Silence hummed in the tiny, dim FloorSpaceStudio as Joanna began to move slowly with intense deliberation. When an iPhone buzzed an urgent notification from the depths of someone’s bag, the savvy performer incorporated its disruption into the show. Dog Dance #1 is the first in a planned series of entirely improvised works, a new pursuit for the force behind Joanna and the Agitators. While there was an element of sly, somewhat self-deprecating humor in Friday, December 18th’s piece– an element common to Agitators performances– a pervasive sense of seriousness, even sadness of perceived subject matter kept me from laughing.
Other members of the audience were certainly amused, which goes to show how subjective and individualized the experience was for everyone involved. The brief, compassionate question and answer period after the show revealed the details of some of these experiences. In general, the atmosphere seemed to be an open one, with several people internalizing a kind of liberation or “permission,” a word that came up often. For one person, it was permission to move sympathetically, for another, it was permission to observe selectively rather than being bombarded by sensation.
What I personally observed was a kind of struggle. Though there was some speaking, it was unnecessary as far as the communication of ideas between the dancer and myself. I felt she was embodying the desire and need for control while recognizing the lack thereof. This lack showed in her movements, which seemed difficult and frustrating at the same time they were a splendid display of intention. Sidelong glances and whispers were a mockery of coquetry, as the person inside the body was subject to the vagaries of the body, rather than the other way around. I think this eloquence comes from vulnerability, a scary and powerful place that Joanna is– admirably– pushing herself into. I will end with a poem I was moved to write in response.
Eye tempted by line of wrist or
Twist of throat to side, grimace
Push of unresisting leg to side to
Fall to nose on the ground, a
Lift by will of arm and glance
To see, to try, a challenge to self
To you, for the audience, for the
Observer who wants to look away or
Doesn’t understand or understands too well
The fear, the powerlessness and
Wishes it would go away–
Makes it almost go away by
Shaping a worldview without it–
But the impression has been made and,
In the consciousness, a weight
Unwanted, unacknowledged and
Possessed of the special power that
Denied things have.
Jane E. Werle: With artwork and writing published by Bombay Gin, Hot Whiskey Press, Wyrd Tree Press, Summer Stock, and her own imprint, Thirsty Lizard Books, Jane is a passionate proponent of creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of elusive and meaningful beauty. A poet, educator, and longtime nanny, she works and explores with kids, challenging young minds and safeguarding young hearts. Jane graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and has come up with no compelling reason since to move away from the lively Denver area and its admirably self-made cultural opportunities. Contact Jane with editing needs, parenting problems, and extravagant travel writing proposals.