"It's like they're all making dances for a fictional body that none of them have," choreographer Jess Curtis remembers his colleague saying, describing a university dance program he'd just seen. A seed was planted for Curtis to begin Dances for Non/Fictional Bodies, a work of dance, theater, circus, and more, executed by his San Francisco- and Berlin-based mixed-ability performance company. Curtis finds certain forms of dance training -- those that aim to mold practitioners to look and move alike -- to be uninteresting or worse. "These sort of ideals about bodies can be damaging and disempowering," he says. What does interest him? People's differences and abilities, far beyond the bounds of any dance sensibility.
Jess Curtis/Gravity is holding workshops all week and performs this Friday. Read on for more of this thoughts.
prop warehouses during a residency at the University of California,
Davis, where Curtis is working toward his PhD. He invited his
international company of mature, talented artists to select items to
work with: anything that resonated with their bodies and imaginations.
Improvisations followed on the theme of sincere selves versus fictional
bodies. "What is something you can do that has purpose in the world?"
Curtis asked. "When is your body its least fictional?" For Claire
Cunningham, who uses crutches, it was carrying a bag of groceries to the
third floor of her building.
For Curtis, it was riding a bicycle to
generate electricity to light the stage. Jörg Müller, primarily trained
as a juggler, connected with a mannequin part; "What would you do with a
third arm?" was his premise.
Questions of authenticity permeate the
many layers of performance as action builds. Live music, singing, lip
synching, and karaoke all contribute to the sound score. Bodies
costumed, variously clothed, and in drag create an assortment of selves.
Disrobing strips them down. Curtis addresses perhaps the toughest
question for performers of any ability, as well as civilians everywhere:
"How authentic are we when someone's watching? And how does that make
theater happen immediately?"
improvisation-based research process will be taught, discussed, and
performed at Inkub8 (2021 NW First Place, Wynwood, Miami) through January
29. Workshops Monday through Wednesday, 6 to 7:30 p.m. (call 305-310-8080); discussion with Jess Curtis on Wednesday, 8 p.m.; concerts Friday
and Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the door or at
tigertail.org; cost is $25 general, $18 for students/seniors.
--Emily Hite, artburstmiami.com
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