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SUPPORT Dancer/Choreographer/Teacher/Renaissance Man: JAMES MORROW

A very special colleague/contributor of the mangrove is touring this summer and needs your support to make it happen!

Tour Calendar:

May22: I hit the road on my Motorcycle and travel towards Nashville Tennessee

May 24: Lecture Demonstration of my newest version of 11 in Nashville, Tennessee

May 25: Set out for NorthHampton, Massechusettes

May 28: Teach Master Class in Urban Fusion

May 29: Teach Community Workshop in Urban Fusion

May 30: Teach Master Class in Urban Fusion

June 1/2: Perform 11 Spring Wide Open presented by Wire Monkey Dance

June 3: Set off for Montreal Canada

June 4-10: Work with Danielle Russo’s company for a performance at Jacob’s Pillow

June 11: Head for Chicago, IL

June 15: Set New Work on the Joel Hall Dancers

June 31: Head for Durham, NC

July 1-10: Set solo on Iowa Performer Amanda Hamp

July18-28: Participate in New Waves Festival in Trinidad

August 1: Perform with the Danielle Russo Dance Company at Jacob’s Pillow

August 2: Head back to Chicago

August 5-15: Teach workshop in Chicago, IL

Please see the link below for further details on how you can contribute! Best of luck James!

http://www.indiegogo.com/threecountriesonesummer

BAREFOOT COLLECTIVE


The Ides of May is nearing! Come celebrate the art of movement with The Barefoot Collective on May 12th and 13th at 915 Broadway, in the Broadway Center’s new black box theatre, Studio 3.

The Ides of May will feature Northwest movement artist performing original creations inspired by a spectrum of life experiences, love to loss, reality to dream, and work to play. These original pieces reveal a depth of content, emotion and movement understanding. The Barefoot Collective works hard to keep the local modern dance wheel turning by consistently hatching new ideas and growing from past ones. “Artistic creation is a continual process, a constant learning experience, one that is fueled by the opportunity to share ones work with an audience. I think it is in performing and sharing the work that a dance really takes shape” says April Nyquist, Barefoot Co-Director. This year the current 4 Co-Directors of the Barefoot Collective have invited 3 guest choreographers to add their vision to the show. In an effort to present a diversity of ideas on what dance means in the Pacific Northwest, the Barefoot Collective has invited choreographers that will provide a varied and nuanced understanding of movement, and are both experienced and emerging artists in the form.

Location is essential to the dance performance experience, whether a piece is outdoor, site-specific or housed in a professional theater. The Barefoot Collective is honored to be the first performing arts group to present works in the newly renovated Studio 3 of the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts. The Broadway Center has, in its ongoing work to build local community performing arts opportunities and elevate the profile of local community performers, created this space as a home for local talent. Lush velvet curtains and a seating capacity of 190 make it inviting a comfortable for small to mid-sized theatre and dance companies. “It is great to see the renaissance of Tacoma growing to a place that supports theatre and dance companies with high quality professional venues. It says a lot about Tacoma on the verge!” Katie Stricker, Co-Director of the Barefoot Collective.

If the new space and original work are not appealing enough keep in mind that the second show day falls on Mother’s Day, tBFC invites you to treat your Mother to a spring bouquet of dance, and a little gift from us as well! Hope to see you at the show!

The BareFoot Collective’s Ides of May has generous support from the Washington State Arts Commission, The News Tribune, Broadway Center for the Performing Arts.

Featuring work by Sarah Kathryn Olds, Carrie Goodnight, Amanda Herman, Angelica Barksdale, Michael Hoover, April Nyquist, and Stephanie Kriege Pederson

Date: May 12th and 13th
Show times: On the 12th 3:00pm and 7:30pm. On the 13th 3:00pm
Location: 915 Broadway, in Studio 3 (ENTER THE SILVER ELEVATOR, SPACE IS ON THE 3RD FLOOR)
Ticket prices: $18 general admission, $15 student, senior, military
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/238203
info@barefootcollective.org 206 745-0492

Work in Progress for Amanda-Gaye’s new collection “Dialogue on New Landscapes”

 

 

Tobacco

 

Tobacco- burnt, smells like rotting,

wise logs, nails stained. Teeth bluing at the gum line.

 

Many rings, many wives! This old pine bends and sloughs.

