what does it mean to be a woman? what does it mean to be a woman in America?how do we create an alternative geography that follows the existing map but develops from a logic other than the dominant logic of the nation state?
In the american / woman project, I am traveling around the country to collaborate with a woman dance artist in each state. My mission: to create a solo for each artist based on her interests and personal history.
Rehearsal footage, notes, interview transcripts, and other artifacts from the collaborative processes will be shared below as they emerge:
Rebecca Steinberg (Tennessee)
What are some aspects of being a woman that you treasure? What aspects of being a woman in this culture present challenge?
R: I treasure that I am bonded with the most remarkable humans I have ever known. The most remarkable humans I have ever learned about in history. The most remarkable humans I have ever witnessed making change in this world. I treasure powerful softness. I treasure compassionate leadership. I treasure emotional intelligence. I treasure creating space for others. I treasure creating the foundation for community. I treasure the strength in vulnerability. I treasure the strength in imagination. I treasure the strength in asking questions.
This culture has been built on challenges for women. Being a second class citizen. Being assumed less capable, less intelligent, less of a leader, less valuable. Having to fight to make choices about my own body. Wearing armor, all the time, to try and protect myself from harm. Being scared to walk alone at night. And only marginally less scared during the day. Seeing women mercilessly degraded in ever facet of mass media that sets the tone for how we relate to each other on the streets, in schools, in our homes. Having others define for me what being a woman is and the expect that I live up to all of those ideas or I am lesser than.
Paula McArthur (Iowa)
What are some words you would use to describe yourself as an artist?
Fluid…. in the creative process. I have a big sense of play when I get into the studio and start generating.
I’m kind of a workhorse- that goes along with that stubborn personality.
Very physical- I’m always interested in going outside of my box.
As a dancer, working with a choreographer, what makes for a positive and fulfilling creative process for you?
P: I work with lots of different choreographers in lots of different ways. And I like working for different choreographers and being an open vessel for what THEIR creative process is… I’m open to working in lots of different ways, and I like it all!
Laquimah VanDunk (Georgia)
What drives you as an artist? Why do you dance?
L: I need it to be a part of my life and I need the interactions, I need the community…. I need students, I need colleagues, I need all those things just to be – like I don’t think I’m an artist, I think I’m Kima, I’m Laquimah, I’m Kiki, and that’s just part of it, but I don’t think I’m an artist.
What does dance do for you?
L: It makes me feel like a badass. I kind of cringe a little bit when people are like “ I just wouldn’t be alive if I didn’t dance.” No… I would still be alive if I didn’t dance, BUT it is my most confident self, because it’s the one thing I’ve acknowledged that I can do right.
Jamie Arnold (Montana)
We made a solo for live performance AND a short dance film! (Click here to watch the film)
How would you describe yourself, as an American?
J: I’m not a believer in all of the traditional American values, like gun rights and things like that. Also, I’m not… not that I don’t believe in God… but I just feel that the whole American value system and how it’s founded on religion and God- it doesn’t really speak to me nowadays- I’m more of a believer in the Universe. And some of those things- if you don’t believe in those- that particular thing- it makes you kinda feel like you don’t fit in, in a way. I’m not really a believer in Capitalism either- I don’t feel like the best “American,” in a way.
Natalie Desch (Utah)
What drives you as an artist? Why do you dance?
N: At the end of the day, I feel really strongly about what dance can be for society- like I just feel that it’s this profound, untapped, un-understood, ephemeral… giant. And, I think whenever I see a lightbulb go off, or somebody has some kind of emotional connection, or I just see fun happening- I see people enjoying their community together, and their bodies, and all the connection that is made somatically, I just feel that I’m part of something really great.
What are some aspects of being a woman that you treasure?
N: I love that I’m an emotional person- I love that. I think that’s a huge strength, for me, because it just means that I’m listening to that part of me- I’m not holding it in or back. It is important- I listen to it- it might tie in a little bit to a great sense of instinct that I believe in- that I trust in myself, so that the emotional sensibility is maybe woven in there.
It’s hard, too- because I don’t want people to be uncomfortable by my strong emotions sometimes…. But I love it. I like feeling… I like feeling. It’s a range of our humanity that I don’t think we need to run away from.
Meredith Lyons (Colorado)
(click here for a glimpse)
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
M: A dancer.
If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be?
M: There’s a big part of me that enjoys service. So I would like to be involved in humanitarian efforts where I could apply my skills in verbal and nonverbal communication/ sign language and somatics. Or work for Michelle Obama. Or Ellen.
You currently live in Colorado but you’ve lived in other parts of the country and traveled to other parts of the world. From your perspective, living in Grand Junction, what makes Colorado unique?
M: That it’s a land-locked state. It’s in the west, and it’s a stake-your-claim state, and people take pride in their land differently than in the east as well as the west coast. It’s a tough state. People work hard. It’s not easy to work in the state of Colorado, whatever the occupations is. Much of the excitement about Colorado is landscape-based, whether you enjoy the outdoors or not. Part of that is variety of climates and altitudes so people have to adapt to said conditions and there is a sense of tough grit.