Monday, May 19, 2008

Dance Made in a Country that Makes War

Dance Made in a Country that Makes War began as an inquiry into the lives of people who serve to protect the United States of America. Through interviews with domestic and foreign soldiers, as well as the FBI, Police Officers, and activists, the subject matter meanders from the disconnect between civilians and the military, the muscle memory of violence, the effects of group mentality on the individual, and ends finally with the questioning of the dancers' personal roles in the actions of our military at home and abroad. The dancers perform all necessary stage-hand roles so that the show is self-contained. We operate in some semblance of a military unit, relying on ourselves to make lighting and sound happen, rather than having stage-hands who make things happen behind the scenes. The show presented here is a work-in-progress with its next version to be performed at the Grass Roots Festival in Trumansburg, NY this July. Dance Made begins while the audience is entering the performance space. Audience members must walk through or around the stage to get to their seats, which cascade down from the true stage, spilling onto the dance floor.

The show is broken into scenes with two reoccurring tableaux. The first tableaux, as seen here, is the TV scene, where the cast join their bodies to support an average American couple watching the evening news. Duet created from extraction personal experiences.
Group Movement focusing on unity, structure, timing. Our movement uses no musical ques, requiring the dancers to rely one another to stay together.

The second Tableaux is the Voterbooth Sequence. Each dancer is assigned a booth in which they pretend to cry until they are overcome by real emotion, at which point they leave the booth and ring a bell on stage, signalling to the others that the exercise has been successful. The exercise is a reversal of military training by which one is stripped of their normal emotional responses.

A quartet emerges from the lines of voter booths, and does a dance of search and collision, ending with the precarious balancing of their booths.
We return to the TV Tableaux to find the couple immersed in each other while the newscaster speaks of social reform, environmental successes, important stuff. The newscaster is similarly disconnected with what he speaks about, receiving a manicure while reporting the good news.
The scene deteriorates with the couch pulling away from the couple, rolling as a mass of disorderly bodies back to the Voterbooth Quartet which is played in reverse.
Back in their original formation, the dancers begin pretending to laugh. They continue, playing with their lights, and making faces at one another until someone is really overcome with laughter, at which point they exit their booth and go to ring the bell.
Having successfully reintroduced emotion into their bodies, the quartet emerges again, leaving their booths in the lines. The perform an exploration in the muscle memory of violent experiences as a means of extracting them from their bodies.

The cast is unified by armless costumes which turn their bodies into bags of motion. Rebekah sings a lullaby to her bread baby telling the tale of foreboding chaos. She faints just as the arm attacks her, tearing apart her bread baby and eating it as the march off. She wakes from her faint and screams in terror, then forgetting completely what has happened, exits singing a cheerful tune.
We return to our final TV Tableaux to find the couple getting off as the newscaster tells of death and destruction. They are literally using the news as porn.
The lights are out and we hear the trailing voices of news reports. The Extro begins with the sound of a heartbeat. Lights up to reveal one cast member beating his heals on the floor at the front of the stage, while the rest lay at the back of the space, beating on their bodies in a rhythmic fashion.
The beat themselves to the front of the stage and join the heartbeat with their heels. Facing one another the cast answers questions they've imagined from the warm-up at the beginning of the show, speaking aloud to each other so that the audience can hear them.

As they speak about their personal relationship to war, art, society, an old wheezing figure crosses the stage pushing a graveyard of amputated Christmas Trees.
When through talking the dancers begin freezing in positions of every-day movements. Changing positions in unison and holding between changes in freeze-frame. After some time of this people in the audience begin throwing shoes over the heads of dancers and audience members alike, bombing the empty space with footwear.
The dancers continue freeze-framing until after the bombing has stopped. They all turn slowly upstage to see what has happened while they were busy with their normal lives. They crawl to standing passing through the wreckage, coming together for a bow.
(Thank you Collin Polnitsky for your photography.)

