When history comes to the surface: backstory on a new piece in four parts: Introduction

I am making a new piece. The starting point is “Kol Isha,” the ancient custom that forbids women to sing while men pray. I find this a difficult topic.

Sometimes the work that I did with Right Brain Performancelab was very challenging, but my first rule entering into a project was always that it wasn’t about me, except for in the most subtle ways. We worked with topics that were so broad and so universal that each of us could pull from our life stories. It was important to me that my story did not overwhelm the others. The stories were also abstracted into movement and visual languages.

I have been told that Right Brain Performancelab’s work was hard to parse because it went deeper than what was visible during performance. I love making and facilitating work that is thickly layered, encoded, decoded and recoded. There was a lot of complexity in RBP’s pieces, since each person has a universe of material that they bring to the studio. As a result, each moment was so tightly interwoven with what came before and after and it was hard to find a section that could show the essence of the piece. For this reason it was very hard to isolate a short clip, or describe it clearly. I remember Wayne Hazzard of Dancers’ Group, our fiscal sponsor in the Bay Area, shaking his head in exasperation as we tried to find a clip that would encapsulate “State Of The Union/Anonymous Sources.” This observation was originally his and I am grateful for this help in clarifying something difficult but true.

His response, and many responses that I have received was always to be simpler in the approach to new work. One way that I have done this was to start from one story: mine. Which is weird to me, but seems right at this time.

Then, instead of winnowing farther, I decided to go deeper, and to show some of the layers as they emerge. That requires some breaking of old habits, one of which is to keep the inner workings of a piece to myself in case the magic is lessened by its revelation.

The truth, though, is that the magic is always there, and knowing how the science of a beautiful illusion works is magic in itself. If it’s a really good idea, then the magic stays and multiplies.

It’s time to push the curtain aside.

Stay tuned for a deeper dive.

Links: Right Brain Performancelab