Low-Residency Dance Writing | 2017-18

Beginning in May 2017, NCCAkron Executive/Artistic Director Christy Bolingbroke and choreographer Tere O'Connor (NYC/Champaign-Urbana, IL) co-designed a Low-Residency Dance Writing Lab to be hosted by NCCAkron. This year-long experiment connected a cohort of 5 dance writers: Sima Belmar (Berkeley, CA), Betsy Brandt (St. Louis, MO), Katy Dammers (Philadelphia, PA), Benedict Nguyen (New York, NY), and Lauren Warnecke (Chicago, IL). Dancing Lab: Low-Residency Dance Writing allowed dance writers to dialogue directly with artists and embrace "a position of passionate proximity" (Low-Res Dance Writer Sima Belmar).

 
 
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5x5: WRITERS ON DANCE

 

The below video and text pairings are the result of an experiment by the five writers who were part of NCCAkron's Low-Residency Dance Writing Lab from 2017-2018. 

This experiment had the following structure: each writer identified a publicly-available dance video clip, either performance or rehearsal, online. They then wrote 300 words in the format and style of their choosing to complement and illuminate the video.

This project was driven by questions including: how do we allow writing and dance to be in dialogue? Is it possible to engage with text and performance — to read and to watch — at the same time? How can a time-based art coexist alongside a fixed one?

 

In order to experience the results of this experiment, you are invited to press "play" on the video and scroll through the text. Take your own time to engage with both pieces of work, and explore further by clicking on the links underneath each video. And if you have feedback, email us!

 
 
 
BENEDICT NGUYEN ON TIDES PROJECT: DROWNING PLANET BY MAURA NGUYEN DONOHUE LA MAMA THEATER, MAY 2017
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BENEDICT NGUYEN ON TIDES PROJECT: DROWNING PLANET BY MAURA NGUYEN DONOHUE LA MAMA THEATER, MAY 2017

I was surrounded by plastic of all colors and states of decomposition. Of course, they’ll never de-compose. Never fully. I wondered where all these bags came from. Performers swirled around me, shouting through and above the ambient music and emerging in out of the dim light. The ceiling of La Mama’s Downstairs felt too low and I’m not even very tall. My friend Rina greeted me and disappeared before I realized she was there, performing. Plastic. Plastic draped over the performers’ bodies, weaved through every surface, and billowing a soft boundary around a kind of cave within the main rectangular room. Where the light wasn’t faded, it was a green-ish blue, breathing through plastic light gels. I was watching one of the videos on the wall, trying to figure out where it looped, when more performers marched in. A celebration of some sort, the details hard to discern through plastic. I saw someone else I knew and the friend I came with had drifted somewhere in the ether. The cave that everything had been happening around was now the center of it all. Maura Nguyen Donohue’s face, eyes wide in something like shock or glee, spoke almost louder than the rustling plastic. The performers rolled around in piles and heaps of bags, creating a strange ocean in the small cave. I was pulled in. I knew before I felt it that the bed was shallow, that I couldn’t jump or fall into it and have it absorb the impact. There could never be enough layers to make it like water. And then it was flying. There was laughter and revelry that was part child-like play, part peak-cynicism. What is this world we’re in? A web woven in plastic, floating and drowning, drowning itself and us. We were corralled upstairs, squeezed even tighter together in the narrow stairwell and then Rina was singing. More than the words, I remember her lilting voice and the strum of a guitar I didn’t know she played. The song finished and the exit door opened. The light outside was yellow and too bright. (Note: This was written in 2018 in reflection on a performance during the La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival, from May 25 - June 3 2017 in The Downstairs, 66 E 4th Street. The video was from a performance at the West End Theater for Women In Motion program Soaking WET on Friday 5/22/15).

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