Director: Kate Shearman
Assistant Director: Rebekah Dillon
Dancers: Beatrice Barbareschi, Shiela Brown, Rebekah Dillon, Katherine Hayes, Athena Kokoronis, Michael Margolin, Biz Miller, Kelly Ryan, Kate Shearman, Emilie Blum Stark-Menneg, Noni TheLittleOne, J. Young.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Our Next Big Thing...

This new dance performance combines sculpture, journalism, and dance to examine the experience of Americans in our ever changing democracy. The evening shows contain nudity and some sexual content, the afternoon show on Sunday will be tailored to be appropriate for children of all ages. If you are interested in volunteering for the show please email Kate:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kate's San Franciscan Farewell and Second Sermon

Thank you Stacy and Brent for your photo and support!

It's the second day on the train and I can't believe how sore my back is. Who'd of thought that sitting back relaxing, letting the great country-side pass you by could cause so much physical tension. It might be the stark contrast- six weeks of cross-country biking followed by long rides into and out of the Bay Area, soccer in the mission and some kick-my-ass dance classes- then suddenly sitting. Lots of sitting and sleep. Sleeping in chairs with foot-rests and paper pillows. I've put my tennis balls to work- the balls that held me together on the ride are resting behind my back, rubbing as I wiggle, the thick-ropes of muscle that protect my spine.

In San Francisco I met Julietta, a small-town superhero of revolutionary inspiration, misplaced on the National Terrorist Suspect List and in San Francisco as the owner an awesome little coffee shop by the ocean that serves great espresso, toast and coconuts. We hit it off and had a haircutting session in the dunes which Blake and I had previously been afraid to walk on near the guy doing drugs and the couple having sex. I love California. Shameless pagans running rampant through the cities!

I missed my bus to Ukiah where half of Ithaca was working on a farm, so we rode our bikes on a foggy day over the bridge of beauty and death to the sound of the giant sea-creature barking long loud sighs of excitement and anger. Through Sausalito where the Italian Gelateria had given me a waffle cone of lovin that knocked my socks off after a Sunday dance experience with Ilonka that was funner than Church(!), and on into the little windy mountain roads of tall and ancient trees. The woods are amazing, I mean, that's all there is to say...AmaZing. Biked back just in time to catch the last ferry and sat outside on the deck watching the lights of Alcatraz and San Francisco emerge slowly from the chewably thick fog. We came back to Blake's sublet, raw and exhausted from an amazing adventure to find-out that our friend who he had subletted from was on her way home with a couple(which turned out to be four) friends and they would be sharing our one-little room.

We went to the Day of the Dead parade which is a bunch of people dressed up in elaborate and colorful death-themed costumes, dancing, playing music and walking around the Mission with no separation between spectators and performers. Sam vowed to wear a skeleton costume next year, and I vowed to be a Hispanic male dancer wearing feathers and a rawhide g-string next year. We met a friend of Sam's and ate tacos from the taco window and played soccer with Davey, Ghan, Blake and me verse some Mexicans who had likely been playing since 5pm that day, if not also lifting bricks since 6am. Needless to say, we whooped them. They might have been sharking us, but who cares. It was a blast.

