40 Dancers do 40 Dances for the Dancers

To The Year of Dance Overview

Website-based artwork based on the piece

All40-overlap240 Dancers do 40 Dances for the Dancers was the culminating “field work” performance of The Year of Dance. The piece brought together a large, eclectic group of friends and colleagues to construct a series of performances based on The Pronouns: A Collection of 40 Dances for the Dancers, a book of performance instruction poems written by my father, poet/composer/multi-media artist Jackson Mac Low, in celebration of what would have been his 90th birthday. The piece was a celebration of my father’s work, a love letter to my dance community, and the recreation of a child’s-eye view of the 1970s New York “avant garde” arts world. There was a special guest appearance by Simone Forti, performing with Nuclei for Simone Forti, the original instruction poems that eventually developed into The Pronouns.

This project is part of an ongoing investigation into how we mediate and create intimate connections. Here, I combined my decade of creating situations where the social relationships are essential art materials (the piece doesn’t exist without interaction) with my long experience as a dance-maker and performing artist. In this meta-performance, the entire process of the artwork is privileged, and interpersonal interaction becomes the art material. The resulting piece was not so much an esthetic product as an esthetic by-product of a social situation, where the provisional community formed by a shared project is as important as the performance itself.

A note on how the piece was constructed
: The poems in The Pronouns book were created through a nested series of randomized and choice-based processes. At the beginning of the process of making 40 Dancers, a copy of The Pronouns was distributed to all the participants, and they were asked to pick the poems that resonated for them. People who picked the same poems were paired to work on interpreting the dances together, pulling in other participants as necessary. Allison Parrish then created an algorithm that distributed all 40 poems across the three nights of performances, using a methodology similar to the one used to create the poems in The Pronouns. Schedule conflicts, childcare and other life circumstances also provided a further distribution randomizer. The resulting construct is a combination of all these factors.

_D3X1644 _D3X2127 MacLow_Clarinda_03 _D3X1791 _D3X1955
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_D3X1749 MacLow_Clarinda_04 MacLow_Clarinda_05 _D3X1894 _D3X1817
All photos by Ian Douglas c2012

Below: Video documentation of Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Shot by Iki Nakagawa.

This piece was a social experiment that used The Pronouns to investigate the ways that art-making forms communities and families. The legacy of my childhood is not strictly an esthetic legacy, but also a legacy of making community through art-making. When I was a child, all the artists around me worked with each other on creating a variety of artworks, often mixing artistic disciplines promiscuously, and bringing the kids in to work. I later mimicked this practice in many ways, creating performance that, according to one reviewer, “evoked the messiness and unruliness of life itself.” During the year of 2012 I worked as an ethnographer of my dance community. I lived the life of the dance-maker and, simultaneously, studied it. This included fieldwork (actually making dances), case studies (one-on-one meetings with everybody involved in the creative process as well as a few intrepid audience members), and data visualization (a kinship network sculpture).

Conceived and directed by Clarinda Mac Low, based on the text The Pronouns: A Collection of 40 Dancers for the Dancers, by Jackson Mac Low
Devised and performed by the “40 Dancers”: Luciana Achugar and Ignacio Achugar-Granoff, Anna Azraeli and Ezra Holzman, Linda Austin, Lydia Bell, Paul Benney, Lise Brenner, Chris Cochrane, Levi Gonzalez, Carolyn Hall, James Hannaham, Patricia Hoffbauer, K.J. Holmes, Janusz Jaworski, Sarah East Johnson, Andrea Kleine, Abigail Levine, Clarinda, Mordecai-Mark and Susan Mac Low, EJ, Lyla, and Jane McAdams, Jennifer Miller (devising only), Jennifer Monson, Leyna Papach and Masumi Kouakou, Bobby Previte, Mikkel Rosengaard, George Emilio Sanchez, Kim Sargent-Wishart and Llewelyn, Jarrah and Rico Wishart, Karen Sherman, Sally Silvers, Paz Tanjuaquio, and David Thomson, with a special guest appearance by Simone Forti.
Production Coordinator/Company Manager/Stage Manager: Meredith Belis
Lighting Design: Carol Mullins
Kinship network sculpture: Peter Stankiewicz
Anthropology consultant: Laurel George
Algorithm consultant: Allison Parrish
Technical consultants: Walter Polkosnik and Deena Patel
Video consultant: Maya Ciarrocchi
Audience with the Audience participants: Paula Hunter, Jeremiah Runnels, Linda Stein

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