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.