Thursday, February 6, 2020

Materiality of Exile

Ana Sanchez-Colberg and I have known each other for 35 years (since college) and Ana's residency in November was a 30th anniversary of the dance theater company we founded together in London in 1989. Ana has kept Theatre EnCorps alive over the years and has  taken it into new directions in Greece. 



Ana and I have been looking for a way to work together again and her current series of projects dealing with prime numbers presented the opportunity. Ana was looking for a project to deal with the number 11 and we were able to schedule time in November (11) of 2019. Her original idea for a desert project was to examine perceptions of the aging female body and the desert as sites of inhospitability. As I have been developing a focus on Unseen Faces/Unheard Voices, I asked Ana if we could build in an element of working with the local Latin community which makes up 24% of the population however is rarely seen in cultural presentations.

The resulting project, 1[-1] Materiality of Exile, saw Ana work with eleven local Latin women, creating "portraits" of them and the manner in which they work to make  inhospitable territory into hospitable. The idea was to create an eleven minute video for each of the women, in which material from interviews and movement exercises would be cut with Ana's choreographed interpretation of the woman's story. There would be several excerpt performances at different venues and a final installation in the studio at Boxo that would bring all the stories together. The project was awarded a prestigious MAP Fund grant and Ana arrived at the beginning of November to undertake the work.




I had to reach wide to find eleven women willing to enter into the unknown territory of meeting with Ana, undertaking movement with her and telling their stories on video. We offered compensation for time however recognized the challenge of the project. Luckily, by the time Ana arrived, I had recruited a group and exactly eleven women turned up for the introductory meeting. Following the meeting, Ana set to work. Luckily, a former student Dawn Schultz, arrived from New Jersey to work with Ana on capturing the stories and some of the footage of Ana dancing in the landscape.

All the sessions with the women were completed within several days and then Ana set to work. She set herself the grueling task of editing the eleven audio tracks, inserting original sound elements, and eleven video tracks, incorporating footage of her movements, and then bringing it all together. Along the way, she presented the project at an Artist Tea in the Joshua Tree National Park, and in performance at the Palm Springs Art Museum and Rubens Ranch in Coachella. Each woman had also created a memory box of sorts in clear acrylic boxes that were brought to the venues.



Toward the end of November, Ana created an installation in the studio using cell phones, mylar blankets and set of white clothing she had danced in to make each video. On November 30th, the final performance took place with Ana dancing all eleven stories in the outdoor field whole the individual stories could also be viewed in the indoor installation. Many brave souls came out in the 40 something degree weather to witness the work.




In parallel to this entire process, Ana had recruited eleven artists, including Dawn, who undertook parallel projects working in their individual communities. All of this can be viewed on the blog. The project also lives on in a tour of the installation which will be viewed next in Miami and and then in Palo Alto, TX. Future plans are being made to get the work to New York and Puerto Rico. All events were also live streamed and archived and the audience therefor extended virtually.



A huge thank you to Ana for bringing such an extensive project to Boxo and for the new opportunities for community collaboration that it has opened up.


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