 Oh, a fire here:

this is a bad year for  bark-bound parasites.  Lush and burst 

 the pillows which close over my boyish heart—

 

“How are your hearts?” She asked

            “I never cared for pink or yellow, but I am enough of a girl” I replied

 A few days later, I realize while pissing at work that if I drink enough

coffee, I still smell like you—

one year later. 

Response to Sally Sommer’s article: Balletic Breakin’ When Did Hip Hop Find Its Swan Side? Dance Magazine (January 2012 p.90-94)

Written by: James Morrow MFA in Dance Hollins University/ the ADF, Currently of Faculty at Jacksonville University and Episcopal School of Jacksonville.

When did hip hop find its swan side? When will we stop associating all dance to the ballet standard, and begin to enjoy movement for what it is? Why do we have to admire it only when it starts to look “Balletic?”
The following url address offers a clip of Powerful Pexster and Mr. Wave on Graffiti Rock: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?y=S3aIYff7Ufg)

Seamless transitions seep from hand to leg to neck to foot, only to reverberate back up the spine. The movements are mesmerizing, and mirror that of Lil Buck and “turf dancing.” The liquid flow, toe perches and rippling arms are there. They have always been there. Sure, they have evolved. Fortunate for us, movement is not created in a vacuum. Young artists create their own styles and new versions of earlier lockers, b-boys and even candy ravers that set precedent. Sally Sommer’s Balletit Breakin’ calls attention to an allegedly new aesthetic, yet, could it be that for urban aesthetics to be recognized by the larger white community it needs to be aligned with classical vocabularies of movement and music? Only now will the perpetuating hierarchy of statist art acknowledge, “Wow, THEY really understand music and how to dance to it. Now, let’s start to watch.”

I question Sally Sommer’s need to inscribe ballet onto the already established dance forms of jooking, turf dancing or relative urban aesthetics. I insist upon recognition for what these dance forms stand for independent of the majority favorites: a beautiful embodiment of musical scoring situated within the reality of American disenfranchisement, particular to lower income communities in cities such as Memphis, Oakland, and Los Angeles. This movement did not originate on bodies decorated with giant buckles on their shoes, corsets around their midsections, and large collars cuffed around their necks. And let’s be honest, special shoes? Those would be gym shoes, and there isn’t anything “special” about them. The fact that these dancers rise up and down to glide, stall, perch in their gym shoes is the “special” aspect.

Consequently, I find Sommer’s conversation regarding the care and use of shoes in ballet and hip hop problematic. She emphasizes a use exclusive to one competition or show at a time, painting a frivolous and irresponsible image of the dancer and their form. There are no funds to buy and replace shoes for each and every event. Unless a dancer is sponsored by a brand and if that brand supplies the dancer with their “special shoes,” that dancer is purchasing their shoes and wearing them at every function that he or she goes to. Moreover, a real talent and pride comes with the cleaning of said shoes. I know I may be “old school”, but when a dancer connects with a certain pair of shoes there is an honest and long-lasting bond. In my own experience, I would never discard my trusted shoes for a new pair nor would most b-boys, house heads, dubsteppers, jookers, or turf dancers that I know.

In reading Balletic Breakin’, it is clear that Sally Sommer is moved by the dancers she has encountered. However, I am asking for a level of responsible research to be invested in the history and reality of hip hop; to take the time to commit to understanding where it both comes from and how it continues to live. I am asking for an ethnographic approach to jooking and turf dancing. I am troubled by statements in her writing such as, “They appear to glide rather than ‘do steps,’ their arms floating around bodies, framing the torso or head.” She is inferring a direct association of the idea of a “step” to vocabulary movement specific to familiarized dance forms, such as ballet. No house head at a party is just doing steps. No body jooking or turf dancing is just doing steps. Poppers and lockers are not just doing steps, as neither Odette nor Odile are just doing steps.

Old videos of Mr. Animation and Chuco from Airforce Crew at Radiotron available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOvZju-kcKs&feature=related offer evidence of their consistent flow, popping-and-locking, hitting-and-flexing from one movement to another just like Oakland dancers “No Noize,” “Man,” “B,” and “Dreal.” There are definite differences and similarities, alike. But ballet? With my career entrenched in urban aesthetics, I had never considered labeling the aesthetic of hip hop as “balletic” because the language emergent in hip hop is its own. Furthermore, no one owns the rights to hip hop; the essence of its beauty and Sommers does not get to claim, or colonize, its moves for ballet.

