. I am also seeking the tools -language, books, other minds – with which to understand and view my own work better. I am hungry for the same level of rigor and feedback in the studio and theater as I got when I was studying biochemistry at U.C., San Diego. Over exposure to acetone will destroy your liver no matter how you contextualize it.
What I am hoping to gain from the S.O.D.A. program is the same kind of discourse I had in the lab. Working individually or in groups, we evaluated and discussed each other’s methods and findings. I hope to interact with people of similar interests(performance, dance, presence) from varying backgrounds(age, country, training) in a focused yet open environment. I hope hat they know and have experienced will open my eyes and increase what I know and will experience.
My artistic skills, capabilities and development have been driven by my proclivities. I am drawn to the tool of improvisation because it keeps my mind constantly engaged, constantly sensing and interacting with my environment. Having studied other approaches to improvisation, such as Action Theater and the Viewpoints, I am more drawn to the tool of contact improvisation. I find that it is the clearest model with which to examine performance variables in relation to improvisation. This is not to say that I am only interested in unfettered vague improvisational work. In fact, quite the opposite. My work, though improvised, can be quite restricted. In Any Fool Can Think of Words that Rhyme the three dancers are restricted to moving one joint at a time. In A2Zed/Nexus one point of contact is maintained and returned to as much as possible. Other limitations or choreographies for my work involve the lighting, body tone, or staying still and grunting.
I am also drawn to the tool of improvisation because there is an assumption that improvised work has no point to it or thought behind it. Sadly, most of the work out there professed to be improvised does not have a point other than it is improvised. The artists are so enamored of the process of real-time composing, that they forget that the tool of improvisation can be used to create something other than itself. Anvils can be used to create other things besides anvils. I, therefore, make a point of creating work that has a very definite concept outside of improvisation itself.
Just as I was drawn to study biochemistry to understand how the mechanics of life work, I am drawn to the theater to understand how it works. I am interested in the underlying structures of theater and their relationships. Currently, my specific area of interest is the function of a title. Is a title a sign to tell the audience what the performance is about? Is it a lens through which the audience should view the performance? Neither function I find satisfactory. If a title is to tell an audience what is happening, there is no room for the audience to participate, for them to create an event within themselves initiated by what is on stage. On the other hand, if the artist uses the title as a lens, the artist runs the risk of being too vague, leaving all the work of creating the performance up to the audience’s imagination. If the artist is too vague then the audience could just as well stay home and imagine their own performance. Truth in Advertising, my most recent production, arose out of confusion about this function. The concert consists of seven pieces, each with two titles. One title is straight forward, the other title more obtuse. For example one piece is titled Man Grunting and Distillation – This piece is a distillation of the collective human experience of cruelty – cruelty that we experience from direct or inadvertent action of others and cruelty that we consciously or unconsciously inflict upon others. The intention of Truth in Advertising is to lead the audience to question the function of titles.
If art, as Brecht said, is a hammer with which to shape society, I would say that I aspire to be a hammer that shapes the hammer that shapes society. I say this because I make work in response to my environment. Observing the patterns and trends in the work around me inspires me. I aim to create work that leads my peers to question the tools and possibilities they are using in their work. I created Do You See What I See?, a series of performative still-lifes which bombard the audience with biographical information, as a response to all the intensely biographical work I was seeing in the San Francisco Bay Area. I created the sound score for Content with Content from descriptions in a film catalogue. By incessantly telling the audience what the piece is about, the sound score forces the viewers to question what any piece is about. I created Sentimental Pussyfooting: a study in plagiarism because I was tired of hearing “Oh, that’s been done.” The basic dance formula has been done again and again and no one complains about that. In Sentimental Pussyfooting I used pieces that have been done as points of departure, showing how much more there is left to investigate within ideas that “have been done”. Yoko Ono’s Cut piece, Paul Taylor’s Duet, and John Cage’s 4’33” are some of the pieces I used.
By surrounding myself with curious intelligent artists, I hope to gain new insights and avenues of inquiry into the inner workings of dance and performance. The S.O.D.A program will be the hammer that shapes the hammer that shapes the hammer that shapes society.

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