Moriah Evans choreographs Another Performance at Danspace Project.
Moriah Evans talks about Another Performance, a collaboration with visual artist Alan Calpe at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church
Sun Feb 17 2013
Time Out New York: Absolutely. Did you dance at all when you were at Wellesley?
Moriah Evans: Not at all. I really stopped. My body changed dramatically. I was a tiny, little ballet girl and my body completely changed. It definitely has some strange—your body is really dependent on the energetic highs of dance and then you just don’t have that anymore. I went through some emotional stuff—a withdrawal on some level.
Time Out New York: It’s not even just physical, but mental.
Moriah Evans: Yeah. That was not easy for me at all. It was a sadness, a loss for sure. But I was immature in that I could have been dancing. I danced a bit at Wellesley. Harvard has a dance department and I would sometimes take classes there and Marcus Schulkind in Boston. At Wellesley, dance wasn’t a focus. They’re very bourgeois. Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Diane Sawyer went there; people become professors and CEO’s and they study economics. It’s this idea of serving the world. It’s not like Bennington or other interesting liberal arts schools that encourage the production of artists. For all the famous women that Wellesley has produced, who have been innovators or leaders in their field, they’re not artists. Which you probably wouldn’t say about Mills, where Trisha Brown went; it’s also an all-women’s college. Or Barnard. It just doesn’t have that tradition of innovation in the arts. I think it’s a little conservative. It’s liberal, but it’s conservative in its value systems. So in school, I was really concentrating on my studies. I was a nerd—I was fun and cool, but I was being a nerd. I had to get straight A’s and all that crap. [Laughs] I thought I would be an art history professor. When I finished undergrad in 2001, I got a job at the Brooklyn Museum of Art working in the contemporary art department as a curatorial assistant, so I was really just doing art-world stuff: working on shows, doing research for permanent collection activities. I love art history. I had done internships at the New Museum, at Brooklyn Museum, at some places in Boston.
Time Out New York: During your time at Wellesley, were you coming here during the summers to intern?
Moriah Evans: Yeah. But I wasn’t involved in the dance community whatsoever. Like zero. I would see art shows all the time, but I wasn’t participating in dance at all.
Time Out New York: When did that change?
Moriah Evans: In 2003 and I started to really miss it. Dance was missing from my reality, so I started taking classes again in New York just really to dance, to move. I was taking some ballet. I took some modern classes at Mark Morris because it was close to my job. I went to Cunningham a little bit. But we’re talking very recreational. We’re not talking about being adamantly investigating the form as a dancer. And then it was time for me to apply to graduate programs, to PhD programs in art history. I was so confused. I was in a stage of, Who am I? What do I want? You know—that typical post-college angst, and what ended up happening was that I decided to go to a PhD program at the University of California in San Diego in a department that was started by Allan Kaprow. Simone Forti used to teach there. It was one of the few departments in the country where art history and art practice are in the same department so the artists take theory and history classes and the historians and theorists must have some type of practice even on a small level.
Time Out New York: Why did that appeal to you?
Moriah Evans: I was interested in that because I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to make things or write books and analyze. In a way I went there because I wanted to get out of New York and this East Coast thing of, “Who are you? Tell me in five seconds.” I was working at the museum, I was taking a creative-writing workshops at the New School and making films and doing performance art—I had a creative practice, but it was scattered and random. So I went to grad school to figure out what I wanted; I had an amazing advisor there, Norman Bryson, who’s a great art historian and an awesome person. They were really flexible. I started dancing again everyday and then I started making choreographies and that was the most stimulating thing I’d ever done with myself. I felt like it was the perfect meeting of my analytical tendencies and my interest in the history of culture and ideas and form and discourse with the joy and intensity of movement and time and space—the kinesthetic aliveness. I was like, Oh my God—I know what I want to do with myself, I want to make choreographies. People like Allyson Green who was in the dance department were very encouraging and helped me get some residencies in San Diego where I was showing my work at Sushi Contemporary Performance and Visual Art. It’s an experimental venue. I think San Diego, in some ways, has more of an interesting experimental scene than L.A. Or that exists there.
Time Out New York: Did you move back to New York after that?
Moriah Evans: No. I wrote a master’s thesis on William Forsythe and [Gilles] Deleuze, and I got a fellowship, through Wellesley, to travel around the world for a year and do embodied research for my choreography. Also at that time, I had gotten into Laban and Rotterdam—I went to Europe to get into graduate and post-graduate programs in choreography, but I decided not to go. I already felt well educated so I traveled around the world doing research. I went to Brazil and Senegal and South Africa and Kenya and was also in Germany and Belgium. I spent half my time doing my own movement research and the other half looking at the social cultural conditions informing the production of how the body was used in each of these places.
Time Out New York: What did you do exactly?
Moriah Evans: I spent a lot of time interviewing and meeting with people, I had residencies in each place. I wasn’t required to produce anything at the end of my fellowship; I just had to submit a report. But that year changed my life. I met so many people I met Trajal Harrell in Berlin. It was an amazing year of gathering information. I think it fast-forwarded my practice five years. Also, it was interesting to see dance in these different social-political contexts. Western Europe versus Africa, and the relationships between the two places. And Brazil and South Africa being, in many ways, similar countries—not similar. They’re economically doing quite well, but there are extreme disparities between rich and poor and there’s a significant amount of violence and some of those relationships were chosen purposefully on my part. I was interested in Afro-diaspora movement practices and how the body is accessed through energy over form and an anti-vertical spine.