Dear Bessie Committee,
It is after careful consideration that I write this letter to you to request that you remove my nomination from the Bessie award category of Performer.
I feel it does a disservice to the work of Live Dancing Archive to separate out the role of performer from the entirety of the piece. It does not grasp the full conceptual proposal that the piece is making.
In Live Dancing Archive I am proposing that the dancing itself is an archive, not only of past movement experiences but—primarily—of the dynamic and ephemeral relationships of specific ecosystems. I am proposing that by dancing in various kinds of landscapes, specifically those on the BIRD BRAIN Osprey Migration, my dancing body accumulated an experience of the dynamics and interdependencies of specific ecosystems. The dancing in Live Dancing Archive is the documentation of that experience. It is not a “performance” of the archive. I am proposing that dance has the capacity to function as an archival container of the experiences of a range of phenomena that can only be collected through the perceptual research inherent in the practices I have developed. That is why it can only be danced in my body. It is not something that I “perform”— it is the way in which those places, experiences, and states live in my dancing. Live Dancing Archive is a way of giving the public access to the research into environmental systems that I have done for almost two decades.
In my mind the capacity of dancing to hold a record of the dynamics of ecological phenomena comes into relief when it is positioned in the context of the video installation and the digital archive. The three components of the project are integral to each other and show a range of approaches to experimental archival practices. Dance, like ecosystems, is an ephemeral and dynamic form and I am proposing that these two systems can inform each others’ documentation practices.
I also find it impossible to separate out the “performing” of the dancing from the interaction of the sound and the light. The sound in particular had a powerful, embodied impact on the space that was integral to the creation of the dancing. The light functioned similarly. The three elements of sound, light, and movement were creating environments more than a “performance.” My hope was that in some way the body would become subsidiary to the experience of the spaces that were being produced.
And finally, as an improvisor, I place myself in the tradition of master improvisors such as Simone Forti and Steve Paxton. Improvisation is the act of making work. It is not about a “performance” per se. The choreographic intelligence that is functioning during a performance is a skill that takes years of rigorous experience to develop. I don’t think it is possible to separate the performing from the creation of the work in this kind of improvisational practice.
I can see that there may be many different ways of defining performance. You may think that I am misreading the committee’s understanding. In any event, I think this could be a fruitful and valuable conversation for the community to continue and perhaps it means redefining or making new categories for the awards.
I write this letter with all due respect and appreciation for the momentous work that you do for the New York Dance community and your passionate commitment to the field.