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

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.

puttin' the xo in 'thx you'

dearest of mid November!

oh, how the crisp weather stings my Exposed Due To Stubborn Refusal To Wear Neither My Warmish Black Knit Hat Because Of It's Tasteless Hair Flattening Properties Nor My Warmer Than Black Knit Hat Grey Fleece Hat Because It Does Not Match My Outfit ear tips! oh, how i observe the radiant colors of fall, which apparently pale in comparison to the fall colors that make the East Coast 'hella worth living in, sister' but i wouldn't know because i've only ever visited the old country in the cold tomby grip of Winter and really when it boils right down to it, this uni-costal autumnal personal experience that is All That I Know trumps that which is hearsay so this Seattle environs is, for all intents and purposes, Technicolor Magic, sister.  

it is in this backdrop that i can't help but milestone my days with moments of sheer gratitude for that which makes up my 24 hours in one day experience called Life This Time Around On This Planet. (one time, while riding in a beat up old Toyota pick up thru the organic farm in the hills of Northern California with my South African companion, the bed full of freshly harvested red and white onions, i couldn't help pick up the fact that the new age lady, whose self produced seminar we were listening to on full volume to compensate for the truck's internal racket, kept tagging on the qualifier of 'Here On Earth' after pretty much every sentence that pretty much made sense on it's own, rendering said qualifier redundant, at least to the causal observer/non-new agey person/i have yet to try LSD, in a way that landed somewhere between delightful and annoying, what with it's implications dashing the bold assumption that all the things that could actually happen to a human would actually happen to a human Here On Earth, cuz well, that's where we are. that'd be like staring into the face of your quasi first date coffee date and spouting out this scene ender of a line: 'my what a stunningly captivating shade of blue are your eyes. the one's on your face.' hmmm. . . charming, and hey, looks like maybe someone forgot to shut the door all the way before leaving the house, i think that's my cue. anyways, to that chatty cathy pre recorded new age lady, a much belated homage.) specifically, for all the wonderful art thingies that have transpired over the past half week (amongst other things: an endearing potlucked Seattle Salon, a fundraising event at Open Flight Studio wherein i preformed, a workshop with the incomparable Tere O'Connor, meeting Mister The Mayor at the Capitol Hill Arts District announcement assembly, and full cast rehearsals for the upcoming Homo for the Holidays), the breadth of which has pronounced me a truant to mine own self imposed weekly blog posting duties. for this non-transgression transgression, i dutifully apologize. i shall return to my somewhat regularly scheduled disquisition starting probs next week or so. 

so until then, i invite you to snuggle up with me under the So Thin It Actually Makes You Colder Out Of Sheer Incredulousness Of Still Not Being Warm Despite The Addition Of Adding A Layer blanket cover of clouds that this week has pulled over us and bask in the wondrous reality that is All The Days Ending In Y. 


excuse me, tiny dancer, but where are you from?

today in advanced/professional modern dance class, i had what some might call. . . thoughts. while staring at the Wade Madsen, standing completely motionless and open mouthed, doing my best to graph his spiraling about the front of the room thru the cartesian coordinate grid i mentally superimposed around him, a small stream of information trickled in and dispersed itself through my body. while this stream made its gurgly way around the rocks and bones of my still dry from the evening sleep self, a thought in the form of a very large, benevolent bird of prey (the kind that look like they're wearing feather sweat pants) swooped through my field of vision with the announcement that: i don't really know this language very well. (figuratively, now, though for sure there's a definite parallel here with my relationship to the spanish language). i'm seeing this language called dance, and seeing all the other students speak it back to Wade in jealousy inducing fluency. i'm like a foreigner, or ESL person out of their element. but, well, i speak the language, and i understand it on more than just a fundamental level, but my vocabulary is pretty rudimentary. my sentences come out clunky and sometimes awkward, and sometimes spot on, and for sure at some point i've totally sounded out a swear word on accident. 

frustrating? yes. 

enough to keep me from coming to class? almost.

but i keep coming back. 

partially influenced by the dry fact that this is class and last i checked class is for people to learn something they have little to no previous knowledge of.

partially influenced by the 'eh, fuck it' voice pulling my dance pants up over my hips and pushing me out toward the nearest back corner of the room. 

oh, and i do get a kick out of it, dancing. it feels good, this weird language. even though my brain hurts from sometimes from the concentration and try as i might, i can't shake the accent. 

and then i started really thinking and came to the conclusion that if how i move can be likened to speaking with a heavy accent, then all might not be lost. 

even though i grew up around strong accents, and carried a slight accent growing up (a small mouthful of words still escape my mouth with the subtlest twinge of foreign), i am a bona fide individualistic individual born and raised in the continental us of a, and think that accents are one of the most crush worthy circumstantial character traits a person can have (with maybe one or two exceptions that i can't think of off the top of my head but would know it from the second i heard the first syllabic utterance of it). me thinks i am not alone in this affinity. i mean, come on, the mystery! the intrigue! the borderline fetishization of other cultures! to hear those familiar to the point of disappearing into the gross aural scenery phonemes spit shined and carefully held up to the light is such a refreshing wash of sensation, who wouldn't be charmed? 

now, i suppose if you live somewhere where culture crossings form a interesting lattice structure and not just a lonely x or single hashtag, or if you grow up with accents around you, or coming out of you, you may or may not be immune to said weakness. but probably not. and even if you are irked by one accent, there are 6,500ish in the world (googled it), so yr still not impervious to the allure of an alien lilt, or mis-accented syllable. 

so now, if all that holds true, which it does, we who came to dance at a late age (relatively speaking) can step ball chain with ease knowing that if our physicalized soliloquy feels or is perceived by others as ungainly, or dare i say, graceless, however grammatically sound, it is actually, logically, a work of art that is nothing short of, como se dice. . . exotic.