I first came to know about Kate’s work when I was on a review panel for the Dance category of the Pew Fellowship in 2007. We met in person when I came to Philly as a guest artist to teach some workshops and to do a presentation about my work during a weekend sponsored by Philadelphia Dance Projects in 2008. We met again when I came to Philly to work with Headlong Dance Project on a research residency on the subject of improvisation and performance in 2009. With each of these meetings we came to know a little more about each other’s artistic interests. I was thrilled to be asked to serve an assisting role for her project Mash Up Body.
We met on multiple occasions at different points in her process. Last summer I came to Pittsburgh to have initial meetings with her about the piece. This time was sponsored by the Janera Solomon of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in her role as commissioner for Mash Up Body. In Pittsburgh I met with Kate to talk about her project and I also met Christopher Sean Powell, her music collaborator. We were all invited by Janera to do a public panel about our work, to prime the potential audience for what Kate was doing. Later in the fall we met twice, once in Philly for several days and then again in New York. These meetings involved the cast for Mash Up Body –Devynn Emory, Jasmine Hearn, Cori Olinghouse, Marjani Forté - as well as Kate’s assistant, Yasin Fairley.
In Philadelphia, I worked with the group each morning for a three-hour session where I led them through a physical and vocal warmup, then through a series of explorations I have been developing for the past few years that I call SenseWork. In this research I use a variety of perceptual frames to inspire movement and to respond to the sensory information from the different situations that the movement brings me into. It begins with an exploration of the primary senses but then branches off into “esoteric” or “subtle” senses, and then some senses that are purely constructed. For example, with Kate’s group I focused on what I consider to be the “performance senses,” the perceptual modes through which encounter how we feel about being seen, the ways we act with that information, and then also the range of choices that become available to us when we are sensitized to a specific performance context. This seemed especially appropriate since Kate’s conceptual grounding for the project was concerned with the “mash up” of physical and social codes, how a body can move through multiple representations of itself in a short time, and how the layering of different bodies engaged in these multiple representations create a new field of correspondence, association and meaning. These are concerns that are echoed in my work, and so it was highly pleasurable for me to apply tools that I’ve developed for what I’ve done to a different artist’s project. My goal was to activate the performers’ awareness of all of the multiplicity that their bodies already hold and to find ways to “own” those shifts of awareness as moving bodies.
In addition to guiding the group through this work I also came to watch rehearsals and offer my feedback on the material that the group was developing. I also moderated an open showing of the work in Philadelphia and then in New York assisted with music playback for a showing. Having this much intimacy with a process is truly a privilege and an honor. It was thrilling to see how the material developed and then to see how Kate deftly manipulated it in a variety of choreographic ways. Here I felt that my role was more just to reflect what I was seeing, how I saw the changes impacting the evolving history of choices that defined the piece. It’s always tricky to play this “feedback” role, because of course, as a person who makes things, I get attached to what I’m seeing and to what I “like” and what choices I would make. Fortunately Kate is a very strong creator and decision maker and so it was really a conversation between peers more than any creepy kind of mentor-y thing where I was like “you have to do this… or that!” Having a conversation about process and the development of a work where the dialogue gets real and beyond that sort of corrective or “fix-it” language is a rare and welcome thing in this field."