It’s now, and it could be for(n)ever.

It’s now, and it could be for(n)ever.

A single point in space is infinitely small. This point is singular, there is no gray area surrounding it, it either is or it is not. A second point in space is equally infinitely small. That point is singular. I am either this point or I am that point. This is a binary. Two distinct ideas, diametrically opposed, that force a relation: proximal and distal. Mathematically, two distinct points in space describe a line. Suddenly, two distinct points transforms into infinitely many points including, between, and beyond those two. Still, there are infinitely many points that lie outside of this line.[1]   A singular instance of a point not on this line describes a plane in correspondence with the original two points.[2]   This third relation illuminates an infinitely more complicated system of points in space. 

 

I think I have come to understand that I detest straight lines. Or, perhaps, I refuse to acknowledge that I am incapable of adhering to any classical definition of “straight.” 

 

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.[3] 

 

Two can be as bad as one it’s the loneliest number since the number one.

 

Three isn’t mentioned in the song probably because it’s a crowd. Three’s company? Three is too complicated to follow in the chronicle of lonely.[4] 

I drove from Urbana to Danville three times a week for three months choreographing Curtains for DLO Musical Theatre. Every night as I drove back, a sea of red lights stood sentinel over my tired drive. 

On.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Off.

Flashing in unison. I later realized they were wind turbines. Always running. Their flashing always coalescing. Their arms spinning independently.

In his Rhythmanalysis, theorist Henri LeFebvre arrives at the conclusion fairly quickly that operating in a dualist nature always excludes an unseen, and oft-critical relationship in the course of thought on a given idea.

Past                                                                                                          Present                                                                                        Future

Possible                                                                                                Probable                                                                                Impossible

Knowledge                                                                                       Manipulation                                                                         Information

Object                                                                                                  Relation                                                                                   Subject[5] 

 

This construction of binarist thinking is embedded into the cultural machines of western thought. Indeed, it is mobilized as a weapon of capitalism, imbuing scarcity into the fabric of society: Either you or they will get this job; either you or they will receive this money; either you or they will be tested. These toxic opposites are so omnipresent that they have been chronicled as tenets of white supremacist societies.[6] Moreover, the ease with which we conjure opposites is directly proportional to the ease with which we forget another possibility is, often, readily available.

The Emcee in Cabaret is often depicted as being aggressively nonchalant in his relationship to gender performance. The Emcee sings his entire first song in three languages.

Try this: On the left, I will provide a word, on the right, fill in its opposite. In the center, attempt to fill in any third relation that is markedly distinct from the two “opposites”

Black                                                                               _________                                                              _______

Gay                                                                                  _________                                                              _______

Woman                                                                          _________                                                              _______

Improvisation                                                               _________                                                              _______

Nothing                                                                         _________                                                              _______

0                                                                                       _________                                                              _______

Sick                                                                                  _________                                                              _______

Able                                                                                 _________                                                              _______

Falling                                                                            _________                                                              _______

 

How many of these were you able to complete? How many of them are actually spectra where you have included as your “third” a concept that exists within the spectrum between here and there? Beyond the spectrum? Outside the spectrum?

 

These thirds are a critical investment in my considerations on the world, on myself, on choreographic praxis. Opening up to this infinite three-way possibility reconfigures the way I think about the chronicle of time, space, and energy.[7] As such, this document reflects an interweaving of three-way considerations about this choreographic triangulation through the lens of personal anecdote, theoretical exercise, and applied choreographic explorations. I resist the urge to arrive at an answer—implicating the existence of a “wrong” and necessarily insinuating a binarist framework would be at the center of my thinking. I root this writing in my self and aim to provide multidimensional access points. As I have already stated, I detest straight lines, and yet this format restricts us to moving downward, forward. I do not ask that you follow along attentively: I request that you daydream, circle back, and fail to complete your expectation of “reading” this document. Let this chronicle unfold and reform in your mind, separate from my (hopefully not-too) pedantic journey forward. 

 

[1]We might call it a spectrum

[2]In Euclidean geometry, a plane is a flat, two-dimensional surface that extends infinitely far in two dimensions.

[3]Your two feet become one but that’s unsustainable. Lindsey sure tried though.  

[4]I tell the students in Choreographic Process 1 that rhythm is counted in units of 2s and 3s. The 2 is curt and distinct. The three is suspended and airy. Adding the third opens up space inside of time to reflect back on relation between the 1 and the 2.

[5]Henri Lefebvre, Rhythmanalysis, transl. Stuart Elden and Gerald Moore, (London and New York: Continuum, 2004), 12.

[6]Tema Okun, “White Supremacy Culture,” dismantlingracism.org.

[7]There’s another one.

 
 
 
 
 

Photo by Tosha Pointer

Photo by Tosha Pointer

Photo by Nikolai Marcinowski

Photo by Faith Stanton

What if the world ended in 1983 and George Orwell never got proved wrong and the last song anyone ever heard was Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” but it got stuck on repeat and “Time After Time” never came because we were stuck in “Time After Time” forever? 

J Halberstam writes that failure is a queer art. 

Failure allows us to escape the punishing norms that discipline behavior and manage human development with the goal of delivering us from unruly childhoods to orderly and predictable adulthoods…And while failure certainly comes accompanied by a host of negative affects, such as disappointment, disillusionment, and despair, it also provides the opportunity to use these negative affects to poke holes in the toxic positivity of contemporary life.[8] 

Indeed, in a system which is built to reward only success and the linear trajectory that is the apparent route to that conventional end, it does seem rebellious to strive for failure. In “Low Theory,” Halberstam dissects several instances of popular culture through the logics of high theory. In doing so, Halberstam arrives at the apparent understanding that this failure for which they are advocating arises unintentionally and pervasively. Perhaps, then, we imagine that “striving” for failure is indeed not the point.[9] Instead, the important takeaway is that the conditions of existence in this society implicitly instigate failure. How then, is that failure reconceived, reimagined, or redirected to counteract the oppressive expectations that produced it in the first place?

In her article, “Orientations: Toward a Queer Phenomenology,” theorist Sara Ahmed writes, “To become straight means not only that we have to turn toward the objects given to us by heterosexual culture, but also that we must turn away from objects that take us off this line.”[10]

 

I always remember finding it funny that Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye change out into their traveling clothes wearing undershirts and standing behind their traveling trunks in the 1954 White Christmas (go to 14:30) now I can hardly get through an episode of a 20 minute sit-com without seeing an almost-naked, Adonis-like man with an impossibly cut physique.

 

I ask you, how am I supposed to turn away from that? 

 

My friend, Kayt, in the course of showing a solo in an evening with friends, says “the first time I was memorably horny…” and I am cast back into the pool. Your smooth, tan chest. Mid-aughts, chestnut-colored, Zac Efron bowl cut. Your voice, I remember being quintessentially youthful and masculine. What was your name? Jason? My swim instructor. I have always swum diagonally. 

