Bridge Project 2016: thoughts on process

(i'm one of 4 choreographers for Velocity's Bridge Project this year. i made a piece called Doin' it Right. here for you is a slice of my brain, transcribed in English.)

I walked into the studio the first day of rehearsal and flat out told the dancers (there's 5 of them Katie Thompson, Kate Pope, Britt Gaudette, Liz Houlton, and Lindsey Palmquist), that Hi, Welcome, and I have no idea what this piece is about. I knew something about my approach to it, working with language and the idea of text, subtext and supertext. But I had no idea what I wanted to say with this piece. Which, maybe for someone who isn't me, this wouldn't be that big a deal but pretty much every piece I've made up till now I've know, with varying degrees of certainty, what the piece was about. And that informed what happened on stage. Whether it was a straight narrative piece with still images, or a voice over'd piece with movement along with it. My work has a very strong storytelling element to it. Well, not just element, it's like the whole molecule. That's kind of the driving force behind my art. And so to walk in day one and not have a story to start with, I was like, well. . . let's see what happens.

It wasn't until about 2.5 weeks into the almost 4 week process that I figured out what this piece is about, for me. And I'm not gonna tell you what that is here, you have to come to the show to find out. But, sneak peek, it turned out to be a lot about a specific ongoing experience and that in turn really made it about process. Just following the movement, a lot of exploring, finding what it is that moves me, what it is that moves my dancers, on an unspoken level, and building from there. And it turns out the story was there the whole time, it just took us a little playing around to find it.

Side note, I've never been more thrilled to go to rehearsal in my life. Well, I mean, I've had good rehearsals in my life, they were fun, but this one took it to the next level somehow. Like, I've never felt more alive in a rehearsal process in such a consistent way. And I was telling my dancers that the difference between me alone in the studio, and me in the studio with all them, was dialog. I love dialog. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love to monologue, but there's something extra special with dialog. With conversation specifically. This piece has been an incredibly collaborative process. I feel really, like, fuck yeah! to have had time with these five people to just open up the process, this creative process and get to know one another in order to figure out answers- What are we doing? Why are we here? Why do we move? What moves us? On like a physical level, yeah, but on a mental, spiritual, emotional level as well. Those things to me are just as important, or, have equal importance, rather, because for me the movement comes from those other levels, from that emotion, from those feelings, those thoughts. That's what movement is for me. Or at least, that's the interesting part for me of movement. I mean, yeah, there's dance vocabulary, great, and you can say a lot with dance and these dancers are super fluent and articulate in that language, but I'm like, as a writer, as a human, as as an artist, as a relative newcomer to dance as a mode of expression, I'm, like, well, that's fine and all, but What are you trying to say??? What are you telling me??

And for me this goes back to this other influence: this core observation that when we talk, we move our bodies, some people more than others, of course, and some of that is cultural, some is personal, but there's all these hand gestures and shrugs and eyebrow arching and we're not even really conscious about that but more interestingly, these movements are not exactly necessary to move the story along, to say what you wanna say. So if they aren't necessary, then why do it? And then the other question that comes up for me, is like, well shit, are words inadequate by themselves? I mean, that would explain the use of all caps and bold and italics. And why my text messages get so misinterpreted sometimes.

So this idea of movement as communication. And not that it's compensating for, like, a lack in just pain text, but the idea of What if they are inseparable, movement and language? That you can't, that you can't, that, that words alone don't tell the full story, and that dance alone doesn't tell the full story. I mean it can, yes, in both cases, you just fill in the blanks with your own story. But yeah, this is just my opinion. I just don't think you can separate the two. For me they are in intrinsically linked. I mean, all the elements of performance are, if you think about it. the music, the setting, what time of day it's happening, who you are sitting next to, what you did 10 minutes before walking thru that door, it's all part of it. And so it's taking this like, I don't know, bigger picture approach, or something. Or not even, I mean, noting that for sure, but I think it just boils down to: I'm just really interested in this connection between writing – both the written and spoken word – and movement and dance. I've been calling it Dance Narrative, and so yeah, I made a Dance Narrative piece. With 5 dancers. And i'm not in it. Oops! Spoiler alert! Ha! Yeah, I'm not in it. Well, not physically, at least.  

come check out the show: velocity dance center, jan 29, 30 and 31, 8pm

if she walks like a lamb and quacks like a lamb, she's probably an artist

for approximately Several Days last week, i sallied forth about the overcast and kinda rainy seattle city administering to That Which One Does When One Is Mostly Self Employed As Performer Of The Art much like any other Several Days save but for one noticeable detail: my hands were bright red. 

fortunately, 'twas not due to a You Need To See A Doctor 5 Minutes Ago medical condition. in blessed fact, it did not involve the pain or the harm to anyone or anything, myself included.

