Re-entering “Coda”

In fall 2020, I collaborated with my students on an ensemble work, “Eight Ways In.” By the time that process intersected with the moment of performance, I wasn’t ready to put down some of the content and practices that had built the work.  I wanted to develop them, keep them in play, go a bit deeper than my 6-week process had allowed.  I asked two of my senior dance major students to continue the work with me, to see what else it held, to take it in a new direction.  They agreed, and we started to pare down “Eight Ways In,” reflect on it, build on it, sit with it. The initial idea was to pick up where “Eight Ways In” left off, branching off of a singing duet at the end of the piece.  We did do that, but it became something singular- related to “Eight Ways In,” but with a logic and a syntax independent of the original work.

This work became “Coda,” 20-minute duet performed in silence at Hampshire College in February 2020, weeks before the pandemic unsettled so much about our lives as makers, dancers, teachers, students.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but this would be the last time my work was publicly performed.  It has been seven months.  Engagements have been canceled, performances postponed, invitations have been redacted.  It has been a de-stabilizing, disorienting stretch of time.  During that time Katherine and Sienna, my dear collaborators, graduated from college with degrees in dance.  The field in which they find themselves is unrecognizable.  These are people who, in a typical year, I might encourage to go to New York.  I might tell them to SEE EVERYTHING.  Usher at Danspace.  Take class from every artist you are interested in.  Go to class and meet folks.  Sign up for a fieldwork session.  Ask an artist or organization if they are looking for administrative assistance.  Go to Judson on Monday nights.  Find a work/study position.  Make work. Hone your application skills by scouring dancenyc for opportunities.  None of that advice is helpful this year.

Katherine and Sienna recently moved back to the Connecticut River Valley in western Massachusetts, where I live and teach.  I invited them to work with me in the studio- to call “Coda” back into our lives and bodies. I knew that our relationship would necessarily shift, as we were no longer in relation to the power structures of academia, and I felt excited about continuing to collaborate with Katherine and Sienna as professionals.  There is a force in our work together, something deeply invested and deeply joyous.  There is a multi-directional sort of mentorship that comes from working with them.  Our work together is athletic, intimate, focused, and tangential at once.  I’ll use this space to reflect on the work we do together over the next several weeks.