 

What if the world ends in 2020 and a global pandemic shuts down everything you understand to be and we never get to hear Lady Gaga’s new album?

 

The diagonal stretching from the Northwest corner of DRK to the Southeast pedestrian entrance has become very present.

 

In Trisha Brown’s Glacial Decoy, 4 dancers slide in and out of the stage, performing exact perfect unison, shifting on and off the proscenium stage. They disappear and reappear seamlessly, bleeding into one collective conception of the “choreography”; like a viewfinder panning around and back to its original subject. This magic is accomplished with the structure of the proscenium stage and masking curtains positions just-so to block the audience’s viewing angle.  

 

I am curious about this use of “onstage” and “offstage” in relation to performance of self. Since reading Goffman’s The Performance of Self in Everyday Life, I have wondered about his considerations of “onstage” and “backstage” performances of self in relation to audience and self-conception. How might his metaphorical use of “theatre” of the performance of self be mobilized to understand live performance?

 

To understand this, we must understand some of his definitions. He first defines a “region” as “any place that is bounded to some degree by barriers to perception.”[11] Goffman defines the “offstage” or the “back region” of performance as “a place, relative to a given performance, where the impression fostered by the performance is knowingly contradicted as a matter of course.”[12] 

 

The performance begins with floor lights marking out the space of the dance. These lights remain positioned for the first two-thirds of the work even as the dance spills in and out of the rectangle which the lights contain. Onstage and offstage are glowing, visibly demarcated spaces. 

 

“Very commonly the back region of a performance is…cut off from [where the performance is presented] by a partition and guarded passageway…In general, of course, the back region will be the place where the performer can reliably expect that no member of the audience will intrude…Since the vital secrets of a show are visible backstage and since the performers behave out of character while there, it is natural to expect that the passage from the front region to the back region will be kept closed to members of the audience or that the entire back region will be kept hidden from them.”[13] [14] 

 

After designer run, I asked the dancers to chart their own trajectory through the dance as I attempted to entirely reconfigure the progression of the work. I additionally requested that they chronicle when they believed they were “offstage” (as distinct from “watching”) the dance from the periphery.[15] The presence of a sentinel, observing the dance, connects the dancers and the audience, rendering the spectacle of the moment legible when we become numb to seeing the audience sitting across the way from us. While, perhaps, reliably postmodern, the absence of a real “offstage” in DRK necessitates this mode of existing within the work. It clues the audience members into the constructed sense of separation from performers and viewers and slowly dissolves that binary.

 

At some point, the lights shift. They dim, and glow in a hyper-saturated blue, violet, and even ultra-violet hues. 8 dancers, previously members of a corps of 13 watching the performance unfold, lift the ropes of light from the floor and begin descending on a glowing Madeline, a solo dancer contained by a pen of lights. Michelle remains circling outside the lights, watching, waiting. Four more dancers maintain their position on the outer edges, watching everything. A sound shifts, the lights fall to the floor and snake their way through the hands of their carriers, finding the crevices of DRK—up the stairs, hooked through a pipe, behind the curtain, into the hall—illuminating the hinted impermanence of the “onstage/offstage” binary. 

 

In my first year of undergrad, I took a seminar course called “The Shape of Space.” Based on a textbook by Jeffrey Weeks, we spent the 12-week term debating possibilities for the exact size and shape of the universe. One of the earliest exercises we did in class was to create a Möbius band. 

 

Rachel and Kayt slip offstage and reappear, amidst a section of the other 13 dancers moving about chaotically, clad in an evening gown and an oversized tux. 

 

Play along at home. Cut a 1” strip out of any normal sheet of paper. Note that it has 2 sides; we’ll call them A and B. Take your strip and twist it one half turn so that you’re holding A side up on one end and B side up on the other. Tape this twisted strip together. This is your Möbius strip. Place a pencil in the center of the paper at the corner of a desk. Without lifting your pencil, pull the paper through under the pencil, tracing down the center of the strip. Eventually, your pencil will end right where it began: You’ve traced the entire first “side” of the strip. Notice, every previously blank surface now has a line on it, meaning that you have also traced every side of the strip. The Möbius strip is a 1-sided, 3-dimensional surface. If we were to imagine that we are a 1-dimensional being—like the graphite trace—from a pencil, we could walk forward forever, never noticing a difference between what previously seemed like 2 distinct sides.

 

Rachel and Kayt slip offstage and reappear, amidst a section of the other 13 dancers moving about chaotically, clad in an evening gown and an oversized tux. 

 

Time Af-ter Time Af-ter Time Af-ter Time Af-ter Time Af-ter Time Af-ter Time Af-ter Time Af-ter

 

The clock on the east wall of DRK makes a continuous mechanical sound. Always turning, always grinding.

Try this: Get a sheet of paper. Draw a circle. Is it a perfect circle? Definitely not, but imagine that it is. In 2-dimensions, you have created a circle. Now, pick up the paper, holding it parallel to the plane of your face. Slowly rotate the paper until it is perpendicular to your face, directly in line with your eyes. The two sides of the circle slowly converge until it appears that they merge, or disappear depending on the thickness of your paper and line. The eccentricity of the circle increases, becoming elliptical, and eventually, linear. 

Rachel and Kayt slip offstage and reappear, amidst a section of the other 13 dancers moving about chaotically, clad in an evening gown and an oversized tux. 

 

I have always loved titling dances until graduate school. My first “modern” dance. Circadian, inspired by my introductory biology course on circadian rhythms. Did you know blue light triggers non-visual receptors in our eyes that are directly connected to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain that is the switch that keeps us awake? This is probably why it is 2 am and I am still awake and writing this thesis document, with my blue rope lights lining the wall behind my computer. I like the way my clementine skin looks. Almost like a tomato...

 

I made the dance Circum- in 2018. I liked the possibility for multiplicity within the title. “Circumnavigate,” “Circumference,” “Circumfulgent.” “Circumcise,” Sara Hook says. Never thought of that one. (My voice slips up 2 octaves) “Um, I just, No, I just thought I. No. No. No.”

 

Back Quarter Time Turn, a dance inspired by 3 things: the word “fulgent,” the 9-12 quadrant of a clock, and Cher. After receiving the footage of the performances of Circum- in Brooklyn, I layered three takes on top of each other. The first, performance 1, the second, performance 1 flipped over the y-axis (1-1), the third, performance 2. 

