There was a particular intensity about A Ghost Story that stood out in comparison to your other pieces—a darkness/emotional intensity from the performers. What inspired this particular piece? What were you thinking about?
A continuous theme in my work is that of how we process information. I’m particular to the information we absorb culturally and socially. Sometimes we absorb without realizing it and, often more importantly, don’t know how to process that information. When we don’t realize what we are absorbing, the actualization of it becomes a psychological, thrilling physicality. This is what “A Ghost Story” is about—it’s a ghost because we know it’s there though we can’t see it. It’s emotional and stirs up a physicality we often don’t consider to be a part of that absorption of information.
Secondly, as I began working on this piece, my stepmom passed away. Full disclosure: it wasn’t her death I was sad about—she had been sick for a long time—I was enmeshed in thinking about her life and her “purpose.” I think death often carries an existential lens that culminates in realizations about one’s own life. A lot of this story is about my family. But family is a smaller version of society, so it bleeds in and out of my hopes and fears. There were 3 tiers in the piece, each consisting of a family: a mom, dad, child and dog. Each family represents a different aspect of social interaction and dramatic truth. For instance, I incorporated the sound clip from the recent incident of evident police brutality in schools, where a young girl is thrown while at her desk because she refused to give up her phone. In this scene, Tara-Jo is thrown from her chair and convulses as Hayley (the person who threw her) throws the chair against the gallery wall. It is possibly the most loud and intense part of the piece. I wanted people to feel that shock and pain.
The abstraction of tropes appears throughout; but love and abandonment are recurring themes. My stepmom was an incredible woman—she was vulgar and aimless. She always did what she wanted, which meant other people suffered but also grew stronger. That is our struggle and strength, to be devoted warriors. So “devoted warrior” interrupted each tier and eventually ended the whole piece, which never really ends.
The majority of the performers in your work are women. How would you define the feminine experience?
I was thinking about my dad a while ago, and how I maybe had some silent resentment towards him. I was a “mommy’s girl” as a kid and there was struggle, so I think I blamed him. But I came to this realization that my dad actually was a really good dad, and that though my mom is very loving and wise, she struggled with feeling strong enough to be decisive. Through conversation with others, I’ve realized that this is a general problem with mothers of our generation. It’s a historically social building of psychology, and it’s a war. The feminine experience is to constantly be convincing yourself that you are capable of knowing what you need. I want it to be in full trust and believing, a growing strength we don’t have to second-guess.
How do you manage to balance your female subjects in a strong/vulnerable light? What is your thought process when creating these experiences and pieces?
The first few rehearsals are full of concept exposure and workshopping. With this piece I started with teaching 3 techniques that Sigrid and I talk a lot about in FlucT: gaping, glitching and gushing. This is something we all experience. Gaping is when you feel empty inside so you often try and fill the space with bullshit sold to you by capitalism’s tricks. This often looks like beauty products, drinking, smoking—the list goes on. Next is glitching, inspired by our soft tenderness to technology. The glitch is when your body reacts before you know how to, so it’s animatronic repetition when your body reacts before you know how to process. And finally, there is gushing. Gushing is mania. It is when there is so much energy within you that you overextend yourself, usually through love and sexuality. These are all real action emotions, and they become the psychology of motion. The balance is knowing them and trusting yourself to make the right decisions. So, I trust the people I work with to move in their own psychology. I often don’t work with “dancers” for this reason. Non-dancers aren’t blinded by technique, they move according to how they have absorbed information over time and that is really special.
What are some of the challenges you are struggling with these days?
I struggle with disenchantment in a capital culture. I have a hard time knowing where to let go and where to fight harder.
What about your work are you really proud of?
I am really proud of the community that happens when working on this choreography. My happiest moments are in rehearsals. I’m happy to say all of the people I work with return to me with words expressing how cathartic it had been for them. And it’s reciprocated. There are moments in watching them when I see each of them individually, as they are fully. It’s team. It’s the moment when I think: they are believing in themselves and in what we are doing.