Site in the context of my dance making


in 2012, contemplating this site which eventually became the stage for PowerUP

Today I had the pleasure of meeting with graduate students in Wesleyan’s ICPP program. Visiting Prof. Elijah Huge’s class, I got to think about the role of site in making my dances. The students with ICPP are a sophisticated group as each are studying the practice of curation and presenting work. Many are already working as professionals in this way. We had lots to discuss.

Site is fundamental, elemental and vital when I make a dance. It feeds so many of the questions—artistically and logistically. It’s part of the grand adventure. In working to feature the virtuosic skilled labor of power linemen, garbage collectors, or college baseball players, the site is essential in telling that story. We don’t just happen to be on the retired airport runway in Austin, TX for The Trash Project. That is the ONLY place we can be—where else can be fit 26 large sanitation vehicles, 2000 people on bleachers, and park that number of audience members? ONLY there.

The proscenium as site has many challenges. I said today, “It’s easy to make a bad dance for the stage.” Well, isn’t it? We have a frame for looking at performance in a theater space that is influenced by all the other events we have attended in that kind of space. If I put an urban forestry tech on stage climbing a tree, it just wouldn’t make sense. And, I think it would like bad dance. Or at least be inauthentic. I have to ask a lot of questions before I decide that the best site for a dance is the stage. Sometimes it is, often it isn’t.

And why Austin as site for me and Forklift Danceworks? It’s my home…I was born in Houston but moved to Austin when I was 10 with my family. I am a hometown girl and that gives me lots of access, resource and relationships to leverage. Austin is in many ways still a small town. Pulling off a dance with the fire department in 2001 as my first collaboration with a city department was doable because I knew someone who knew someone (I know a firefighter who was head of the union and could vouch for me- he asked me to just come on over and meet the other firefighters).

What are your thoughts about site? How do you experience site as audience member, performer, maker? Chime in. I would love to hear from you!


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