The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2013

All Issues
NOV 2013 Issue

Rehearsal Diary

With found language from Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, while watching and sometimes helping them make something that will eventually become Way In, a quartet with Davison Scandrett and La Rocco that is to have its premiere November 14 at Danspace Project.

X: What do you think?

Y: I feel like you’re driving right now

X: I want you to be in the car

Y: I’m in a different car.

Torsos slump and hinged arms crook out like deformed dying swans. Y does a little head buck.

In order to get at something you go in through the side door.

It’s very safe here behind the computer.

Bodies angle, shoulders one way the feet already leading the other way the torso recalibrating step step step … there is something in this about class, no? Think of dressage. One two three two and three

Their hands are tied. They cannot move forward.

I’m thinking about scientists, that thing about how you can’t look at an experiment without altering it, which fact I don’t even fully understand. I wonder if I am the scientist here and what has changed. Maybe that’s a dumb analogy.

Step forward feet tracing beautiful simple patterns. This is in good taste, no? It can’t be otherwise.

And is there an immediate way in? I would say yes, beauty. Isn’t it always associative when you’re putting language on top of movement? Even—no, especially—in the places language can’t go. Finding a step that somehow gets rendered out of vagueness toward itself.

I wonder what they are thinking while doing these steps. Maybe not thinking; the minds, that is. The body is thinking, that seems clear. Little smile from Y, a misstep, I didn’t see it. Neat little jumps, cat-like but not pas de chat.

An idea of the future stretching ahead and then no future, no ahead.

I said to a friend: “Is it important to you at all to make beauty?”

And then he said: “I don’t know about that word. But I want to make something I like. I don’t understand these artists that say they are working with things they don’t like—that they think are trash.”

Tee ta … X sounding out the beats

The slow rise and fall of the sternum. The bridge. The collapse.

Creamy as an adjective. Severe.

Sometimes as they move it is for me—no, often, not sometimes. More than sometimes—it is the equivalent of a writer who just…whose sentences are drenched in gorgeousness. So smart and just right. And so I think about X saying: “Yeah, that is what people already know about us.” And am I just wanting a certain thing I expect from them? Or are they not being fully themselves because they can rely on these beautiful sentences? Would you say the same about a writer? And is it essentially a gendered critique, style over substance, that men make of women? I think of my middle aged white male editor saying Joan Didion was all style. I think of the middle aged white male choreographers in Europe, and how their critique of dance was a critique of class and gender, but I think an unwitting one; as in, they did not realize or did not care or would not recognize that they were being sexist and classist fucks.

Is Beyoncé embarrassed by her former selves?

Pause. Things are sticky in here. At first I wrote “things are sticks.”

Where are their eyes going. What are they thinking in those moments. X cups his ass and angles his ribcage like a model and cuts his eyes down and over toward Y, who is doing some knotty baroque squiggly thing and then popping up in these extravagantly controlled little bursts. Microbursts.

I thought we could maybe figure it out through experimentation rather than “this is what it is.”

I seem to remember having this same feeling in Miami, about resisting beauty, can you do it, is it even at all productive or worthwhile and why am I asking that and where did it come from and then I think of older female dancers and the idea of rigor in pleasure…

Rigor in beauty? Get that out of your head.

I feel I am totally losing the idea of the legs by putting this on top of it

If you’re talking history in your body, and how you can and can’t take it on and move forward … What is this if not that? Precision machines. Heat of that glance. An arm thrown back like any old thing

Now they face each other. Giggling ensues.

I can’t tell if I’ve gotten much better or much worse at taking notes.

But is that what it is…I wonder about that idea

What do you wonder about it?

I dunno. I just wonder about it.

Pause. Recalibrate

Should we be doing the same thing?

We’re not.

X is doing this little wiggly half toe step that ends in a poor gal’s bourée with arms outstretched like Clara reaching for her Nutcracker.

I may need to just fully retire from dance. I really mean that. That’s real.

And you know, it’s actually really good, when they are not trying to make their versions line up. Why do they have to? Why can’t the Alien Product occur simultaneously with Traveling Footwork?

Y doing high kicks. Catching his leg and holding for a moment. X has a hole in his sock. He’s on the floor oscillating out to Y; he is totally being a harem girl today. Y isn’t buying whatever he’s selling.

It’s beautiful and also somehow gross, like they’re in different movies, in different lives. I guess that’s how it is a lot of the time, no? You wake up and look at the person sleeping next to you and think how the hell did I get here?

How do you make a show when you know so far in advance who from the New York Times is reviewing it? Isn’t that problematic?

Diagonals rapid to center and backwards out. X lets his arms move more than Y does. It took me a while to realize one of the things I couldn’t stand about some modern dance companies is that the dancers never move their stupid arms. I asked a dancer friend once why that would be and she said “Because they can?”

This diagonal business goes on and on

I think a lot about this idea of artists taking up all the oxygen in the room, and who gets to be an artist, and when. The Artists with a capital A in the dance field are both glorified and infantilized and the people around them are seen as less than full people; they are not meant to exist fully so that the Artists get that space. Davison isn’t meant to be fully seen; only to light the stars.

Y now sweeps his leg high and keeps it bent tightly in, the torso tucking down like a night heron folding up to make himself small—but only to attack

1. Because you have to
2. I don’t care about you anymore
3. Now I had to throw up my feelings
4. The ice skaters always win
5. The diva always ages badly
6. Ew get that emotion away from me
7. Ohhh now you see I go another way
8. I’m on the wrong horse
9. This is the way in which I love you
10. I become a planet eater

X bent way down and cutting his eyes up and Y hinged even further and kicking his legs out like they need to get away from him and X busting up laughing and then doing some weird flaily thing and then Y with a deep groan, because, right, air doesn’t travel so well when your guts are twisted down and out like that.

1. Don’t kid yourself sweetheart 2. I fond this dress in my closet
3. Star Trek is over there, not here 4. I don’t know what for
5. I almost fell backward but I didn’t
6. I’m more beautiful than you’ll ever be
7. I brought the stars for you quick-like
8. Sometimes I like to be quiet
9. This is where I keep my mother
10. This is almost like before but it isn’t quite.

Just figuring out where these things go. Maybe nowhere. It seems that they don’t go anywhere. The legs extend. Such awkwardly gorgeous creatures; the deer trying to mount the guardrail, the car desperately swerving. The nymph turning and turning. Up and down, up and down. Pelvic floor. We meet, we depart. All’s fair in love and war, etc.
There is a way in which the translator must love failure.

The thin line of light splitting the morning sky.

Big space eater. Sound of breath.

Pause. Recalibrate. Repeat.


Claudia La Rocco

CLAUDIA LA ROCCO is a writer. She is editor in chief of SFMOMA’s arts and culture platform Open Space.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2013

All Issues