Green Dance


For the past month I’ve been collaborating with choreographer Stephanie Sleeper on a piece that infuses modern dance with contemporary poetry. The work is entitled Green, and we will be performing the piece (yes, I am in it) on Friday & Saturday, October 26 & 27th, at the Triskelion Arts Center, located at 118 N. 11th St. 3rd Fl, Brooklyn, New York 11249. Tickets are $15. Performance time is 7:30.

GREEN is a surreal work influenced by video games, the green of astro-turf, the sonics of language, competition and memory, and features the poetry of Joe Pan.”

Green will be performed after Black as part of a two-piece performance.

In terms of movement, there was a great deal of back & forth collaboration between Stephanie & her dancers in piecing the work together. Each dancer was invited to keep a running journal, & even at various times during the creation use a marker to write words or phrases that rose out of themselves & the movement onto a scroll, so they could express & feed off one another’s ideas.

Originally, I was going to be performing alongside 2 other males, but circumstances changed & I became the lone male in the piece. The dance quickly grew around my words & my presence on the stage. The piece is more or less a meta creation a la the film Adaptation. You see me engaged in the process of creating the very dance you’re watching, which is also a rumination on the color green, its connotations & various meanings, with a nod to vegetation myths & Stravinsky, etc, of course.

So here’s the rub: words & dance don’t fuse very well. I’ve seen plenty of dance pieces over the years that attempt to incorporate text/words, & the text/words more often than not come off as combative, meaning they seek the spotlight. Where music often amplifies a dance’s movement/tension, text vies to commandeer the piece & the viewer’s attention. At worst, text becomes a distraction. Usually it just sounds like an older brother yelling over a younger one to make his point heard. So how does one get around this?

We chose to allow the words their own space in the piece; the dance, then, becomes an accentual background visual, or better: a visual music to the reading’s tonal/inflected music. When the words stop, the air is filled with the dancer’s stomps, scattered foot beats, silence, & the dance again becomes the viewer’s emotional & visual focal point.

I hope we have a good crowd. I have no expectations, & no real fear of failure, yet. & may not, as failure, in small ways, has been worked into the creation of the piece, so that it becomes almost a demand of the piece to screw something up, or (to be more accurate) taken over by another force. In the natural world we associate greenness with life-giving qualities, but it is also the color of jealousy, youthful competitiveness, the soft slow strangulation of a tree by kudzu. A natural thing must live by taking the life of another living thing. The piece is about struggle, & was a delight to create. The poem itself will be part of a larger poem later. I fully intend to include it in my next book, though with added-on stanzas. I’ve been toying with the idea of calling the form of this new poem a Divorce, since it was intended as a collaborative piece at first, then must divorce the idea of its former self & make itself anew. We’ll see.




A few months ago, Hrag Vartanian, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Hyperallergic, approached me about serving as Poetry Editor of the online arts magazine/blog. Today marks my editorial debut, & I couldn’t be more thrilled. The inaugural poem is by Joanna Fuhrman, entitled “Poem for My 39th Birthday.”

One of the great things about Hyperallergic is that it seems to be everywhere at once, with a stable of great freelance writers & peripatetic bloggers attending various exhibits & art happenings throughout the city, & more often, as it grows, around the globe. The writing does not shy from political or cultural discourse, in fact invites reader engagement – some of the best reading moments occur within the comments sections, where people actively sort out their opinions & criticism, & where writers can & do interact with their readers. Hyperallergic always feels like it’s bringing you the news of what JUST happened right NOW. It feels current & alive & takes full advantage of the format in which it operates.

In thanking Hrag again by email earlier today, I noted something I’ll share here, regarding art in praxis & the reason I took the job: “My hope is that the work I choose, in congress with the literary criticism of John Yau & Morten Høi Jensen, two writers whose opinions I often share & whose writing I admire, will broaden your readership & ultimately the community of artists cognizant of each other’s works.”

This last part is quite important to me: that artists seek out & maintain awareness of other forms of art – their practice, their histories, their criticisms. As various arts move within each other’s orbits, dialogues & tensions occur, ultimately growing community, not to mention creating more opportunity to share, borrow, & steal – the genetic dispersal responsible for art’s ability to adapt to ever-changing environments.

As I choose poems for the website, some will no doubt be works of ekphrasis, given the artistic nature of the magazine. But I will also choose poems representative of poetics as they’re being exercised today, concerned with language & experimentation & the theories of their own manufacturing & playful logic, so that readers possibly unfamiliar with what’s happening in poetry now can get a sense of it & possibly even develop a taste for it.

This is my hope. I’ll post links here as the poems go live on the site. In the meantime, enjoy Joanna’s poem. I absolutely adore the music that arrives in the ending.

Cheers, J