I sat on a bus overnight and had a three-hour layover in L.A. at 7am. Luckily I was able to meet an old friend who I hadn't seen in years and who I was desperately longing for to pass the time. She ended up driving me the last hour to see Melissa in Irvine. It was nice to see my sister, she has a new apartment, new job, new car, and new boyfriend since last I visited. We drove around a bunch, ate amazing tapas on a roof that overlooked the coast, and had cupcakes at a place that had WOODEN- not plastic or even corn plastic- utensils, visited the beach though briefly, and went out for some traditional Italian/American cuisine with her main squeeze. At one point we were talking about our brother and parents and the possibility of them moving West. At a lull in the conversation I noticed how odd it is that palm trees have come to symbolize California and they are themselves a non-native species, "Actually," I said, "that's a rather appropriate allegory for California." And Melissa added,"This is where people come to invent themselves. They come to California to make a new life for themselves." Silence followed as we watched the freeway disappear beneath us and I thought about myself and how sure I had felt about moving out here only a minute before; suddenly I was unsure. I am happy with myself. I don't want to "invent" myself. Is that why she had come here? And Davey and Ghan and Kat and Sam? Are we all really running away from the East Coast that made us who we are? Are we ashamed of our paler complexions? Do we need California to make us whole?
* * *
The third day on the train began at day break with a view of a cement wall. There were two plain-clothes dicks on the train waking everyone with a flashlight in the eyes to ask if this black suitcase (full of weed) belonged to anyone. Of course no one claimed it and they felt it necessary to body-search two young Latino men just to confirm my suspicions that law-enforcers are generally racist. Funny that the only person I know of on this train who might have actually been the owner is a young white man on his way home from a summer of organic 'herbal' farming. No one was arrested though I heard the word said more than once while the dicks were talking to the Latino men. They called in their names and getting nothing from headquarters and nothing from the pockets they moved on with a suitcase full of fun. Do you think that they are going to flush that shit down the toilet or maybe burn it in the bonfire at their next police barbecue? I talked to our conductor about it- we have a very cool train conductor- he's got this serious short Jerry-Curl and wears square-rimmed bifocals, tall and thin with a great smile and always using it. He said, "Somebody is really pissed right now, but their doing a good job of hiding it."

The woman working in the cafe car makes this announcement every time she opens- four times a day. "The cafe car is now open for (meal name), and we'd like to remind you that shoes must be worn in cafe car, and if you have children with you the children must also be wearing their shoes." She must have a really terrible foot fear, or maybe it's a private joke that she has taken to its limits. We talked about Obama yesterday. She was saying that she thinks he's got the right idea- that he doesn't take money from lobbyists and is really interested in bringing the power back to the people. I asked her what she thinks it will take to get Obama elected? "We need to get people out to vote. And, people need to not see him as a black man. They need to see him as man. He's an American, half his family is white and half is black." I like him too and am ready to volunteer for his campaign when I get to Ithaca. I saw in USA Today- trashy of the trash papers- some graph that showed Hillary leading in the popularity charts with Obama trailing and Edwards at a steady third place. Man, I really don't want to see our first female president be Hillary Clinton. When I was a kid and didn't know any better I was all about her. She's a lady, my mom was in her college class, what more did I need to know. But no more. I can't see her turning this country around. I can't see her putting her finances out of mind when making decisions. She may be a woman, but she's not a role model for me, she might as well not be a woman- her attitude lacks universal compassion for human life. I'm sick of politicians who endorse aggression. War is evil, the worst of all evils. What we need is a revolutionary- a young president with the GUTS to stand up for what's right. My impression of Barrack Obama is that he believes in diplomacy, the constitution, the foundation of democracy. I want to see the aggression machine dismantled and peace made a priority. There was a moment in Salt Lake City when Emilie said, "I think we're interested in different things in art. It seems like you are more interested in the politics of art and I am more interested in the poetics of art." I can't say that I didn't feel hurt by this- I did. I felt like I was being labelled and shoved into the box of fleeting, un-lasting artists, destined to make slogan-boards and buttons for events that already happened. But after trying to deny it, I must admit that I am interested in the politics of art. This doesn't mean that I am motivated by a political agenda, and it doesn't mean that my art lacks poetry, but there is a social conscience implicit in the things that I do. I think that artistically I work in a context of free-association and my outer influences are sometimes political, often environmental, personal and social. I do have a vision of a more community oriented society- and a government that invests its resources in productive and sustainable infrastructures and activities.

