on the architecture of presence

When I was in kindergarten, I already knew I wanted to take ballet. We had finally moved into a community that had a ballet teacher. But I had heard the grownups talking: she was, in their estimation, not an option. She didn’t treat the children well. I begged my father: “I can handle it!” At some point, in dismay, he said “Oh Susie. Why don’t you take piano lessons? You can always play the piano when you are 30 but you cannot dance across your living room!” Fuel for the proverbial fire….

I realize I have been dancing, and making dances framed by the architecture of house and home, ever since then. I have always planned class and generated compositional ideas in the living room. At 25, in the summer between my two years in grad school, I gave myself class in the living room, daily. When I returned to University of Illinois in the fall, one of my peers who had had a professional ballet career, asked me where I’d been studying ballet – I had visibly progressed my technique! At 30, Don took photos of me dancing in our living room, and I framed one and gave it to my father for his birthday. (He was amused.) At 50, with the help of family, friends and colleagues, I produced a concert in my living room: Five Short Dances for Five Short Decades. I danced in front of our enormous 96-paned glass window; the audience of about 100 sat in the front yard. It was BYOC (chair) and we had 8 tables of cake/beer/wine spread around the yard for the party after the performance.

This fall I am headed into two projects – both on the core subject of presence and absence within the structure of a house but very different dances. The first is a re-envisioning of Threshold, a dance I started with the majors at TCU a year and half ago. I get to work with a lively group of women who ground the contemporary dance community in Tulsa. This project starts later this week – we are close! The dance is held together structurally with the floor plan of a house taped to the stage. Several short dances – poetic in nature (building on the challenge that defined my sabbatical project) – move the dance along in space and time.

The second will be a dance for film project – taking place in our home in Maine – with artists Alex Masi (Austin/ https://swngproductions.comand Kelly Todd (https://www.kellyashtontodd.com). It’s going to be a rich, multi-layered, interwoven-over-a-lifetime journey, one I’m looking forward to with great anticipation.

Isn’t the expression “taking place” an intriguing one…?!

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