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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Artists Reach Out: Allison Sexton

Dear friends,

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

Allison Sexton

Allison Sexton
(photo courtesy of the artist)

Allison Sexton is a bowl-cut queer from the beautiful, yet problematic, state of North Carolina. She snatched her dance degree from Marymount Manhattan College and currently performs with ECHOensemble. She can be found running around as the Facilities Manager at Gibney 890, dancing on her roof, or hanging out with her wife and their sassy cat-daughter Ma'am.

Allison Sexton
(photos: above, Laura Sexton
below: David Gonsier)

Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?

I currently perform with ECHOensemble, an improvisational group of six movement and sound makers, attempting to define and blur that line with help from Mary Overlie’s Viewpoints. We were supposed to perform at the very last Stuffed at Judson, right before the shutdown, which was sadly canceled and now postponed to June.

We have future performances lined up in a variety of non-traditional dance spaces, and cross our fingers daily that those will actually happen. Zoom rehearsals became the new norm when isolation began, but we have since come to the conclusion that these were putting more stress on our process than nurturing our work; therefore we have ended this practice.

Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.

At 7 years old, I was enrolled at a suburban strip mall dance studio in North Carolina. The sampler-platter kids class of ballet, tap, and jazz got me hooked and, before I knew it, I was a competition kid. Sassy jazz classes, over-dramatic lyrical dances, and character acting were all I knew. I performed as Rex from Toy Story, The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, and many other non-green characters.

The true camp qualities of this period of my life leak through the cracks into my current dance practice. For college I studied at Marymount Manhattan where I learned that my hips didn’t Graham, my coordination didn’t Balanchine, and I discovered improvisation to be my bread and butter with help from Laura Peterson and Elisabeth Motley. Today, authentic movement, improvisation, club dancing, Pilates, Gaga, and a modern class here and there are what comprise my movement practice.

In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning? How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?

I care deeply about imagination and about utilizing and flexing it like a muscle. Tapping into those instinctual child-like behaviors and actions of play and fantasy forces me to expand my limited perception and sensation. In my current movement practice I try to turn my decision making and pre-planning brain off and let my body wiggle and noodle however it wishes that day. This is largely guided by my rotational S-curve scoliosis, leading to lots of off-kilter spiraling, arching, curving, and swirling movement. Any time where movement can lead me into a place of disorientation is a sweet spot. I try my best to capture my experiences moving via free writing and drawing whether it be of different spatial pathways, felt emotions, notable shapes, or thoughts that pop up.

How does your practice function within the world we have now?

Quarantine has given me time to dive deep into my visual art practice, free from any pressures or expectations. I got into art therapy thanks to a course I took in college and have been creating at least one thing a day during quarantine.

I taught an art class to my coworkers at Gibney, which then inspired me to begin a weekly class called Doodling and Noodling! Each Friday I lead 30 minutes of guided doodling followed by 30 minutes of improvisation closely informed by the doodles we made.

My movement practice during this time has involved a large amount of improvising on my roof, and crossing my fingers that a nearby neighbor isn’t secretly filming me for TikTok.

Briefly share one self-care tip that has special meaning to you now.

Put in some headphones, airpods, whatever and go to a private space (if possible). BLAST your favorite album or playlist of all time and have a FULL OUT solo dance party, including scream singing and/or lip syncing. I promise you will be flooded with serotonin if you fully commit, and we all need as much of that as we can get right now.


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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