Conversation: Jasmine Hearn with Lydia Bell
October 4, 2017
When I watch Jasmine Hearn’s work I feel physically transported in time and space. Her solos weave together past and future selves in the manner of a science fiction novel—a reference that Hearn herself uses in describing the worlds she and her collaborators move between. Her new Danspace Project commissioned work, shook, is a group piece that will premiere October 12-14, 2017 on a shared evening with Mariana Valencia. What follows is an edited email exchange between us on her approach to working with collaborators Maria Bauman, Dominica Greene, Kayla Farrish, Catherine Kirk, Angie Pittman, and Alisha Wormsley and the evocation of what Jasmine calls: “a realm, a place, a time, a memory when/where black women are not doubted.”
—Lydia Bell, Danspace Project Program Director
Lydia Bell (LB): What was the starting point for shook?
Jasmine Hearn (JH): When I was an artist in residence at the Bronx Museum of the Arts last winter, I began generating sound environments and researching embodied movement practices. I used language and vocalization to access how I was entering the realm of sound. I wanted to traverse those sound environments with others and be specific about who I was sharing the research with. I chose to be in the company of black women during the embodied exploration of the sound places. Although my previous work is mostly solos, a group work seemed like a great way to share and witness how as a collective we could enter and depart a place that we conjure with our imaginations and personal truths.
LB: What is the process like of working with your collaborators?
JH: Currently, we have been entering a creative process that calls for patience. I guide collaborating artists through imagery—saturated prompts to evoke improvisational movement. The cast is organized in duets. The rehearsals will continue to investigate improvisation as well as generate and organize choreographed material. I am currently working with visual artist Alisha B. Wormsley, who will provide video to be incorporated in the performance and act as inspiration during the creative process period.
LB: Both you and Mariana Valencia were part of Platform 2016: Lost & Found, curated by Ishmael Houston-Jones and Will Rawls at Danspace Project last fall. Did showing your work in that context—an intergenerational conversation around the impact of HIV/AIDS on the dance community—have an impact on how you think about or situate your work?
JH: That specific experience opened my ears to story and a realization of how we are connected to past. It definitely affirmed the priorities and intentions connected to this work that asks folks involved to patiently listen to this performance of sharing memories, stories, responses, and recollections.
LB: I’ve heard you talk about a dewy/misty quality that you’re interested in, both thematically and in terms of atmosphere and lighting design. Are you looking to evoke a certain sense of time or place?
JH: I am looking to evoke a realm, a place, a time, a memory when/where black women are not doubted. As we continue to be in process together, the overall design of environment has been shifting. I am intending for a sense of warmth.
LB: What are you listening to, reading, or watching right now?
JH: Fledgling by Octavia Butler, Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash, outtakes of Aretha Franklin, 20 Feet from Stardom, and listening to my dreams.
Jasmine Hearn’s latest work, shook, premieres on a shared evening with Mariana Valencia’s Yugoslavia October 12-14. Tickets available here.