 

The symmetry of 1 and 1-1 initially make them seem like complete opposites, and they are complete opposites. They are also identical spatially and temporally, only differing in direction. Performance 2, at times, diverts completely from performance 1. It still holds similar rhythmic and energetic qualities, but is organized distinctly differently from the other 2, seemingly opposite layers. This different reel shifts the perspective on the previously “opposite” material, placing them in closer proximity. I continued to layer, experimenting with the addition of thirds as a mode of disturbing a perception of existing “oppositeness.”[16] 

“For despite the self-sameness of the object, I do not see it as the self-same. I never see it as such; what it is cannot be apprehended, as I cannot view the table from all points of view at once. The necessity of moving around the object, to capture more than its profile, shows that the other sides of the object are unavailable to me at the point from which it is viewed, which is why it must be intended.”[17] 

Ahmed conjectures that Husserl’s claim that the table is the same and we conjure its background illuminates the mundaneness of its “sameness.” The real point of intrigue is how we, as subjects, invent our understanding of the background (the behind) of the table. This history unfolds in relation to our own history, our history with the table, with tables, with what we do with the table. In this way, our subjectivity informs and is informed by the object with which we are doing the doing.[18] 

The work holds this queer phenomenology in its DNA, as an audience member perceives choreographic information from a new performer, a new angle, in a new spatial configuration, a new temporal pattern, a new location in the room. The infinitely complex relational field of the performance is constructed by each individual performer and audience member. I embed the tools for understanding this through structure, making legible (or at least, apparent) the choreographic rules at play in a given instant: telephone, triangulation, diagonals, add in one by one, parallel walking patterns...An audience member traces these chronicles through their cloudy and obfuscated journey in watching the dance, depth of field, density, texture work to augment that confusion while the logics of form and structure serve to propel the dance forward through time.

I struggle with convincing 15 dancers to engage with the physical methodologies that I have constructed. Simple instructions litter my feedback as we perform each section of the work: “eyes,” “heels down and back,” “reach,” “fingers,” etc. I remember at the end of February I never wanted 15 of myself, and, while I hope that the somatic interventions open up new possibility for the dancers in IT-WP, I also understand that my expectations of material that I share will be failed. That failure, the loss of wholeness in the translation from me to you and to you in the audience, is conflict, friction, a queer reorientation of my queer body into another’s person. It is a degree of separation, of removal, a severance of authorship. The dance is created in the gaps between my performance and your witnessing of the seeds grown from that performance. This degree of difference also ensures the presence of several reorientations (in space and in dancers) of the same material. It occurs reiteratively through time, informed reflexively and proactively by each instance.  

 

I have had an interest in creating work in the round since my first year of grad school.[19] I believe that this spatial configuration embeds a certain degree of difference in the perception of the work. In dance performance, these differences are multiplicitous: an audience member to a dancer, another audience member to their neighbor, a dancer to a dancer, a dancer to a curtain. The dance is composed of an infinitely complex sequence of relations made impossibly more complex by the implication of dancers as object and subject. While the dance field and high theory and even undergarment advertisements refer to “bodies” existing in a space, it is potentially irresponsible to refute their subjectivity with that language. While an audience member views a dance, they are, certainly, engaging their own history with “bodies” to interpret the subjectivity of a performer. If even subconsciously, when asked after a performance, the average audience member will speak of a performer’s gender, race, technical ability, etc., all in relation to some assumption they constructed that often exists outside the purview of information that was given in a performance or even a program.  

 

“The objects that we direct our attention toward reveal the direction we have taken in life. If we face this way or that, then other things, and indeed spaces, are relegated to the background; they are only ever co-perceived…Perception involves such acts of relegation that are forgotten in the very preoccupation with what it is that we face.”[20] 

 

[8]J. Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 3.

[9]Betsy Brandt, a dramaturg reading an early draft of this writing asks me, “What does it mean for the point of a score to be failure…? If it fails, did it really fail?”

[10]Sara Ahmed, “ORIENTATIONS: Toward a Queer Phenomenology,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 12 no. 4, (January 2011), 554. 

[11]Erving Goffman, Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, (New York: Anchor Books. 1959), 106.

[12]Goffman, Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, 112.

[13]Goffman, Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, 113.

[14]Has the onstage/offstage binary permeated the collective conscious of an average performance viewer so much that they understand a performer standing off to the side of a studio performance is “offstage”? What about an expert performance goer: Do they read this as a sloppy attempt at making the performance space something other than what it is? I attempt to address both extremes, I allow dancers to disappear from the studio, both using the black backdrop as a “wing” of sorts, and also utilizing the physical entrances of the space as entrances and exits into another world. After the “pre-show,” when the doors close, the space of the dance is restricted by a demarcation of the space via floor lights and chairs. This is revealed to be a coy acknowledgement that I have attempted to confine the performance to a specific location in a space that is not, in fact, “unmarked.” The empty, unusable crusts of the space lie unused, until they are used. By the end of the work, these seemingly ignored areas of the physical space—behind the dominating black curtain, up on the balcony, behind the rows of chairs, the piano area—are incorporated as components of the work. Additionally, the continuous entrance and exits and diagonal trajectory from “wing” to exit door are reintroduced to continually confront the “magic” of stage. Reminding me that there is always something outside the scale of the performance.

[15]“One of the most interesting times to observe impression management is the moment when a performer leaves the back region and enters the place where the audience is to be found…for at these moments one can detect a wonderful putting on and taking off of character. “ Goffman,Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, 121. We attempted to blur this liminal space throughout the performance: choreographing the entrances and exits within the space, marking the boundaries of the “performance” space and continuing to perform outside of them, even as the boundaries expand.

[16]One of the movement threads through the work is a collection called “Trios.” It was created using what I call “generator” pieces—sections of material that sedimented into and through my improvisational choices. Five of the dancers know a phrase called “A”. Five of the dancers know what began as an exact symmetrical version of this phrase “A’”, but later devolved into floating back and for the between symmetry and unison. Five of the dancers know an entirely different phrase. We see the phrase 3 times, once as A, once as a duet for 8 dancers: A and A’. And lastly as three trios: A, A’, and 3rd. Actually, we see it 4 times. The first time, Michelle and Kayt attempt to recall the phrasing of their versions A and A’ while engaging with spatial and energetic scores, resulting in a confused, spiraling, rambling duet that circumscribes the space, both clearing away the confusion that came before and instilling a new logic into the space. Michelle is first pinned within the lights, circling and yet triangulating between Rachel and Kayt—the offstage defectors.

[17]Ahmed, “Orientations: Toward a Queer Phenomenology,” 548.

[18]Ahmed, "Orientations: Toward a Queer Phenomenology," 551.

[19]I think partly there’s a logic to seeking a new mode of presenting when most of my work up to this point has been very traditionally proscenium.

[20]Sara Ahmed, "Orientations: Toward a Queer Phenomenology," 546-547.

 
 
 
 
 
 

This diagram traces the cast through the first 1/3 of the dance. I ran out of space and time to finish tracking it. Of course, in inscribing these connections onto paper, their ephemerality is committed to the dominant memory and yet I hope the fact that I can’t (or won’t) quite explain why this diagram explains the personal connectivity in and around the work is enough to preserve some of the queerness it inherently holds. 

 

Read this in 2-syllable chunks:

Once u-pon a-time I-dreamt that-I fell-down a-bright, dark-hallway.

Read this in 3-syllable chunks:

Twice upon-a time, I-went and I-shelled round a-light, smart ball-play.

Read this as though it were a normal sentence:

Thrice ungone a rhyme, fly spent hat die belt now buh pri, far allway.