I had the opportunity to watch Montreal’s RUBBERBANDance Group at the ADF in 2010. I witnessed the staging of a contemporary ballet and release aesthetic with a B-Boy foundation, all set to the classical score and presented on a proscenium stage. However I found one major factor missing: soul. Despite the major facility and form of the company of dancers, the movement did not live in them. This movement became so codified and so unison that at times it looked like the dancers were restricted from the ability to express and communicate individually—one of the true tenets of hip hop culture; the ability to “go off.”

“Going off” is synonymous with improvisation. Lil Buck’s performances take him places; he begins a journey and takes his audience along for the ride. He remains open. When he spins and glides over to the flower pot, he decides at the very moment to experience a duet with the factors in his environment. If you were to ask Lil Buck to perform that same solo thirty minutes later there would be overlaps of similarity, but the truth is that he is moving from the top of his dome; he is flowing and improvising from within, which is exactly where and how urban aesthetics lend themselves.

The limitless range of expression indicative of jooking and turf dancing extends to many of the same elements as b-boying, boogaloo, locking, hitting and virtually any Africanist movement. It is polyrhythmic, virtuosic, there are isolations of embodied rhythm, forward poise, and punctuation to name a few. Dancers start out fluid and then surprise their audiences with an immediacy of sharp staccato phrasing. And, although these fluid movements have always been an aspect of urban, street, and Africanist aesthetics in dance, they have not always been a component in classical ballet.

Then why, Sommers, do you consider these movements “balletic”? The way I see it, it is arguably the other way around. Historically, ballet appropriated aesthetic qualities from Africanist traditions. Perhaps we should question, “When did ballet find its b-boy?” Or, rather, it’s Balanchine-boy. Let’s stop accusing movement forms that function with fluidity and suspension, as falling into “balletic territory.” It is disrespectful, and further perpetuates the hierarchy of ballet over other dance forms. All movement is created from inside a human being and that person’s epistemological perspective. Quit trying to label it. To label it only limits it. And to label it incorrectly is just irresponsible.

Lil Buck Yo Yo Ma Dying Swan – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9jghLeYufQ
Tuf Dancing YAK Films – http://wwww.youtube.com/watch?v=JQRRnAhmB58
John Lennon Da Silva Dying Swan – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJf7ezZsc70

Attention Dancers, Everyone…Participate!!!

http://www.danceanywhere.org/

To Hug Sequoias is to Hope

In the overwhelming rush
and tide of words she spoke

“Don’t these grandfather
sequoias make you want
to wrap your arms around
the bulk of their girth
press them to your heart
and draw out loneliness?”

He felt his wick enliven
as if he were a tree himself
once dormant in winter
like a farouche black bear
guarding solitude from
the hiker’s cumbersome noise.

A weight lifted from
his eyes and a new
love began to grow.

“You are the tree
I wish to hang upon
my hope.”

Love Letter to a Schwingmoor

Would I but compare you
to a schwingmoor
a tangled mish mash
of thickly woven moss
rushes, shrubs
and cloven
tamarack branches.

Wisconsin forests cast
you into the same categorical
lot as their slow decomposition
into peat, allocated you a home
in muddy waters to please your way.

You make my trees sway
and mislead the botanist’s
heavy foot—a jest—to stall
his search of arethusa.

This time I guard
the heart:
Do not chase
after illusions
or the quaking
bog.

Best to be found
than lost, forever
to an ibid desire
for the elusive
dragon’s mouth.

Dana Livermore January, 2012

MOCA Musing: Incomplete Thoughts on Ethics in Performance


It is November 24, Thanksgiving. No work today, so I take longer than usual to put myself together. After I put the kettle on for my morning cup of tea—wait for the water to boil—I peruse through the online arts news websites I have bookmarked on my computer, a virtual library accumulated over four years of web surfing for informative sites reporting current events/news in performing arts. When I come across ARTINFO’s recent article “An Open Letter From a Dancer Who Refused to Participate in Marina Abramovic’s MOCA Performance,” I tell myself to read the first paragraph and if it doesn’t capture my attention I’ll keep surfing. Fifteen minutes later, I’ve forgotten my tea.

