November 16th, 2014

Lucy Reflections

I asked the dancers if they would be willing to write a reflection about our process together creating this dance. I also encouraged them to take some pictures and/or video of themselves. Here is Lucy’s reflection and some pictures. Its a great read! Thanks Lucy….:)




Gender / Sexuality / Nudity project reflections from 1st rehearsal 11/16/14

Super interesting. Enjoyed talking and listening and moving – all felt important. The biggest thing that came up for me was around the gestures “feminine” and “masculine.” I noticed an uncomfortable feeling in me. I noticed that that I came up with stereotpyes and I wondered why. I noticed that my “feminine” and “masculine” gestures had different common qualities – the “feminine” were coquettish, and they had an alertness and an energy of trying to attract, making my body into something to attract attention. I had a tension in my body. My “masculine” were more slouching, relaxed but also kind of self-consciously so, like I need to look like I’m making no effort to get anything or anyone – that’s part of the image. They were all like either cowboys or modern American men watching sports on TV. Today I’m curious why I enacted this, and a little stunned at what seems like evidence of my own colonization. How can I play as a performer with the tension engendered by extremes and polarities without enacting stereotypes in a way that doesn’t further any understanding? The gestures I performed had almost nothing to do with how I, or any woman I know, actually moves, except perhaps for the action of flicking hair out of our faces when it gets in the way. I realized later in the rehearsal that I associate my gestures with old Hollywood movies or drag performances. Which can be great, and are also different from my life. They’re also culturally Western, which is not surprising since I am too, but worth noticing. None of my gestures – feminine or masculine – had either any athleticism, or any real power.

I do know/ imagine that the piece will build in complexity from the juxtaposition of these gestures, not from one action alone. Today I tried a mothering gesture, holding an infant, and wondered why that didn’t come up as part of my movement repertoire yesterday? I think I was responding to a word – “feminine” – that is a cultural signifier that has increasingly little to do with how most women are in the world. Made me think about the evocative power of language – the difference between my response to “feminine gesture” and “masculine gesture” versus for example “gesture of female embodiment” and “gesture of male embodiment”

I just re-watched #likeagirl, the Always ad and I started to cry – it goes that deep for me, the enacting of, basically, lack of power and conviction, and how that gets painfully perpetuated. I know the intention of this piece is to provoke and question, and I wonder how I can / want to contribute to that?

During the rehearsal, I started thinking about third genders, and multiple genders, and the spaces in between, I think that was when I remembered the girls running and throwing in the #likeagirl ad, and that those actions don’t feel gendered, but human. If you’re running, it’s irrelevant whether you have a vagina or a penis. Just then Wai said he wanted extremes, and not some indeterminate middle ground. I feel a big part of my life and that of many friends of mine has been a search for that middle ground as a place of freedom from constraints. How to embody that in a way that still has performative tension and interest? I realized how tired I am of binaryness. Do polarities have to have only two poles? What about multiple poles that are still distinct and interesting. When I think about my ideals of beauty, strength and androgyny are central. If I break down my androgyny, exactly what makes it up? How much is in my daily movement, and how much in my hair and clothing choices?

I also noticed dancing in the chairs that I feel pressure from myself to perform what I think of as adequate femininity in the more “feminine” parts of this dance – which for me means grace, poise, pointed toes etc. Especially since I have a vagina, so I should be good at this shit. Why? I could “fail” at masculinity and be less hard on myself. But this is contingent. I know better intellectually than to conflate my biological sex with my capacities of gender expression, but I still do it. Especially in the dance world.

I also felt the part of me that just simply doesn’t like being looked at (a challenge in performance!) In the context of this class I now wonder – how much might this have to do with feeling my gender presentation somehow did not fit as I grew up? Just wanting to avoid the scrutiny?

The really interesting challenge for me here is that I clearly have to explore all this with my body. I have thousands of bits and words and memories of gender theories in my brain, but this challenge is different.

LUCY 11/19/14

Since I wrote that (above), I’ve been thinking more – mostly I have questions:

– Is this really just my own challenge to explore performing my (“feminine”)

– movements with more love and less internalized sexism? There are things I value about “femininity” after all – I just have to dig a bit deeper – the delicacy, care, the avoidance of brute force.

– or is this something to perhaps explore as a group, about the semantics – do other people have different reactions to “feminine” “womanly” “female” etc. “man” “manly” “masculine”– how are the word choices affecting the movement choices? Do some have negative connotations for some people, or memories of pressures to be this way and not be that way?

– Can we get to gender as a galaxy (my favorite image) starting from a binary? If not, how else? Can we / I be “male” in some part of my body and “female” in another at the same time?

– What are the actual subtle nuanced differences in everyday life – like pedestrian gendered movement as opposed to social gestures / movie tropes? The subtlety is actually more interesting to me than the exaggeration, but maybe more of a challenge in performance?

– When people chastise others for being a girlish boy or a boyish girl, what exactly are they perceiving – what movement quality cues them to notice / and often to judge and try to force back in line? (except in societies where third and fourth genders are recognized and valued)

– I realize I do somehow reference these poles (as in 2 poles, the binary I say I don’t like) in my body – as a bisexual person – I sometimes enact more femininity when I’m with a man or a more butch woman, and more masculinity with most women. Matter of fact vs. flirtatious? I have to watch more carefully. Matter of fact can be super sexy to me in a woman.

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