I ask Rachel to initiate the score “telephone” by recalling Faith and Ibrahim’s duet, a phrase from Circum- that Rachel learned once in the fall of 2018, but which she only sees out of the corner of her eye in IT-WP. Each dancer learns a version of this material from the dancer who learned it before them, the time of learning compressing with each iteration, until the original Rachel version cannot be found within what remains. Faith and Ibrahim begin the next chapter of the work by executing "Circum-" in its sedimented, choreographed state, yet this new iteration evokes some ephemeral trace of what came before. 

By embedding these avenues for difference within the creation and performance plan for the work, I aim to facilitate an audience member’s reading of the work as heterogeneous, and yet, am unable (and unwilling) to control that perception. 

 

From a reading response I wrote in my first semester of graduate school for a performance studies class with Dr. Jane Desmond (2017). The footnotes are my current reflections on this very early analysis, based on my three years of stewing with the ideas.

In “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” Judith Butler analyzes the validity[a]of regarding gender as a series of constitutive acts. She reinforces the distinction between biological sex and gender by illustrating that gender is a personal act that is reconstructed, and in this reconstruction, gender becomes a non-individualized political performance…

                  Butler approaches this writing from a phenomenological stance…These writings that she calls upon introduce the very idea of gender as a history rather than a presence…She points out that, while it seems far-fetched to analyze gender as the embodiment of possibility (as one would seem unlikely to embody a possibility wherein the result was oppression), the performance and re-performance of gender, even as an act of resistance, may be the crux of the problem.

                  I think Butler too quickly disregards Goffman’s claim that one plays various roles in different situations. I agree that, based on her arguments, it seems evident that gender is a performative construction that is upheld by its very performance. However, it feels inconsistent to state, on one hand, that an individual’s performance of gender is fluid, and on the other, that this fluidity is consistently subject to the social policies of the culture…[b]Here comes the question of whether the removal of an “outside audience” actually allows for a change in an individual’s gender performance, and I would assume that the answer varies by case…[c]

                  In my opinion, the real weight in Butler’s work is in the conclusion that “gender reality…is real to the extent that it is performed.” This claim has weight in several dimensions. First, it creates a space for dissenting performances of gender as “real.” For myself and other non-binary individuals, this is crucial to our identity. There is a claim perpetrated that the gender binary is a matter of fact, and that performances of other genders, or indeed transgender performances, are simply acts. However, Butler’s writing would serve to illustrate that these acts are critically embodied in order to self-actualize. There is a sense that by recognizing these performances, one can work to establish representation that is “authentic” in some way: embracing the repetitive conditions that foster the “feminine” as a valuable attribute while rejecting those which have catalyzed historical oppression.[d]

                  The distilled point of Butler’s writing is that gender is not a prescription written by sex, nor is the product of steeping in a given culture, but rather it is a performative series of repeated acts…Butler so emphatically claims that this performance is distinct from the history given by the patriarchy and from sex, but fails to materialize that distinction with concrete examples…[e]Thus I am left with the question, what are these performances? What, other than “expression,” actualizes gender? Is it a mentality? A physicality? Is it the embodiment of an expression or the comfort found within the acceptance of a normalized expression? And how do we work against it?

[a]I don’t know if this is what she’s doing, actually. There’s no effort to claim validity or not. She has made up her mind about this fact and is engaging phenomenology as a framework to support her considerations. 

[b]I no longer find this inconsistent, in fact, I believe that they are inextricably related: the performance of gender and the expectations of gender in a given moment.

[c]It does vary case by case, and I would add, the presence and the memory of an audience are both contenders in that case study. 

[d]I heavily edited this sentence as it didn’t make any sense in its former arrangement. I got an A- on this paper…

[e]I now see the rhetorical power of failing to produce these examples extends beyond rebuking the potential for trivializing gender into expression and the performance thereof.

The possibility for iterative change has monopolized my choreographic practice in graduate school. 

 

I look back on my closet from when I arrived here and my closet now and there is a direct correlation to the comfortability and queerness of my wardrobe and my internal sense of self and an inverse correlation to my sense of dysphoria. 

 

Dysphoria: the perception of insurmountable failure of the body to conform to expectations laid out for it. 

 

Euphoria: the embracement of existing failure as a means to allowing the body to change

 

When I speak about the perception of my gender, I am speaking about my perception of your perception of me, which I know, is not universal. On different days there are different means and ends to my gender, varying in proportion of internal and external, real and imagined, hyperactive and depressed. Perhaps this reflexivity is Susan Rethorst’s “choreographic mind” at play: a mind which is constantly considering the spatiotemporal currents between bodies (and persons) in space. Perhaps this is a defense mechanism—constructed to avoid the potential emotional or physical harm that comes with my chosen performance of self. Perhaps this is a conditioned, reflective response to being aurally reminded that my internal conception of self and external reading of self don’t always align. 

 

I do not exist. The me that you see is not me. The me you read in these pages is not me. The me that you see performed by 15 other people is not me. I am the sum total of my performances of selfhood and my reflections on that selfhood, and that running calculation is infinitely recursive, infinitely progressing, and interminable. Looking far into the timeline of the future, the vague specter of “me” stands complete, but each sentence we read moving in that direction moves us no closer, simply further along the timeline. I will be a queer utopia. I am a collection of experiences, stylizations, and interactions compounding, reacting, and transforming me—in series, reflexively and performatively. 

 

In identifying outside the normative binary of gender, my orientation splits, divests, queers away from the humming, vibrating binary. 

This new trajectory requires constant energy to keep it pulling away from the mainline. To be clear, I’m not disagreeing with Ahmed, orienting toward heterosexuality is its own energetic investment, but there’s a collective momentum and institutional frameworks funneling that direction. The energy required to peel a queer trajectory off is continuous. Of course, the alternative to this constant output is building collective momentum that, with intertia, pulls queerness out of the normative. The risk run here, though, is the subversive reincorporation of “queer” into the heterosexual agenda. Countless queer scholars and activists have pointed this out through history. For instance, Betty Luther Hillman chronicles how the Gay rights movement of the 60s in San Fransisco, while being inspired by other activist movements, grew to be exclusive to any non-homosexual identity, and was thus disinterested with racial equality or trans rights.[21] These homonormative agendas have continued through the present day. The marriage equality movement that culminated in the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized “gay” marriage in the US did nothing to prevent bigotry, prejudice, or discriminatory practices against large sections of the “queer” populations—particularly queer people of color and trans folx. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2015 was the highest occurrence of violent death perpetrated against trans people on record, a statistic that has only increased, with most of the violence being perpetrated against trans women of color.[22] While state-sanctioned trans identities are certainly not the ultimate goal of many trans people, and neither is necessarily mainstream representation or acceptance, chronicling these dominant cultures through time unveils a sense of consciousness. Even looking to visual media representation of queer life. Quippy, cis white gay men have become almost as tropey as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl of the early 00s—an exciting development at first, but an exhausting perpetuation of stereotype when coupled with the very rare representation of queer Black, Asian, Latino/a/x life or substantial, meaningful trans representation.[23] 

 

Queer representation in pop culture seemingly peeled away from the heterosexual standard. Indeed, it has mostly sedimented into a parallel to heterosexuality, with brave threads of honest queer representation stripping away, breaking ground. If we change our orientation to the parallel representation though, the distinctions between them break down. 

