My journey over the past five years has involved a very complex breaking down and re-organizing of my own identify inside my artistic life. As a dancer in Trisha Brown’s company, I was moved to see the power inside abstraction – to see the way the body can create meaning and image from line, shape, and energy. Trisha’s ability to animate simply human movement – and an architectured sense of space – has been very influential for me. Branching out from this tradition over the past five years, I have begun to incorporate elements of narrative, and character into my work. As an abstract dancer from the post-modern dance culture – this has been a difficult journey. What does it mean to be emotionally connected and expressive?
Three very powerful teachers, mentors, and friends have been part of my journey. In 2005 I met Bill Irwin – who has since become a very dear part of my artistic life and journey. I performed with him in The Happiness Lecture at the Philadelphia Theater Company and spent two and half months, 8 shows a week – experiencing the sheer inner wizardry of his art. On stage, Bill is electric – his wit, humor, nervous system working in concert – working with and against the moment – is located, dislocated, timely – out of time – you can feel his decision making – his free associative capacities tactile in the air. I met Bill a couple years before my father passed away – by the time we performed The Happiness Lecture – it became a very real part of my life that humor, joy, and transformation were necessary in my art making.
After working with Bill, I have begun to enter the underground NYC dance culture – studying primarily with performers, Archie Burnett and Benny Ninja – legendary voguers from the House of Ninja. For me, voguing is a performance art form about deep transformation and expression of identify, sexuality, and gender. It is a kind of rhythmic pantomime that uses linear, directional, oppotionally thrusting movement – through a freestyle composing of rhythm and space. It is about storytelling. Meeting Archie and Benny and watching voguers from the community completely changed my experience of dance. Through this form, I have been learning in new ways about my own identity and movement desires.
In designing this evening, I wanted to bring together influences in my creative process – to make my sources visible and create a dialogue that is transparent. In bringing together different dance cultures, I chose a theme as a point of entry – looking at the overlapping and diverging ways artists from varying backgrounds and styles use transformation and shapeshifting. For me, I experience all the invited artists as shapeshifters – fluid in their abilities to cross forms, gender, and culture. I am incredibly moved to have the honor of presenting my mentors, teachers, and inspirations!
- Cori Olinghouse