Written by Sara Wookey, the article describes the controversy surrounding Abramovic’s production of her signature work, “Nude with Skeleton” (2002) for the annual gala of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Although Wookey re-accounts for us the dubious audition process for this so called opportunity, disclosing details that suggest the exploitation of performers, she brings to the forefront a serious issue existing in performing arts today: the profound lack of labor standards for performance artists in America. She states, “If there is any group of cultural workers that deserves basic standards of labor, it is us performers…whose medium is our own bodies.” She goes on to make a general call to performing artists everywhere to embrace “another mode of thinking” or what I choose to refer to as their duty to safeguard ethics and standards for mutual respect or care for each other as artistic citizens.

An active member of the arts community, I am ashamed that I have not myself challenged the abusive psyche that has been ingrained into young artists—particularly performing artists, such as dancers—that is, the assumption that in order to be worthy of the appellation “artist,” we must therefore “suffer” for our art. I do not think I’m the only one out there who has avoided this kind of self-examination. I know many fellow dancers and choreographers who take the term “risk-taking” to questionable extremes. This common ignorance, at best an avoidance, is proof that perhaps dance mentors, teachers, and practitioners have time and time again failed to teach the next generation—or as Wookey states “our cohort”—of performance artists and leaders about the necessity of ethics in performance.


This article is a response to Wookey’s call; it is my contribution to the discourse now burgeoning around the event at MOCA. However, I wish to examine more than this singular event and discuss it alongside other instances in which I have previously questioned choreographers’ and dancers’ intentions, creative processes, and ethics in performance. Furthermore, I would like to pose the question: in performance art—the avant guard, especially—exactly how far is too far? At what point does “for the sake of art” or “pushing the boundary” become euphemisms for the choreographer’s potentially degrading, and essentially de-humanizing exertion of power over someone else’s body? How do we distinguish the difference between exploitation and employment of bodies? When do bodies become objects to be contained or controlled as evinced through the conflicts that have occurred due to the recent Occupy movements and student protests? These same questions that apply to artistic integrity are the same that need to be posed to our government. To the police forces charged with the responsibility of containing and controlling the protestors on Wall Street and across America. To the growing corps of individual bodies that have come together to reprimand the 1%. To the 1% that was present at MOCA’s gala, the 1% that decides which institutions, artists, choreographers, and dancers will be given financial support, the very same 1% that dictates expectations and standards in the performing arts.


Not having seen Abromovic’s work in person, I may be at risk of doing to Abromovic, what New York dance critic, Arlene Croce did to Bill T. Jones’ premier of Still/Here in her article “Discussing the Undiscussable” (i.e. criticizing a performance she had never seen).  But I don’t have to see Abromovic’s work to know that artists, curators, choreographers, and dance leaders make unethical decisions pertaining to their work, the creative process, and public exposure to the ideas embedded in and expressed through performance.   Anyone familiar with the work of New York based choreographer, Ann Liv Young could probably relate to the traumatic experience of viewing her work, in which bodies are presented as locations of spectacle (Young and her dancers perform sex, masturbate, and drink their own urine for shock value). I appreciate Young’s ability to break through the fourth wall, to force her audience to participate in the performance, to contravene cultural and social taboos—her goals are relevant, even admirable—however, I do question her means and intentions, just as I question the Occupy protestors, the police force, and my own government. Must we take such drastic “action” (exactly what has the Occupy movement actually accomplished?) to impose change or exercise control over what we want to see, participate in, or protest whether it be in art, society, culture, politics, the state of the economy, etc.? Do we lose anything?  Why does the “body”–wether it be one person or a mass corps made up of individuals to form a unified whole–pose such a threat?  Why is it okay for Jeffrey Deitch to draw a line at naked men in Abramovic’s performance to spare  “conventional businessmen” the “discomfiture” from having to confront male nudity?  I say it’s about damn time we make the business suits uncomfortable for once.  In this case its an edge we should go over.  But I forgot its the 1% percent and it’s Jeffrey Deitch (a man) making the decisions.  Silly me.