 

Try this: Draw two parallel lines on a sheet of paper. Hold the paper up, perpendicular to your line of sight, flatten the paper slowly, and watch as the two lines converge and eventually, merge into one.

 

In Clare Croft’s edit volume Queer Dance, she wants what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick imagined queer could be, a space that does not just allow, but values, even encourages, practices in which “meanings and institutions can be at loose ends with each other.”[24] Croft arrives at this methodology at the end of a practice tethering queer to the body, and one tying queer as the antithesis of normativity. Croft (and Sedgwick’s) ultimate definition expects heterogeneity.[25] [26] 

Thesis: Queerness is an embodied practice

Antithesis: Queerness is a rejection of the normative

Synthesis: Queerness is heterogeneous

 

“Queerness has an especially vexed relationship to evidence. Historically, evidence of queerness has been used to penalize and discipline queer desires, connections, and acts. When the historian of queer experience attempts to document a queer past, there is often a gatekeeper, representing a straight present, who will labor to invalidate the historical fact of queer lives—present, past, and future. Queerness is rarely complemented by evidence, or at least by traditional understandings of the term. The key to queering evidence, and by that I mean the ways in which we prove queerness and read queerness, is by suturing it to the concept of ephemera.”[27] 

 

In 2nd grade, someone asked me in the boy’s bathroom: “Are you gay? You dance, don’t you? So, you must be gay.”

 

Queerness also rejects (and is rejected by) traditional machinations of evidencing. Through “closeting” queerness is frequently itself relegated to ephemera: moments of queer action, desire, and thought.[28] [29]  Within the production of mainstream media, queer identities are constituted through iteration of queer acts. Visual media makes the effort to illuminate the ephemerality of queerness: oft-referencing the danger of it, the stolen or compressed time, the non-normativeness of it.[30] By chronicling these moments in re-playable memory, their ephemerality is sacrificed, replaced by a slowly accumulating definition of how to “be queer.” This personal tethering of queerness to its bodies and therefore persons positions it within the scope of normativity, able to be monitored, tracked, proven, and therefore regulated.[31] 

Muñoz continues, stating that ideas of queer utopia are similarly constructed by nostalgic reflections on idealized pasts. This performative activation of memory to evoke potentials for a future, sparks it into existence as a describable state, while simultaneously placing it infinitely out of reach. By invoking an embodied queer past, queerness is memorialized as it was “prior” to its indoctrination by the State, its (failed and successful) enfoldment into the mainstream, or its policing. This embodied queerness is the primary experience of queerness as demarcated by Clare Croft in the introduction to Queer Dance. In this way, queer utopia becomes descriptive. 

 

How did I get here? I honestly can’t remember. Dropped somewhere between a dream and a memory. The sickest bits of my imagination stringing together my worst fears and suddenly I’m in a hotel. Picking up where I left off. I died last time, maybe this is my reset, my save location. At dinner with you and your family, who I imagine are very kind people as you once were. I seem to be less reluctant than last time, perhaps because my reluctance birthed death, and I’m trying a new tactic. On the way up the elevator, I opt for the stairs, which you resent, but I tell you I mean to use the restroom. I pack my suitcase and vacate my dark, luxe room, and head for the bathroom, a shockingly white microcosm. Here, I bleach my hair, visited by friends and lovers who inquire, but pee and pass back out the door. The bleach fails, and instead my hair rinses to an oily rainbow, hidden by a shock of platinum. You never knew me with platinum hair, am I growing the right direction? We’re descending to the garage, and things get heated, I promise you I’m not running, and your family believes me. But my sister comes to the rescue in her house I am alone with her and her husband and their dog needs to pee. So, he takes him out and immediately runs back to lock us in. He is another in the long line who have tried to rescue me, last time it was my dad, whom I haven’t spoken to in 3.5 years, but it’s always men who fail to save me. You burst through the screen door brandishing a pistol. You want me. My sister is in harm’s way. You threaten to kill her, me, and yourself, not together but in that order. I pry the gun away from your chin and you sink to the floor. The danger you present is not avoided. I shoot you in the leg to keep your mind tethered to something safe. Self-preservation. You died this time. 

 

But I woke up sweating, panting, crying. I checked my phone to make sure my location services are restricted. I blink out at the dark window to see if the ambulance was here or there. I play an old episode I’ve watched 100 times, try to remember who I am, and forget who you are. 

 

Upon reading Muñoz’s conception of how queer utopia might be constructed, I asked myself, what about me? I know that I have had many fortunes and privileges in my life, and also, I have never lived a period of life wherein I felt my queerness was unregulated, or a period for which I am now nostalgic for a future echoing. Herein lies the failure of tethering queerness solely to an embodied practice. Chronicling the queer objects which pull us away from the line of heterosexual culture sediments the process by which queerness is proven. This system, ascribed to the body, is set up for individual failure. The densely heterogeneous experiences of embodied queerness (individually and collectively) ensures this. 


 

Tere O’Connor says “Forgetting is choreographic,” and I have probably used that as an excuse more generously than he intended it to be.

 

Halberstam claims that forgetting is a resistive force against memorialization.In The Queer Art of Failure, Halberstam proposes that, “forgetting becomes a way of resisting the heroic and grand logics of recall and unleashes new forms of memory that relate more to spectrality than to hard evidence, to lost genealogies than to inheritance, to erasure than to inscription.”[32] The “heroic logics of recall” to which they refer, tend to reduce complicated histories down to singular instances of unified truth. Perhaps then, the act of forgetting is actually a renegotiation of orientation that allows for a more complicated reading of the time of memory.[33] In “forgetting” some primary “truth”—some foregrounded conclusion of a situation—we are able to read and relate foreground and background in context with the systems that relegate each to its designated place, and new possibilities for each. Croft’s second invocation of the “queer” manifests as a rejection of the normative. This normative, singular, linear production of memory is rebutted by the presence of queer existence, and hence, evidence of that existence is a threat to the…

I’ll come back to this later?

[21]Betty Luther Hillman, “‘The Most Profoundly Revolutionary Act a Homosexual Can Engage in’: Drag and the Politics of Gender Presentation in the San Francisco Gay Liberation Movement, 1964–1972.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 20, no. 1 (January 2011): 159-166.

[22]“Addressing Anti-Transgender Violence.” hrc.org. Human Rights Campaign, 2015. 

[23]There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Some include: Moonlight (2016) d. Barry Jenkins, POSE (2018-present) c. Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Steven Canals, Sex Education (2019-present) c. Laurie Nunn—Notable for also including an explicitly asexual character learning about asexuality and aromanticism, Grey’s Anatomy (2005-present) c. Shonda Rhimes, see me for more.

