ImShift explores the shifting identity of “living in the in-between” as Latin American living in the diaspora. Through the ritualistic practice of self-affirmation, one can challenge systemic barriers and create art that transcends borders. The expiration of this piece is my lived reality and the work of performance scholar Diana Taylor.
This piece is also about the shifting pressures and negotiations in collaboration. The music, the video and the choreography were developed separate. Its in the later part of the process that the these three elements start conversing and informing further shifting of the piece as a whole.
I just returned to the Bay Area from packed and generously-attentive houses in Portland. Thanks to Martha Ullman West for her coverage in Oregon’s Arts Watch:
And thanks of course to my dear friend and colleague Katherine Longstreth. We met in graduate school some 20 years ago and quickly became comrades in DIY dance production via our performing group ESTRUS WORKS with Julia Wyncoll. Although our dance lives have taken us in different directions, we remain committed to the ongoingness of our dance-making. This spring’s tour, which began in New York in April and wraps up in San Francisco at the end of this month, has been an incredible opportunity to reconnect and celebrate our shared past.
In November 2012, I staged Dr. Zebrovski’s HOUR OF POWER, an hour-long interdisciplinary show that explored commercialism and the occult while building out the world of interpretive dance psychic Dr. Zebrovski. With assistance from an amazing director (Beatrice Thomas) and dynamic performing artists (Baruch Porras-Hernandez and Maryam Rostami), I created a fun and interactive show that sold out two performances at The Garage.
On July 26, 27 and 28, I will once again stage Dr. Zebrovski’s HOUR OF POWER at CounterPULSE as part of the Summer Special 2013. This is my first opportunity to show work at CounterPULSE and I’m excited to present work alongside such talented performing artists.
If you were able to join us for the November show, you’ll know that we combined performance art, dance, sketch comedy, storytelling and lip sync to create fun and interactive vignettes that composed the seven fragments of a non-narrative show. For the July restaging, I hope to build upon these ideas and infuse them with even more razzle dazzle!
One component I am specifically looking to expand is video. Dr. Zebrovski’s initial live performance in 2011 was created in tandem with a short video that went viral when it was posted on the Cheezburger Network via PictureIsUnrelated.com. The video was created in collaboration with motion graphic and interface designer Joseph Pickett and employed several video special effects techniques to create a mesmerizing and absurd peak into the world of Dr. Zebrovski. Now that I have already created the groundwork for an engaging live show, I plan to add short videos that will act as interactive and transitional components.
There are many other directions I am looking to as I think of the next evolution for Dr. Zebrovski’s HOUR OF POWER… How to expand the role of dance… How to incorporate my experiences as drag persona LOL Mcfiercen… How to add background to Dr. Zebrovski’s character while still having him remain mysterious… How to bring in elements of fashion, costume and make up to create additional spectacle and depth…
I am excited to continue working on this project and can’t wait to present my findings! Until then, feel free to explore Zebrovski.com and be sure to LIKE Dr. Zebrovksi on Facebook. …And if you really want to, you can buy your tickets now too.
For me, creating work is often an outward presentation of a very personal journey. In reading Kalidasa’s Meghadhootha, I initially drew inspiration from many different translations, and literary commentaries. In reading the epic poem over and over again, there were certain verses that leapt out from the pages. These lines were coaxed by my own experiences to find comfortable and permanent places in my mind. When I came across these lines, I saw more than the words on the page. I saw myself, characters, dancers – all of us embodying Kalidasa’s imagery and sentiment. What came next was an irrevocable urge to use my medium, dance, to communicate my vision. And what came after that? Music, dance, choreography…a collaboration.
Good work is often a manifestation of vision, perspective, talent, hard work, and humility. I am so lucky to work with two of my best childhood friends, dancers who embody these attributes, Sophia Valath and Arun Mathai. The three of us are incredibly lucky to work with our good friend and mentor G.S. Rajan on this work; he embodies these attributes and more, bringing our work and our vision to a whole new level. The four of us scheduled 3 retreat-style, week long, work sessions through out the year so we would have the opportunity to develop, review, or revisit various facets of our work. During our first session in January, we began putting our months of vision and research into music and dance. I knew that we would have a good time working together, but I had no idea how significant the experience would be; our creative process was nothing short of addicting.
I was first humbled by the openness of each artist. Rajan anna patiently listened to what we envisioned for each line, in fact he spent hours doing this even before picking up his flute. He asked us to dance what we envisioned for the piece. We danced, he played….he played, we danced. We engaged in an organic creative process that began with a vision but evolved as each of us allowed ourselves to be inspired by the others. How could we not? We had this short, precious time to work together in one space, to put our vision on a canvas, and we did not waste a second. I watched as we began with one idea, which evolved into the next idea through live improvisation, which evolved into the next idea through listening to and watching each other, which finally evolved into something even more beautiful than what we started with. “Beautiful” just barely captures the sentiment of this meaningful process.
Sophia reflected on these moments in an e-mail after a few days of marathon work sessions. She said, “I loved how sometimes even though we were saying different things; we were all trying to get to the same place. I loved the moments when my head was down listening to Rajan anna [play a musical phrase] and I felt moved [by a particular note] and would look up at your faces and see the same expression of ‘yeah that was it…’ I loved how we’re staying true to some of the vision we started with but letting this creative processes have a mind of its own and are willing to listen to each other and be open to let the story go where it is organically going. I love that I’m doing this with the two of you….I think we work so well together and Rajan anna’s presence was amazing. I feel so blessed that he’s a part of this journey and really…unknowingly…help us take it together.”
From my friends, I’ve learned that creating good work, at the very least, starts with creating a good collaboration – working with good people you trust personally and artistically and who embody certain attributes that I think are essential for a productive partnership. I know we still have a long way to go in creating The Cloud Messenger, but I have so much faith in each artist and in what they do – I am so excited to see how the work will continue to evolve.