Two dancers are inextricably locked in a lapping cycle of running, jumping, tumbling, dropping and rolling. As they travel their repeated circle, a subtle effluvia of blood trickles down from each dancer’s mouth, streaking first her chin, next her white blouse, and finally, the floor where she has been.
At the start of the piece, the two girls stand, clad in all white, in an upstage corner. Costuming frilly and white with pink ribbons, lighting dim, they look almost like Hansel and Gretel at the edge of a dark wood. As the blood begins to ooze from their lips, it streaks the whole image, first Gothic, then gory, then gross.
It is possible to read this work as a comment on the masochism inherent in the physical conditioning that is required to achieve technical greatness— physical skill — superb expressivity — as a dancer. Likewise, it is possible to see in this work the obsessive mindset required by the pursuit of an artistic ideal. It is possible to read this work as an affront to classicism. Conversely, it is possible to read this work (with its excessive repetition and strict adherence to patterns) as an ode to formalism. It is possible to read this work as the deliberate juxtaposition of “The Delicate Female” with corporeal grossness.
But as much as none of these interpretations would be incorrect, to see The Bloodgates exclusively through any of these lenses, or even several, would be to miss the point. For this work is primarily an environment. It is a bizarre and twisted fantasy land, whose inhabitants live and die by rules and logic which the audience cannot see but can immediately intuit, or sense.
My work up until this point has pushed the body to its limits in order to study effort. The resulting aesthetic is particularly “masculine.” Much of my work foregrounds athletic women. I am interested in masculine posture, athleticism, muscular tension in the shoulders and upper torso, strength, sweat, and heroic acts of dance. After solidifying this as my aesthetic it is time to ask a difficult question: What about the softness and femininity of the post-modern dance technique I was taught in college as the dominant paradigm made me so angry? (Self-consciousness? Or Feminism?) (The questions is equal parts political and personal.) Why am I embarrassed by the softness of contemporary dance technique?
This work examines femininity through the lens of Gothic Horror, which is unique in its dual qualities of the Brutal and the Sylph-like.
Cormac McCarthy’s extraordinary and thrilling novel, The Road, was once described as “a lyrical epic of horror.” The Bloodgates aspires to the same.
Making this work a Dance Film
The Bloodgates is different from every other work I have made: Whereas each other work has been constructed around large-scale spatial patterns, and how energy should flow throughout the room over time, The Bloodgates is about the minutia of facial expression, or the gossamer trickle of blood from a lower lip. I realized even as I was making this dance work, that it really wanted to be a dance film and not a live performance.
Since early on in the process of making this work, my collaborator Greta Hartenstein and I have dreamed of making this a film. Now is the time, we feel.
In 2013 I embarked on a collaborative project with advertising creative, Andrew Mixter, to make OOZLUM: A Dance in Twelve GIFs. In this dance for the Buzzfeed era, we investigate the oppositional treatment of time by dance and new media respectively. We aspired to critically treat condensed, or re-imagined time, a pivotal device of the GIF.
Time is the central device of live performance art. I believe it is a necessary task for dance makers of my generation to re-imagine time.
The Bloodgates investigates perspiration as a measurement of effort. The trickle of blood, like the excretion of sweat, is a way to view the passage of time through the lens of gradual exhaustion in a body moving through physical ordeal. But how can we translate this experience into film, the realm of re-imagined time?