[24]Clare Croft, Queer Dance Meanings and Makings, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017): 9. 

[25] Clare Croft. Queer Dance Meanings and Makings, 9.

[26]If not heterosexuality.

[27]José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, (New York: New York University Press., 2009), 65.

[28]Does this turn a different light onto those capitalist-funded Pride Month parades? While terrible in so many ways, they are also expanding (and assimilating, to be clear) the record of queer lives within the dominant modes of memory. (See: statue of Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera for Pride 50.)

[29]Indeed, if the dominant modes of memory are built to erase or to punish identities outside the dominant culture, is it really desirable that the dominant culture make space for us?

[30]More to come.

[31]The continuous presence of the objects given by dominant culture demands a continuous orientation and reorientation of self in relation to the world. Movies and television shows remind us whose stories are worth telling, who gets to be seen, who gets to be seen as whom. Medical forms, dating apps, tax forms remind us that gender is a binary, sexuality is best when private and locked in a state-sanctioned contract. 

[32]J. Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure, 15.

[33]See my later discussion of Wright’s “Epiphenomenal Time

 
 
 
 
 

Is this why I am drawn to dance—the hallmark of ephemeral forms? How might choreography and dance manage to illuminate glimpses of this queerness? Where in the choreographic does the head cock to the side and wonder, “What is this that I am seeing?”, “How is it different from that which I know, knew, will know?”?

I closed my eyes or I couldn’t open them and I don’t know if you could see me but if you could I’m not sure you wouldn’t have stopped but now the inside of my eyelids is brighter than a flashbulb and I blink quickly so I don’t get blinded.

A continuous function is an unbreaking sequence of input and output. Alternatively, in a continuous function, there exists arbitrarily small change, in output for each incrementally (infinitely) small change in input. The pre- and proceeding events in a continuous arc are predictable, determined by those around them.[34] The change is measured, defined, calculable.

[34]Note that this document is not continuous.

The classical narrative arc of a well-written story is a continuous function: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution.

The energy of my body is a continuous function: rising and falling, plateauing and peaking, input and output. Unlike an electron, I exist in the in-between of each state of energy I pass through. Metaphorically and physically. There are no singularities[35] in my energetic embodiment. This continuity of being in my body reflexively informs each new moment. I choose this mode of being as it preserves the maximum amount of energy in the system of my body. I work over a smaller distance—between where I am and the energy required for my next expulsion. I retain as much potential energy as possible to mitigate the exhaustion of the future as long as possible. 

Score for reducing tension from Anouk Van Dyke:

Stand, tense everything in your body to its absolute maximum

Reduce your tension on a gradient until there is no tension in your body and you collapse.

 

Stand again, tense everything in your body to its absolute maximum

Reduce your tension on a gradient until there is the minimum amount of tension required to stand neutrally (whatever that neutral is for you)

 

When an airplane lands successfully, it doesn’t move from immediately airborne to stationary and grounded. It moves smoothly (hopefully) laterally into the ground, translating the momentum of its flight and its drop to the earth laterally spreading onto the tarmac: forward and down. 

 

A swift jump out in space, landing on two feet, knees in full flexion, and then entirely reversing to slide back in space, spreading the weight of the body out flat until decelerating to a 

 

stop.

 

 

[35]This became a score for IT-WP. With the constancy of energy set up by the sequences of diagonal falling and connected, spiraling motions, I aim to draw an audience member into an expectation of continuity that is defiantly interrupted by stumblings, blatant interruptions of choreographic thought, overwhelming soundscapes, and, more minutely, guttural shifts in intent sparked by an some unregistered force. 

 
 

The clock on the east wall of DRK makes a continuous mechanical sound. Always turning, always grinding.

The use of time is a hallmark of choreography. Many beginning composition classes refer to “space and time” as the two primary concerns of dance making. Understanding the operation of time within choreographic work, however, is not always so fundamental. Henri Lefebvre asks in his 1974 The Production of Space, “Let everyone look at the space around them. What do they see? Do they see time?...all anyone sees is movements…”[36] He goes on to explain that in a pre-modern era, time was inscribed throughout “nature” and clearly legible to an observer. As a result of modernity, he argues, time has been relegated to the metric and all but erased from the experiential. I would quote chanteuse Regina Spektor in saying, “Time is all around.” At the very least, we are reading time unfold in clocks, calendars, watches, etc.[37] 

If time has not actually disappeared and is hiding behind a veneer of modernity, the question becomes how to parse out a concept of experiencing time in addition to reading it metrically. How do we see the movements Lefebvre posits and read temporal information from them? This requires an understanding of exactly what we are reading from clock time and what information is missing. As Lefebvre illustrates, the genesis of clock-time, was the advent of industrialism. Clock-time allows for the division of time into distinct, sellable units. These time scales take root in capitalist demands of production and tend to gloss over the complexities of history and the present in favor of universality. We are trained to see clock-time, inevitably ticking forward in exclusively causal relation from past to present to future.[38]  Perhaps this is what Lefebvre is terming “movements”: change, shifting, or even social movements that seem, from a historical lens, to have a singulartrajectory toward advancement.[39] 

 

Theorist Michelle Wright proposes an alternative in her 2015, The Physics of Blackness:

Black discourses can endlessly expand the dimensions of our analyses and intersect with a wider range of identities by deploying an Epiphenomenal concept of spacetime that takes into account all the multifarious dimensions of Blackness that exist in any one moment, or “now”—not “just” class, gender, and sexuality, but all collective combinations imagined in that moment.[40] 

Wright’s proposal stems from an understanding of time that is not wholly reliant on linear, progress-based notions of time. Instead, she calls for an acknowledgement of the complexity of Black experiences to allow for the broadening of definitions of Blackness.

To organize the 15 dancers in Infinite Three-Way Possibility, I have written a Microsoft Excel document that chronicles each dancer’s temporal trajectory through the work, vertically organized by dancer, and horizontally organized by a progression through time. While at first, I was resistant to this action as I perceived it to be a trivialization of the dance unfolding causally forward through linear time, I began to consider that this was the only method by which I could preserve and foster the complexity of a 15-person dance, light, sound, costume, scene, etc field of relationships (see the diagram above). While Wright’s analysis of Ephiphenomenal time is especially fruitful as a tool for de-inscribing institutionalized racism and producing a sense of Blackness that is not in response to Whiteness, her move can be theorized in relation to other histories which lie outside of the “norm.”[41]

 

I return now to the third iteration of queerness proposed by Sedgwick and invoked by Croft: queerness as heterogeneity. Trans studies offers a framework for synthesizing this heterogeneity in a spatiotemporal (or choreographic) way. Muñoz’s assertion that queerness exists as a performative activation of “pastness” as a means to imagine an ever-moving future seems to indicate a certain cyclicality to time: an almost slap-stick temporal structure in which we look to the “when” of the past and in turning to look at the “when” of the future, find that it has moved—whereupon locating our conception of the future, turn to the past and find that it has completed the same sleight of hand, disappearing from sight. This (humorous) consideration fails to account for the also-fact that time, while perhaps not linear, is not static. Here, Wright’s description of time as unfolding in parallel (not coalescing) trajectories presents a remedy for a sense of time that is not stagnant or cyclical. This temporal structure ruminates, reflects, advances, recedes, and warps in response to each of these activities. 

