Q&A: DD Dorvillier talks about her Danspace Project Platform series

DD Dorvillier masterminds a four-week Platform based on her work at Danspace Project

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How strict had you been about keeping your archives together?
I had that shelf or shoebox of dust-covered, grimy videotapes and when it passed from VHS camcorder to the Hi8 camcorder. Each format has a different size and means of storage. When it finally got to the MiniDV, and I really started using video in rehearsal, there was a plethora of unlabeled madness. I moved once and for a couple of years all those tapes were in boxes in a basement that was flooded. They seem to be safe. It was pretty gritty when I digitized the VHS tape, but any tapes that are preserved in that manner are going to suffer. Then I had the big move when I left New York—I left anywhere. I was just roaming. Before that, I had had an apartment in Williamsburg for a couple of years and during that time, I organized the most important videos. I had clean bookshelves and I started to store them properly. Then I moved, and I put all those tapes—the masters—into one little box. Masters. I left them with somebody who shall remain nameless, and they seemed to have forgotten that they had them and the box disappeared.

Oh God.
Of course. I found grant-application videos. There are excerpts. I pieced most of the dances back together. There’s still one missing of a piece I did only once at Judson Church. I really consider it a work because it was something that I worked and worked on; I did my big performance. I had a review in The New York Times.

Which piece was it?

It was called Motor Psychic. It was my second or third thing that I really felt was a piece, and I did it once and I can’t find that video, but I’m sure it will emerge. I still have  a lot of boxes of tapes that I haven’t gone through. I wanted to get the basic ones digitized. I never had a proper archive, and I still don’t really. The reason why I digitized those was really so that I could do A catalogue of steps. Even though I wasn’t making a retrospective, it suddenly made me think: Okay, I’ve been on the road all this time. I lost my apartment. I kind of moved to Paris. Now it’s time to clean up the stuff and decide how I’m going to live for the next 10, 15 years and figure out how my work is going to be materialized. So the whole thing happened at the same time—feeling like I had to deal with some stuff that I just let float. I think my instinct about A catalogue of steps was self-preserving.

Wasn’t that one of your first ideas for the platform?
It was an early idea. It evolved. Just made a proposal that was reminiscent of the Susan Rethorst proposal. She said, “What Susan did was she made a new work and she showed an old work.” I thought, I can’t show an old work. It’s too expensive. There’s no way I could take, for instance, Nottthing Is Importanttt, which would be the work that I would love to redo. Or CPAU, Get Ready!. If I was going to do an old work, then I would have to have two or three years to figure out how that was going to happen. When Judy asked me, I already had another piece that was in the works so it was not just a question of money. I felt like it was too much for me; with the organization and the means that I have, I just couldn’t do it. And I would really need somebody willing to produce it in a substantial way. But then I ended up making two new projects. [Laughs] A catalogue of steps turns out to be something I’m interested in working on for the next several years. It’s something that can happen while I’m working on other things and it gives me a kind of freedom, because every time we go back into a certain number of fragments, there’s more information. There’s a rich body of information that I’m starting to scratch into. The balance is how to keep it on its feet and simple so that I can present it in places, and how to project it as something that’s rather important. It’s simple. It doesn’t look like a dance performance with lights in a theater.

Can you give me an example of a fragment?
We have six different performances or visits set up. The daytime visits are three hours, and the audience can come and go. An example of a fragment would be the rocking from Dressed for Floating. At the beginning, the dancers are under blankets rocking. That’s a long fragment: It’s four minutes, but it’s repetitive. We call it an elemental-scored fragment. There are different ways of breaking down what types of fragments they are. There are fragments where I just do one gesture or one or two elements that are repeated. Rocking is an evolution until they stand on their feet. Because it’s scored and not written—we don’t know exactly how many they do until they stand—it’s called an elemental-scored fragment. But then there’s an elemental-written fragment: In The Handsome Execution of a Flower, I walk along the wall—I take 11 steps and then I run back for 13—so that would be another elemental one, but it’s written. And then there are composite fragments like in Dressed for Floating where they’re standing around in a box and they have a whole series of gestures. It looks more like a dance phrase. That’s one way of looking at a fragment; another way is in categories. We categorize it by movement source or by spatial strategy. They’re very subjective and particular to me.

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