In any case we will be in Chicago by 4pm today which is EXCITING! cause we have six hours to walk around before our train connection to Syracus. Four days on a train is a long time on a train. Maybe a little too long for some of us. That being said, I still prefer it to the bus, plane or car. We have made a little community here on our four-day journey. We met a rap artist, G-Child who likes to party more than anything else practically. We had some drinks, sang, talked. Last night our farmer friend opened a bottle of champagne for a bunch of us to share. G-Child got off in Denver with the invitation to collaborate some time. It would be interesting- he's working on a song right now about guns that have clips. He asked Blake if he ever "packs heat?" I want to sing a chorus on his gun song, it'll be the peace-activist teaming up with the gangsta, I'll sing "I could never kill a bird/ And I can hardly swat a fly/ But I can somehow kill mosquitos/ And I don't even really have to try/ So I guess I get it/ How a man can kill another man/ He just sees him as a pest/ and lays his soul to rest/ in the hot Arabian sand." He'll follow with a list of all the guns with clips and their special people-killing capabilities. It'll be called "Can Peace Carry a Piece?"

My body is a little tense from all the sitting- different from sitting on a bike. As we passed through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and then the Rockies I was panged with the feeling of loss at not having tackled those fantastic vistas. It felt wrong to make it through each mountain range in a matter of hours, and without breaking a sweat. I am reminded that we only made it two-thirds across before the evening cold and the dryness of the dessert sucked us into their vortex of energy loss and mental distraction. We became anxious to make, not just experience, and yet we felt compelled to keep moving to beat the winter. Out there on the road with no locomotive bubble to protect us from the reality of time, weather, the seasons, it felt as though winter was biting our heals- there was also the problem that I couldn't eat anything for a week- but now, two weeks after we said goodbye to our fantastic bicycle voyage, I feel remorse for it and long to finish. I had a dream a few nights ago that we woke up outside of Salt Lake City and I had my appetite back and we decided to go on and it felt great! Of course it is easy after two weeks rest to look back and think you could have kept going. I have to remind myself that we were ready, or rather, we were done. We recorded an album and saw the great Spiral Jetti which felt like an ending. Our last day riding confirmed it- we had a ten mile down hill into town and we were pedaling the entire time. Kansas came back with a vengeance. She wasn't going to let us off that easy. We were going to have to fight a headwind that was stronger than gravity on a 5% grade ten miles long. It should have taken us thirty minutes, but we pedaled a good two hours down this hill, like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill all day just to arrive at the bottom the next morning. We never mentioned it on the blog, but Emilie had an injury this entire trip that nearly put an end to it way back in Hazard, KY. With that in mind I can rest my feelings of dissatisfaction. We went a hell of a lot farther than Hazard, KY. We met tons of people and learned more than we can rightly collect in a single work of art, piece of writing or story. People along the way would say- "This is an experience you'll never forget" and it sounded a little cliche at the time, but they're right. We are changed. Our bodies and brains have absorbed and transformed the passing of land and time and humanity in a way that will never leave us. I am grateful to all who supported us on our journey and look forward to the next evolution in this process. Keep an eye out for those postcards.

Wonder, Happiness,
Brother Kate

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Twenty Mile Climb in the Desert

This is the Comb Ridge in Utah that stood in the way of the Mormon's western expansion- a ridge of stone that shoots out into the sky at 60-degrees with a sheer drop off the other side. The Mormon's lowered their covered wagons over the edge with ropes! Ropes!

Squares in the Spiral

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

the journey to an unfrozen iceland...

The faucets leak in Salt Lake City. In the three hours of sleep between bathroom visits the bath tub in Chaz's apartment has filled up nearly too much. In the bathroom at the used book store, as big and bright as a Barnes and Nobel, I consider writing "You're losing water" at the bottom of the sink before plugging it up, but decide not to, mainly since my marker is outside with my unattended bike. I am looking for the vegetarian's bible, Oahspe, and there is a copy though no one can find it. Must have gone missing. The man who told me about it says its a hard book to come by.

We have made friends with some Salt Lakians who show us around town and though they have never been to the Jetti, are excited to go. So we load up in Chaz's truck with all the necessities for a journey- as Buzz described to me on a car ride to New York once, it promises to be long and wrangley. Emilie and I squeeze in with pears we knocked down in a parking lot this morning, bread we stole off the table at Chaz's job, pastries (we bought), a guitar, saw, and disposable camera. The ride takes us from the south end of the lake to the far north end, 70 miles away. We sing along to Nirvana, Niel Young, Bonnie Raite, the Pretenders, Nina Simone, and various other memorables.

