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: Are you working with those ideas in Another Performance?
Moriah Evans: No. I did in my first real finished piece that I showed last year in Switzerland. It was a duet with Sarah [Beth] Percival. We worked for two years on and off and this was really dealing with the questions I was looking at during my research year. It’s called Out of and Into, and it’s dealing with the materiality of the female body; movement vocabularies developed through a lot of research that dealt with some of these questions around form and energy and anti-verticality. It’s a formal and expressionistic piece. There’s a lot of hysteria in it on some level, but it’s also deeply formal. There’s a screaming section. I worked closely with Sarah. It was a very collaborative relationship.
Time Out New York: What about Another Performance?
Moriah Evans: Sarah and I decided to take a break and my friend Alan Calpe, who’s a visual artist…I’m always collaborating with visual artists who hate to be called costume designers. Alan and I were always joking about making something, and I was doing a lighting workshop as part of MELT at Movement Research, and Alan and I decided to [take it and] deal with materials because we thought they would be interesting for people looking at lighting design. How can light transform materials? How can a mundane material become spectacular? I had used this Mylar costume first in 2011 in Desire Dance, a project I made for the Bureau for the Future of Choreography. That Mylar costume I made in collaboration with another visual artist, Evelyn Donnelly. So I was using this Mylar costume and I was using these forms from one part of my piece in Switzerland where foam is stuffed into a unitard—the topography of the body is transformed. It was about the transformation of materials through light. So that’s where this piece started. We had a DraftWork. I had taken Tere O’Connor’s composition workshop this past summer at MELT and I started making this phrase that was really about the pivot. I was thinking about the pivot as a way to search through space, as a way to connect to a room. The pivot is a very basic action. What is a pivot? But it can be pivotal.
Time Out New York: Meaning it is pedestrian, but it can also be seen as spectacular?
Moriah Evans: Exactly. I developed it into a solo for Maggie Cloud and that was interesting too—to step out and work with someone else, which is a very different relationship than I have had in the past. Usually I’m working collaboratively instead of directorial. So working with Maggie on this solo, which was all about the pivot and searching through space and staging a relationship between the mundane and the spectacular. That was the beginning of the piece. Sometime I think I’m interested in theoretically is a horizontalization of the materials in a choreographic system so that all the signs or elements can be equal and placed into a system. They’re not put into a hierarchy. I wanted to look at dance history. I wanted to think about the history of training, the history of my training, the history of pivotal female American choreographers who are in some senses absent at this moment or overly present, but not let’s say actively present in a contemporary discourse way. Maybe they’re ghosts of the past. They’re absent and present figures.
Time Out New York: Who are the women?
Moriah Evans: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Trisha Brown and Lucinda Childs. I started looking into their movement vocabularies. I had a friend in the Graham company, Lloyd Knight, work with us. He gave us some Graham moves—really just things that travel through space in simple ways. I brought in these steps What does it mean to re-embody these dance steps? What does it mean for the type of people I’m working with who generally are not trying to inhabit Martha Graham? It’s not like I got Graham dancers to do this or a Lucinda Childs dancer or someone who works in the Duncan company today. Instead, it was more like, how do we reenter these forms? And what does that mean? I was interested in the earnestness that these pivotal figures occupy the body—the belief system behind any kind of style: How is that belief system created, accessed, exhibited? It was important to me that all of these choreographers were women and white women and America. I was limiting it. And they are diametrically opposed, but also in dialogue with each other. One’s modernist; then you have the postmodern camp. So I was treating them as the material and doing a homage, but also an erasure of it.
Time Out New York: How so?
Moriah Evans: It’s not exact quotation, it’s not perfect reference. It’s a gesture towards or a mythic re-embodiment, but it’s not reconstruction and it’s not supposed to be. For me, there’s an emphasis in the history of modern and postmodern dance on the individual innovator. I struggle with this in relationship to authorship, in relationship to the history of dance only because no one is ever singly responsible for innovation. Yes, there are leaders; yes, there are stars. But in many ways it’s a complex mechanism that produces a shift of perspective, of change, of anything. I guess in this moment when I am also questioning my own relationship to authorship, how do I also question my relationship to these figures? One thing I feel like is important is that these women are obviously full of signification: These styles that they have proposed. The orthodoxies that have come because of them.
Time Out New York: What are you questioning in terms of that?
Moriah Evans: It’s related to working with these known figures: When does a task become a dance and when does a dance become a task? When a style is turned into an orthodoxy, that’s sometimes when a dance becomes a task, and I feel that has happened with Trisha Brown, with Lucinda and probably with Isadora and Martha Graham as well. This is the problematic part of keeping great choreographies alive. How do we archive it, how do we preserve this form, how do we have a self-reflective history that doesn’t just represent something that is no longer contemporary, but maybe spectacular or entertaining or glorious or has a really high production level because it has achieved this level of canonization? Yet it’s out of sync with the contemporary society. And meanwhile we don’t have audiences who know how to read dance. So this is a question that’s going on in the dance in terms of this system that I’m developing, and I think it’s part of the work performatively that the dancers are having to go through. How do I genuinely try to dance like Isadora Duncan? Or is this an attempt at inhabiting a body in this way that is at the same time a reference?