I experienced a different kind of “discomfiture” at the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC this past summer when I attended a performance of Rosie Herrera’s work “Pity Party” (2010). After fifteen minutes into this evening length performance thoughts of fascism and images of Hitler arose in my mind. These thoughts refused to dissipate as I observed the audience’s reactions and watched the rest of the performance. Herrera employs performer, Octavio Campos, to act as MC and banter with the audience. Towards the beginning of the performance he makes his way up the aisle of Duke University’s Reynolds Theater and selects a young boy, no older than fourteen, to join him onstage. Once on stage, he proceeds to serenade the boy with Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (note: Herrera forgot to credit any of the musical artists and songs she used in the program). Campo exercises his dominance over the unsuspecting audience participant, pulling the boy about the stage—at one point pressing him against a wall—fondling and rubbing him. The incapacitated boy looked ill-at-ease and embarrassed at this sudden accost. I felt his subjugation as if it were my own, my body twitching in response to this physical violation. Were this molestation committed in any other setting (i.e. a public street) but on a stage we would not hesitate to call it for what it is, sexual harassment. The perpetrator would be punished accordingly in a court of law and we would feel safe again. But because it took place on stage and because we decide to call it “performance art” somehow its acceptable; somehow it is removed from our genealogy of morals and our conscience can rest. If the Occupy Wall Street protestors were herded into a theater would we take them seriously? If Campo had explained his expectations to the boy before hand would the boy have allowed himself to be pressured onto the stage in the first place? I guess sometimes we don’t know what we are getting ourselves into.


I, by no means, intend to denounce audience participation. I think that audience participation can be a very useful tool in dance performance. However, the situation Campo created—and Herrera by proxy—was instigated through oppressive means: seizure, coercion, and exploitation of another person’s body—not to mention a minor’s body—for entertainment purposes. The audience, consisting mostly of young aspiring dancers and choreographers, embraced this spectacle with open arms, their insensitivity betrayed by the many outbursts of laughter that rang throughout the auditorium. As choreographers we have to be wary of how we induce an audience to engage in dance performance. Shouldn’t it be an invitation, a matter of choice? If it isn’t then doesn’t the dance become the very thing it’s supposed to fight against? No doubt there are those who would argue that one always has a choice, that the boy could have said no, but let me say this: when we attend a performance, performers are not alone in their vulnerability to potential abuse. The audience is also vulnerable. Their eyes take in what the choreographer and performers choose to put on stage, to express through movement, song, and voice. To receive through sight is a practice in vulnerability.


While I could talk myself into appreciating Herrera for at least giving me the opportunity to ponder the power dynamics in performance, whether she intended it or not, I was more shocked at the audience’s acquiescence to what was happening. Was I the only person mortified by this display of abusive behavior? Was I the only person who had seen a line crossed, a boundary pushed a little too far? The audience was putty in Campo’s hands as he ordered them to collectively put their arms in ballet first position, to let the dancers clamber over their laps. It was the blind leading the blind. The audience was a mindless body, willing to accept anything Herrera’s “Simon Says” captain barked at them. I imagined this must be what it was like under Hitler’s reign, except Herrera’s “salute” was “first position.”

Links to relevant articles:

http://blogs.artinfo.com/artintheair/2011/11/11/read-the-full-text-of-yvonne-rainers-letter-denouncing-marina-abramovics-la-moca-gala/

http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/751666/an-open-letter-from-a-dancer-who-refused-to-participate-in-marina-abramovic’s-moca-performance

http://blogs.laweekly.com/stylecouncil/2011/12/moca_gala_controversy.php

http://fromaleftwing.blogspot.com/

http://nplusonemag.com/category/american-politics

http://notesonlooking.com/?p=9236

Video link to forum discussion:

http://laist.com/2011/12/17/exploitation_or_art_forum_discusses.php

Portrait #26

New photography by Carolyne D. Court.

Carolyne is a visual art photographer from Tacoma, WA. Her current work involves shooting fellow artists. In this instance her model was Dana Livermore. “Normally I try to avoid using software programs to alter my photographs, but I wanted the photograph to convey the source of her artistic inspiration and give the viewer a sense of origin, so I after our session I went into photoshop and transposed images of maps–graciously supplied to me from Dana’s personal collection–in layers across the original image. Cartography is an essential element in Dana’s poetry and I felt it was important to include that. The maps represent her connection to the geography and environment of the Great Lakes.”

Underwater Oasis

Check out the short short film “Underwater Oasis” on youtube and share your thoughts. Better yet, submit an artistic response–a poem, story, video, photograph, or visual piece–anything you little oysters feel like making. Come on people, let’s get a dialogue started! Follow the link below:

Underwater Oasis

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