New Ways of Gathering
March 20, 2020
On March 13th, Platform 2020: Utterances From The Chorus came to an abrupt halt at the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Although we are deeply saddened to end the Platform events, the health and safety of the artists, staff, public, and the greater NYC community is of the utmost importance to us, the curatorial team–Okwui Okpokwasili, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Lydia Bell, Seta Morton–and the full staff and Board of Directors at Danspace Project.
Utterances From The Chorus offers an opportunity for us to be in community, to reflect on our networks of kinship, and to honor practices and labors of care. Voice, vibration, somatics, harmony, and poetics threaded throughout the live programming. We took slow time together. In conversations and embodiment, we moved, in community, to consider “how to weave a collective song?” We curated proximity and togetherness as a means to gather in new (and old) ways.
We are inhabiting a new world today. A world that raises many questions both terrifying and hopeful. What does proximity mean to us now? And how can our loving and care-full distances bring us closer together? How can we find fierce intimacy and harmonious vibration within our isolated vigilant bodies adorned with newly reinforced boundaries?
At Danspace Project, we’re thinking about the people in Italy, singing from their balconies, calling out to one another— a swelling chorus across the city. A triumph of the human heart and a testament to our deep desire to be together.
We’re leaning on friend’s Instagram accounts. Friends like Morgan Bassichis, who is creating the content we need to encourage a smile, an outfit change, or to help us get our worried heads to sleep. We’re looking to disability justice and arts accessibility communities. We’re looking to activists, healers, care workers, and artists whose work intersects these fields. We trust the people around us who have valuable experience and knowledge around this type of bodily vigilance, best practices towards harm reduction, radical care practices, and crisis management. We deeply value their generosity and digital sharing at this time. We hope to uplift some of their voices and share with all of you via our social media.
In the last Platform public conversation between Saidiya Hartman, Simone Leigh, and Okwui Okpokwasili, around the idea of The Chorus, we sat with questions of harmony but also dissonance — concepts in tension that have an elevated relevance in the current moment as we globally agree to create distance between our bodies, to reach a time of togetherness again, soon.
We opened Okwui and Peter Born’s Sitting On A Man’s Head which asked us, “Can a shared creative practice be generative and generous while also being instructive in imagining new possibilities of communal relations?” You may have walked slowly, humming inside the tent of Born’s design, side by the side with a friend, a collaborator, or colleague, or maybe shared a sweet moment, holding the hand of a stranger. Or you may have been standing at the edge of that enclosure, containing the 39 fervent and exhausted artist activators, bodies laboring for the fourth hour of their durational practice. A cacophony of voices ringing throughout the St. Mark’s Church. We were steeped in the poetics, deep practices, research, and care shared on the three Saturday Afternoon Conversations and the live performances held.
A Shared Evening, between Algerian born/French-based choreographer and performer, Nacera Belaza and Casablanca-based choreographer and performer, Meryem Jazouli, was the last live performance of the Platform held. Jazouli’s solo, Folkah! that emerged from her research behind the ancestral folk dance of the Sahara: the Guedra, wove together a story of gestures and voice, guiding us in with inviting hands, dance, song, and story. Nacera’s cast of La Procession included three UArts dance students, two NYC based artists in our community, and two of our very talented staff members. These dancers led us, in a slow walk, from the exterior space of the church to the interior. They created circles around themselves, they found moments of alignment and then discord, roving bodies like little planets almost colliding and then sliding past one another.
Over the course of the live performances and conversations, we hummed, uttered, and gestured. We ranted in resistance and ecstasy. We located the voice deep in the belly, the solar plexus, the heart. We built a collective song and the refrain echoes, still.
We are now at a loss as the last planned events are in uncertain postponement in this new and strange time. We all are in a moment of collective mourning. We mourn the time we lost and the moments we never shared. We miss each other. We miss being with one another, in our fleshy embodiment and shared space.
In Grief and Gratitude, the introductory essay of the Platform catalogue, Platform 2020: Utterances From The Chorus, Volume I, Judy Hussie-Taylor writes –
“Platform 2020 is committed to experimenting with new ways of thinking, moving, and sounding together. We will not draw conclusions or make pronouncements; rather we will provide open-ended points of entry and lines of inquiry that will continue to shape shift. As Okwui has said, ‘Ultimately [the work is] about love, empathy, being in communion. It’s not about giving an answer or having a prescription.’”
In early conversations, Okwui shared the research and questions informing the Platform planning with some of our Research Group fellows. Samita Sinha responded to these questions with one of her own, “is the task to make medicine?”
Our performance home at St. Mark’s Church is empty and so are our offices. Our community is struggling as performances and tours are being cancelled and postponed. We at Danspace Project are working remotely and around the clock to find ways to support our artists, staff, and community. Our community is doing the best we can to stay safe, healthy, and to support one another. We’re coming together in conference calls, video chats, Zoom meetings, and all of the email threads. We’re reaching out, offering kind words and supportive gestures, homeopathic remedies, a song, a meme, a recipe, a Netflix recommendation, and endless virtual hugs and kisses.
We’d still like to gather with you and bind together around this work and these questions, as a chorus, ringing throughout our digital Platforms. The conversation continues but the shape has indeed shifted. Join us in this space and on Instagram and Facebook.
Please watch for special announcements and offerings soon.
Judy, Okwui, Lydia, and Seta
A note from Seta:
At the start of this Platform I wondered, “what will be found in these places of encounter?” In short, I found love, care, and binding connections. I now wonder, how can we sustain this as we face these new challenges? I have every intention and hope to continue to find pockets and pools of love and to build unbreakable threads of connection.
Wishing you all safety, health, and much love.