constructions began five years ago conceptually and has developed through multiple iterations to its current state. In that time, I never once considered that I would be completing my honors thesis under the conditions of a pandemic that has killed half a million Americans and millions more globally—a pandemic that would send us all into isolation, grief, and loss en masse.
The first exploration in the process was constructions:part one which was a piece for five dancers that premiered at the Peggy Theater at Hunter College as part of the Fall 2019 Student Showcase. I created part one under the structure of the Composition 2 class at Hunter, taught be Prof. Maura Nguyen Donohue, in collaboration with the dancers and with mentorship from Alberto del Saz. The piece was based on clearcompositional images, segmented vignettes that reflected passing interactions,and movement sourced largely from people-watching. I was interested in public and private spheres of identity, how we edit them in interactions with others, and the blurring of their boundaries. I used drawings, schematics, and timelines to build patterns and structure the work.
I began constructions: part two in February of 2020 for Dance Workshop, the final class in the creative sequence in the dance major. I planned to explore notions of sexiness, social expectations associated with sexuality, particularly for non-men, and ownership and agency of the sexual body. Just a few weeks before the piece was set to premier at The Kaye Playhouse, I had to completely abandon the work I had put in with the seven dancers I was working with as classes were suspended and the shift to remote learning began. I was kicked out of the dorm where I was living with three days’ notice and forced to return to my hometown of Watkins Glen in rural Upstate New York. I was, as we all were, isolated.
My Dance Workshop classmates and I changed course entirely from live, in-person performance to creating dance film and virtual performance within weeks which led me to produce a dance film called “Softly Shedding and Undressing,” essentially part three. This film was my first attempt at screendance and served as an invitation for an unguarded view of softness, tenderness, and intimacy. The film sought to simulate a moment the audience shouldn’t be seeing, though the gaze was in fact welcomed and desired, asking the viewer to bear witness to an intentional act of shared vulnerability. It was an exploration in romance with myself and taking time and care for delicacy and weightedness. This film was the last performance before before coming out as trans non-binary.
Several months later I began work with an incredible group of collaborators whose friendship, patience, and care I am deeply grateful for. Together, we have created a collection of 6 dance films that encapsulate themes surrounding queerness and transness as experienced and discussed throughout the creation process. In addition to this virtual dance film experience, I wrote a paper entitled “constructions:
Queer Dance as Embodied Abolitionist Praxis” which chronicles the personal, creative, and philosophical work that supports the dances you watch.constructions
was made possible through support from the Hunter College Dance Department andthe Mellon Public Humanities Scholars Program. So much gratitude to MauraNguyen Donohue for her endless encouragement and reassurance throughout the tumult of this creative process.constructions: Queer Dance as Embodied Abolitionist Praxis