 

By imagining Muñoz and Wright’s claims as existing simultaneously, the heterogeneity of queerness emerges as textural, dense detail that would otherwise be lost in singularity. Trans studies provides a particularly succinct and experiential analogy to this fact: “transness and gender nonconformity often imply a disjunct time, in which an assignment at birth is retroactively rejected, and a present embodiment is understood as needing to become otherwise in a future.”[41] While this initially reads as an identical sense of futurity, the rejection, a denial of the rose-colored sense of pastness, and its retroaction, evokes a cyclicality embedded within the past that continues to reiterate in the present and future. Editors of the special issue of Trans Studies Quarterly: Trans Futures, expanding on Muñoz’s idea of queer utopia in relation to the time of transness write, “A decolonial trans of color figuration understands that transness is both not yet here and has always been here.”[42] The particular purview that trans studies lends to this lens on queerness is the centralization of experience. This extension of the phenomenological thinking that Butler invokes complicates an element of indoctrination, which is then activated through the body as a series of relational, spatial and temporal practices.[43] These queer orientations, to borrow Ahmed’s language again, surface in practice as an activation of these cyclical pastnesses, rejecting and repeating, in an actualization of the present that attempts to make present a future. This future, though, exists only in that present, as a speculative possibility. 

 

“A map of the world that does not include utopia is not even worth glancing at.” Oscar Wilde quoted in Cruising Utopia.[44] 


In simple, experiential terms: the time of transness is nonlinear, there is not a single linear progression from being “cis” to being fully trans, with an end point, or a clear transection of the binary. There are days of doubts there are weeks of no shaving there are casual “sirs” and internal “I look like a man today” there are moments when you’re too femme for grindr but too masc for “looking for trans.”[45] There are unfollows on Instagram and thinking “If I go to target in a dress am I gonna get…?” It is “failure” and “success” that occur simultaneously. The unending blur of time evinces a complex system, impossible to dissect.

 

[36]Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 95.

[37]If the voice of this paragraph feels distinctly different, it’s because I wrote it at a different time. I wrote it to funnel a specific writing toward an argument. They didn’t agree with the argument, and I don’t agree with myself when I write this way. 

[38]Perhaps indeed, this is how societies fall into the perilous trap of repeating history: By assuming that it has concluded and its effects will be felt regardless of whether the population is still actively considering it.

[39]I noticed a trend in Contemporary Directions 1&2 of work that seems to be asking questions about the future. What will we be like when we get there(2018) by Joanna Kotze reminds me of this pattern, as do Preparation for the obsolescence of the Y Chromosome (2015) Michelle Ellsworth, Make Your Own World (2019) Lucy Guerin, etc. In truth, the whole genre of Afro-Futurist art, which has existed and grown over the last century—I imagine, in combination with the deeply apocalyptic daily feeling[4]many folx have—is responsible for the trend of so many artists looking toward the future. Muñoz tells us that we will never arrive at this future, because it will always remain distant, an ever-evolving utopia not to be reached, but imagined anew every new moment. What if time ends, though? When is utopia in a global pandemic? What is the utopia you imagine if there is no time after time? Is utopia now? Is it gone? Am I nostalgic for the present like Sia in 2016? 

[40]Michelle M. Wright, The Physics of Blackness: Beyond the Middle Passage Epistemology (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 20.

[41] I first arrived at an understanding of how this sense of parallel history is directly linked to the construction and perception of choreography through a writing on Dr. Cynthia Oliver's Virago Man Dem. In this work, Oliver draws an audience member through a temporal rift, trickling between past, present, and future throughout the work to propose a critique of hegemonic ideas of Black masculinity. She centralizes the multiplicity of Black experiences by drawing, in particular, on the personal histories of each member of the quartet of male and gender-nonconforming dancers, in addition to her own expertises, that of her numerous production collaborators, and the reflections of many individuals with whom she consulted in the process of creating the work. Cynthia Oliver, Center for Advanced Studies Noon Hour talk, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL February 22, 2018. 

[41]Jian Neo Chen and Micha Cárdenas. “Times to Come: Materializing Trans Times,” Transgender Studies Quarterly 6, no. 4 (November 2019): 475. 

[42]Jian Neo Chen and Micha Cárdenas, “Times to Come” 475. 

[43]Zara Saeidzadeh, “Understanding Socio-Legal Complexities of Sex Change in Postrevolutionary Iran,” Transgender Studies Quarterly 6, no. 4 (November 2019):86

[44]José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia, 40. 

[45]I considered naming my thesis performance Masc Chaos, an ode to the failures of masculinity in my life—death, abuse, assault, my own gender—and yet, this somehow feels wrong. To locate my thesis performance primarily in the past, in my conceptions of a history, feels like the real failure. I have made this dance already, Bravados (2016) examining the hegemonic power of maleness and its unwillingness to flourish alongside gayness, queerness, or femmeness. In that work, I located the dance staunchly in the past—costumes in a 1950s silhouette—while hinting ever-so subtly to the turn of a page. With IT-WP, I open the book, discovering it is a pop-up, with the underside of each page lifting away from the binding, and indeed that the pop-up pages unfold around themselves, connecting backwards and forwards through the narrative of the book until beginning and ending are indistinguishable. Yet when the book closes, there is no question that we have glimpsed a new world, a possible future, a glinting tomorrow.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

I tried moving in every time scale of the dance. From the whole evening’s worth of dancing down to the micro time of negotiating beginning a movement. The energy of being inside of the dance, the performance, may be constant, but the scale of the time and the space of the dance is ever-shifting. Especially when there are fifteen dancers to contend with. Using very much space for very much time begins to quickly feel overwhelming, and I am interested in that feeling of not enough space, not enough time, but not for very long there is a very fine line between exciting, full-bodied movement danced by a lot of dancers and too many dancers dancing too much for too long and I wonder right now having just left an early spring rehearsal if I’m going to find the balance or if there is going to be too much to watch for the whole dance but is that okay?

 

 

Sondra Fraleigh works to explain the useful application of seeing dance through a phenomenological lens in Dance Research Journal in 1991, “We can’t see [existence] (because it is everywhere) and we feel its perpetual “dance” inside us. It surfaces to attention through reflection in literature, history, and philosophy, with the urgency of word and gesture, formulations of concrete materials, the actions and passions of drama, and the infinite combinations of sound and bodily motion in the various arts…thoughts and feeling converge, and meaning arises.”[46]

I text Kaitlin that I have a desire to be seen. I want to dance and be watched. I’m afraid that no one understands the urgency of the now. The world feels like it’s ending. People tell me that my recent improvisations feel alien, precarious, near-collapse, virtuosic. I’m sure it’s all of those things for those who are watching, and it’s more than that. I am approaching a threshold, an activation energy, at which point I will not come back. I cannot return to an unreacted, combustible state. I am exerting. I am releasing. I am splitting at the seams spewing out energy. I am virtuosic only because in stillness I feel the constant vibration of energy expecting release. I am glowing saturated colors and glittering metal pouring out of my eyes blocking out the future. 

