Welcome to Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation. I dreamed this series of interviews out of grief for my work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance. In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.
But there's no distancing around what we still can share with one another--our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.
So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I'm glad they're part of our beautiful community, and I'm eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.
--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody
--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody
|Marion Spencer in Rosalie|
(photos: above, Laura Bartczak collaboration,
and below, Whitney Browne)
Marion Spencer is a dancer, choreographer and educator currently based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been presented by Danspace Project (DraftWork), Gibney (WorkUp), Brooklyn Studios for Dance, Green Space, Triskelion Arts, Center for Performance Research (Fall Movement), Movement Research at Judson Church, DanceNow NYC, Dance HOLO and the Domestic Performance Agency. Marion is a 2019-2020 season artist at The Chocolate Factory Theater (creative residency, December 2019) and Gibney (Solo for Solo, Spring 2020). She has held residencies at MANA Contemporary, Brooklyn Studios for Dance, Turkeyland Cove Foundation and the Peaceable Barn, among others. Marion’s work is an energetic and tonal collaging--sourcing intuition and imagination, in addition to our very real world. Her dances call for transformation through an undoing of ourselves, inviting us to feel, ask questions, and consider what else, both imaginatively and constructively. As a performer, she currently dances for BAND|portier and Laura Peterson Choreography. Since moving to NYC, Marion has had the pleasure of working with Yackez/Larissa Velez-Jackson, Michelle Boulé, Athena Kokoronis, Shandoah Goldman, Melissa Riker, Annie Kloppenberg, and Shaun Irons & Lauren Petty, among others. In addition to choreographing and performing, she is on faculty at Gibney, Dancewave and Greenwich Country Day Middle and High School. Marion has toured her choreographic work and teaching practice nationally to New Orleans LA, Seattle WA, and Amherst MA. She graduated with honors from Vassar College in 2009 with a BA in Geography-Anthropology. www.marion-spencer.com
|Marion Spencer in Rosalie|
(photo: Scott Shaw)
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
Yes. I am in process with two creative projects--a solo and a group work--that live in conversation as part of a larger project. My solo has been in process for a little over a year, while the group began working together this past December. The group work is a collaboration with Ogemdi Ude, Symara Johnson, Tara Sheena, s. Lumbert, Kimiko Tanabe and Slowdanger (aka Anna Thompson + Taylor Knight).
The reality of the pandemic necessitates the loss of three performances and two residency periods (thus far). In addition, the week that the pandemic caused New York City to shut down was the first week of my residency at Gibney through the Solo for Solo program, where Darrin Wright and I were to initiate a creative process together through the Spring. I am still not sure if we will be able to reschedule all these lost opportunities. I know that every venue, festival and organization is working hard to figure out how to support artists and their work during this time.
I, personally, am working to sit with the pause that is happening right now and let that be part of my practice--part of the creative process-- and consider that, in and of itself, part of the progress of these projects.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
I have always loved to dance, and I have always loved to do other things too. I love to sing, I love to be outdoors, gather with people, draw, read, write, take photographs. I love to quietly witness. My parents are both from Latin America--Caracas, Venezuela and Balboa, Panama--and they are archaeologists who primarily work in southern Mexico. So I was raised in many places.
I developed a practice of quiet witnessing and a wild imagination--in the back of a car driving for hours through rural Oaxaca, playing in the dirt at an archaeological site all day, so many airports and so many airplane rides to visit family. I loved listening to books on tape, I loved the memory game, I loved staring out the window, looking at the sky, and dreaming. I still do that. I'm doing that now as I write this.
I see dancing and making dances as a way to dream, to make dreams alive, and to invite others to witness your imagination. I see my makings right now as an invitation into a world, an environment, a journey, that hopefully the performer and witness go through together. That might be an aspect of what excites me about this new world we find ourselves in--the possibility of building an environment and a world in your own intimate space and sharing that with others so easily.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
I am practicing singing. I have been vocalizing as part of my practice for several years, and I just started weekly voice lessons with an incredible performer and composer in our community, and it feels important to be a student and be learning right now. I am practicing dancing and taking class as often as I can. I am practicing conversation with mentors and teachers every week. The connections with community and commitment to learning and curiosity feels like an important part of my practice right now.
I am practicing being, rather than doing--which has been part of my process for the last year thanks to lessons from Michelle Boulé, Marion Woodman and studies in Conscious Femininity, and also it has never held more weight than it does now. I am practicing listening. I am trying to let this time of slowness be part of my practice. It is opening up spaces in my imagination, it is offering me the opportunity to dream again. Instead of seeing limitations, I am starting to see possibilities. That is exciting.
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
What I care most about right now is that we get through this with as few losses as possible. What I care most about is that my parents stay alive and well, that my family in Caracas don’t have to go to the hospitals there that were completely nonfunctional and chaotic before the pandemic began, so I can't even imagine what they will be like when this hits hard there.
What I care most about is that I do all the practices to ensure that I don’t unknowingly carry this to another person in my home, neighborhood or community. And, I care greatly about our dance community. I want artists to make it through this. I want us to have spaces to return to after this is over. I want to be part of working towards that.
It has been a gift to be part of conversations happening right now in our community about care and about action, and I am excited to continue putting my energy towards that. I want as few losses as possible, and also as many disruptions and transformations to the broken system we found ourselves in, as possible. The world we return to after this will never be the same. I’m wondering how we can see the possibilities in that.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
I have always been called to home and to making art at home. AND, I hadn’t really been doing much of that since moving to New York City. Before this pandemic, my home space was a space of rest, of sanctuary, of returning from work, making dinner, spending time with my housemates (two dear old friends who are NOT dancers), resting and sleeping.
In former homes of mine--New Orleans, for example--I had a strong creative and embodied practice at home, my home was also my canvas. Since moving to NYC, my work as an artist has been full time, and I leave home to do it, and then I come home to rest.
This pandemic has necessitated a shift. I have moved all of the furniture out of my bedroom to make it a space to move in, teach dance classes in, rehearse in, dream in, lay on the floor in. I am practicing moving my practice into my home space, allowing imagination and dreaming to open up for me at home. I had created a boundary between work and home, and that is becoming blurry now in a way that is exciting--and, to be honest, also exhausting. I need a day off. I need rest. I need to redefine my boundaries, that's for sure.
Briefly share one self-care tip that has special meaning to you now.
I have a regular practice of taking baths. That is no exception now. Sitting submerged in hot water calms me down, slows me down, brings me into my body, to be held by my element. I’m needing self care practices like this right now. Full disclosure: my biggest guilty pleasure is to take a bath in the morning.
During this time, I have been trying to offer and remain active in my care of my home and household, my family, my community and myself. AND, I am trying to embrace this pause. I had a call with my collaborators last week to check in + discuss, dream and scheme how to move forward with virtual collaborations this spring, and as part of this conversation dear friend/collaborator Ogemdi Ude said, ‘I wish for every artist to take a nap every day until this is over.’ Can that be part of my practice right now? Can that be part of my progress right now? I’m listening.
DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.
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