Turning down the dirt road I feel excited and giggly. If there is one thing that Emilie and I have learned on this trip- its how to laugh together. We were in this great little coffee/outfitter shop sharing a pizza with Chaz and Mitch, and we were laughing and joking our pants off, so much so that we stirred the owner who came down all happy and excited to see who was to jolly. We are now stoked with anticipation and appreciation for the experience that a little piece of paper with directions scrawled cryptically by Chris, the owner of the local record shop, has in store for us. We keep our eyes open- though we're tired from not enough sleep- for the "trash" which is a major mile marker, and then the "rusty trailer". We don't actually ever see such a trailer, only some rusty metal that resembles the roof of a car, some oil barrels, and rocks that look like the souls of seals. We name this place The Seal Graveyard. The rocks and divits in the road are getting too big so we park and begin our walk, expecting to see the landmarks- a fork in the road and a jetty, "not the spiral jetty"- around every bend. There is more road than we expected and consider that we may have gone the wrong way, but venture farther.

The sun is calling us West and the road bends toward it so we go, nearly blinded by golden. I am amazed and a little surprised to see the shore line- a good mile from the water. There is a field of crusty white crystal that beckon us to them. They are thick and icy in texture, but not cold. In fact, we are struck by how warm the water is on our cold, ashy skin. We see the first jetty and quicken our step. Chaz is playing the guitar, narrating our pilgrimage and filling the dense and beautiful silence with the sounds of dream sequences, sweet and nostalgic. The sun is setting and there it is. Long and curly like my hair after it rains.

Black airy rocks, hard with heat and time. Washes of white growing with distance mimic the surface. We enter. It feels important. It feels good. Here miles from nowhere, we are in a very peaceful place.

Instinctively we all split and wander about basking in the atmosphere- the history. The joy of fulfilling a quest, of meeting a legend. I can't get over the wonder of this Great Salt Lake, it's bed which has been growing as the water is shrinking in this sate of Utah, known for industry..."Busy as Bees" there motto, the largest open pit mine which can be seen from space is here, beside ski resorts with "the finest skiing in the US" beside the Mother Church where the Ladder Day Saints make home, where fresh water runs down the drain at an alarming rate, where the sky is blue and full of snowy peaks, where a great little enclave of hipsters make music and try to eat organic, where Robert Smithson made a reason for us to venture out and feel this strange, salty scape.

I walk the jetty, spiraling inward and think of its effect- I see the panorama three times before I come to sit at the end. Before me is the shore and an eastern view of the seal graveyard, the mountains behind it, the old jetti and several abandoned structures where there was once water. I want to cry- to donate my tears to the biggest collection of tears I've ever experienced- but I can't. I feel such joy, listening as Emilie takes her saw and Chaz his guitar. They are on the shore and I am in the center of the jetty- at the end of the jetty. I am surrounded, protected. Usually the end of a jetty is exposed and you feel vulnerable, but here I am safe. There is no wind, there is no sound, you can see no cars, no cities, nothing that is active with man, except us.

I would love to continue, but the library is about to close. More when we can. The pictures are coming too. Much Love, Kate

Monday, October 22, 2007

This is a post in the making, come back tomorrow night.

Thank you Mitch for the photos in this post..and the ride to Salt Lake City. That's right fellows, we are in the city of the Great Salt Lake, which seems to be quickly turning into a great salt field. We have had a fantastic run of community meetings and chance path crossings. We saw the people who planted water for us on the Burr Trail at a little restaurant/the happening spot in the towm of Escalante, UT. We also met the boys we had seen in Boulder and convinced them, or did they convince us? to take us to Salt Lake City where we have recorded our songs at Archival Recordings Studio, made some really great food, seen the great music scene and met nice people...