 

How might the aforementioned heterogenous temporal frameworks (which I extrapolate also into spatial arrangements and relations) be considered through a choreographic lens? I think, in truth, they are choreography. At least, I think that now, in this present moment, stranded at my computer, rolling around on an exercise ball, anxiously checking my temperature three times a day, and packing to leave this three-year tenure in central Illinois. Infinite Three-Way Possibility attempts to illuminate this infinitely complex system of being and relating in a microcosmic 57-minute exercise. A constant reflection on the interactions of body, bodies, personhood, space, the space, the spacecontaining the space, the light, the sound, the costume, the audience, an unseen “choreographer”, the time, the times, and the time(s) to come. It never coalesces, always escapes uniformity, and consistently zooms in and out of the space and the time that exists in the performance. It is a queer dance, orienting and reorienting the performance, creation, and viewership. It is an infinite three-way possibility for making sense of the conditions of creating an MFA thesis work. 

[46]Sondra Fraleigh, “A Vulnerable Glance: Seeing Dance through Phenomenology,” 11.

 

In 2016, I released my first album under the stage name “Elliot Reza”

 

I searched my middle name etymology. “Reza” means consent. 

 

In Spring of 2018 for Tere and Sara’s POD class, I created a series of circling phrases that later became the genesis of “Circum-“

 

 
 

2018 (Improvised)

2020 (Improvised daily)

In Fall of 2018 I created several improvisational scores for Jennifer Monson’s Graduate Synthesis class. I asked Rachel and Kayt and Faith S. to engage of them, Tree:

2018

2018

2020

My grandmother’s favorite sonata is “Clair de Lune” because my mother’s favorite sonata is “Clair de Lune” and my mother was a pianist.

Pop Catastrophe

2020

2020

We performed a Lady Gaga medley my sophomore year of high school for our jazz class. I learned all of the choreography from “Bad Romance” and taught it to my class. To be quite clear. I learned all of the choreography to “Bad Romance,” “Poker Face,” “Judas,” “Born This Way,” “Marry the Night,” “G.U.Y”, and “Applause.” I had a lot of energy, and no friends. The “Judas” choreography is now my party trick. There are at least 3 separate videos from separate occasions, years, and groups of people, of me performing that dance for some reason.

 

I taught Danner the choreography from “Born This Way” that I remembered, and she forgot it, she relearned it from a performance video. 

 

Halberstam coins “gaga feminism” asks that we be actively nonreligious, contending that, in particular, Christianity’s non-reckoning with its colonialist missionary history and sexually repressive doctrines renders it unsuitable for a feminist doctrine.[51]Halberstam references “Judas” in this context, and Lady Gaga’s Catholic connections. As a bisexual Catholic herself, Gaga’s critical viewpoint shouldn't be denounced so quickly. Her works (“Aléjandro,” “Judas,” “Bloody Mary”, “Sinner’s Prayer”, etc.) enfold sexual fetish, kink, queer identities, space for question, and feelings of loss or confusion alongside reference to religious iconography.  She asks if there is space for sexuality and question within her established tradition. Could her resistance to what we might term nowadays “cancel culture,” while still problematizing the system to which she ascribes, be marked as a punk effort in its own right? Her 2013 Artpop—a commercial failure, but one of my favorites of her eras—was in its own right an effort to disrupt the binary between popular culture and high art.

 

[51]Jack Halberstam, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal, (Boston: Beacon Press, 2013): 28.

2017

2020

In 1960 my mother was born.

 

O Superman. O judge. O mom and dad. Mom and dad ah ha.[52]

In 1958, my father was born.

[52]Laurie Anderson, “O Superman”

In Spring of 2018 I wrote “Hunt” in Julie Gunn and Stephen Taylor’s songwriting class—1 year later. I created the first visuals for this in Charli Brissey’s screendance course. I released “Hunt” in Fall of 2019 alongside a companion lyric video—2.5 years later. 

2019

2020

In Summer of 2018, I began creating a phrase, which I later titled “Lexington” that appeared in Circum-, and later grew into a longer phrase for IT-WP, drawing on material from BQTT, which was developed alongside illteot, a reimagination of a solo I created for Abby Zbikowski’s graduate composition class.

2018

2018, 2019

Center: 2019

2018, 2020

2018, 2019

2020

It feels like every Saturday morning of my childhood I woke up to “Jila” blaring out of my dad’s massive 1980s stereo speaker system in the garage below my room. 

 

In Summer of 2019, I created a list of all of the dance “moves” that I perform when improvising. This list sedimented into steps (called generators) that we strung into trios. (See footnote 16).

2019 (improvised)

2020

2020

2019 (improvised)

I remember my first kiss. We were in the basement of La Casa Hispanica, and my friend went to pee in redacteds bathroom. He had his own bathroom. A junior, with a single room. Sexy. I don’t remember who kissed who. 

But I guess that wasn’t my first kiss. I don’t remember now, it’s been so long. 

I guess my first kiss was a little girl named Emily in Kindergarten. I supposed I felt a kindred spirit: I feel that way about anyone whose name starts with an E. The kiss was short and sweet. We giggled and were scolded by our teacher. She or I threw up orange cheese crackers later. I don’t remember who. Can a 5-year old consent to kissing a 5-year old? 8-15?

I lost my virginity in La Casa Hispanica, too. In the same room. He would eat dried seaweed. He never told me one should wear a condom. His friends, my first college moms, did. He told them his dick was the size of a jumbo sharpie. He wasn’t wrong. Jumbo sharpies are big...for a sharpie. 

August 15 is my birthday. I will now write this sentence from my lingering memory of my 5th grade personal narrative binder. “On August 15, 1995, a hot Tuesday in Salt Lake City, Utah, my mother was induced, and I was born.”

 

I confess I edited that sentence while I was typing it. I’m still not fully sure it’s the exact sentence I wrote. I interviewed my maternal Grandfather, James Jones, via email for that binder. Well I sent my Uncle Jack questions to ask my Grandfather. Jack died in 2008, complications from severe RA. Jim died in 2010, melanoma. Redacted said he would content warning when we broke up in 2014, but he didn’t say he would out me to everyone I knew. I haven’t spoken to my dad since January of 2016. I met redacted in 2016, but he didn’t redacted me until 2017. (How was your hunt?) 

 

ADF 2016 was the first time I bought a dress. I bought it as a costume for the solo I made that summer while studying composition with Juliana May. Mouth to banana or banana to mouth…The gay one? It was a yellow shift dress.

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