and so how does one find themselves with fire engine red extremities? well, in this particular instance, it was a direct result of a combination of not wearing protective nitrile examination gloves and waiting too long to use ACTUAL SOAP to wash my paws off after being tasked repeatedly to hands and knees it to the deck and sop up several gallons worth of RED using an astonishingly absorbent sponge. the RED being neither actual blood nor a corn syrup based liquid representation of vital fluid, but just plain ole water from the mop sink dyed the certain color choice of a certain ALICE GOSTI, whose art performance project i am at her technical beck and call for. the take away on my end of aforementioned duties being that i left theater von theater with palms and phalanges looking like a person who just committed some kind of ritual involving at least one but probably closer to many a sacrificed lamb. needless to say, it was noticeable. fortunately for me, other pronounced visual clues (walking around in broad day light with a retinue of artsy looking folk) and universal safe assumptions (i mean really, who sacrifices lambs these days?)(don't answer that.) meant that i, with my wildly out of place tinting, was read as not just AN ARTIST, but a WORKING ARTIST at that. 

never you mind that the presumptions were based off a pedestrian occupational hazard that comes with being a stage lackey, this clandestine outside validation from my fellow humans i will willingly take! (the smattering of jesty crime scene/slaughtered lamb Dad Jokes that tagged along with this misdirected recognition, i could pass on, thank you very much.)

and during those Several Days, while basking in my By Association Artist Aura, it occurred to me Several Times to instaphoto document the task at hand, but, lest i give all the members of my Virtually Assembled Via Some Overly Complicated Algorithm online community a heart attack upon seeing a photo of me covered in RED, i resisted.

instead, i give to you a photo of Cap'n Ron's hand crafting a BUTTER LAMB.

point your dreamy eyes to the upper left corner and you will see fingers slightly red. now imagine if the red were from RED and not poor lighting/extreme color incorrection, and that the lamb crafted was a lamb slaughtered and then you will begin to get an idea of what it would have been like to lay eyes on a photo of what my hands looked like in the moment.

speaking of moments, this one moment now now is a good time for me to preemptively field your question of: did you specifically googleimagesearch 'hand + lamb + art + would be gore'? or did you happen to be on Cap'n Ron's website and worked the blog plot in order to showcase a photo highlighting the how to's of the misunderstood art of butter sculpturing and your fascination thereof?

it's the latter, thank you very much. i love EASTER and it's just around the corner and i'll be damned if i am caught THAT SUNDAY with a bunch of rectangular sticks o' yellow laying out on the table with all those right angles and pointy corners casting harsh shadows and poking holes in my soft focus pastel ambiance. o yes, between the moments of sponging art gore and going about my other artistic ventures, research on the upcoming Big Day is being done. i know of no better way to spend the day/night/wee hours/crack of dawn. well, other than blogging about it, of course. 

till then.

best of 2014?!?!?

'tis bean a whale my friends! do pardon my virtual absence, i became overly preoccupied with the thesbionic revival of a certain dead 2000+ years associate of mine, Jesus 'Hey guys! Whatcha doing?' Christ. the show went well, thanks for asking, special shout out to those responsible for the creation of over the counter and thru the dale day time cold medication. and since the sweeping of that theater floor, i have been tied up with things that have so little to do with watching my friends shower themselves in glitter and being secondhand glittered in the process or standing in bright lights barefoot and bearded, that all mine energies have been diverted into figuring out what the heck is going on here, why is no one drunkenly applauding my every move, and where oh where is my entourage of back up dancers?

speaking of drunkenly applauding my every move. well, no just the applauding my every move part, can't vouch for the imbibed beverage part, a male dancer friend of mine tipped me off via a messaged congratulations that i had been included on a 'BEST OF 2014' list in Dance Magazine (the heart spasm sidestepped by serendipitously omitting that it was a best/worst list, intentional or not, was much appreciated). quickly and quietly, whilst parked in the church parking lot  in my grandmother's lezbaru (my words, not hers) waiting for her to get done practicing Administrative Catholicism, a google search ensued, and low and behold:

Best Dance-Plus-Talking Premieres
• Ilvs Strauss in Manifesto at On the Boards in Seattle: masterfully honed androgynous presence, a sly script, and a bodacious California Red Sea Cucumber costume.

(read more of the list by clicking the part i lifted).

huzzah! yes, thank you i accept this laud for my solo piece MANIFESTO. i am deeply honored.

and perhaps now yes now would be an excellent time to announce that i will be performing a full evening length (the exact duration of which patiently awaits discovery) of said performance come late May (22nd, 23rd, 24th) at Velocity Dance Center. 

so it is written, so it shall be done.

so it is written, so it shall be done.

you can prepare for this momentous event in one or more of several ways: 

1) by keeping abreast of quasi regular, totally and not at all related to the project Updates here on this here website here.


2) by adding yourself to my lighthouse beacon of a mailing list. not only will you be kept informed of my doings, but you will be less likely to crash ashore on those sneaky shallow water rocks called I'm Home On A Weekend Night With Nothing To Do. you may sign up on the column to your right, my left. that's right, i can see you reading this. 


3) to be used in conjunction with 1) and 2), watch this video on repeat:

(who are these people and why are they so amazing????)


on my end of things, i will be preparing as i do:

1) by rehearsing/thinking/plotting/snacking/writing/meditating/gyming/aquarium docenting


2) watching, on repeat, this video on:

(no really, who are these people and why are they so amazing????)

which, come to think of it, is remarkably similar to how i spend any other day.

so, until the next belated entry, i bid you adieu.*


ilvs 'staying the course' strauss


*deepest of condolences to those affected directly and indirectly by the recent tragedy in france. sending thoughts of love and peace.