Mary Margaret Moore, one of the main mind’s behind STANCE, answers a few questions about the creation of the journal and why we want to talk about dance, performance and the possibility of levitation.
What started STANCE? A conversation, a group of people, an idea, a dream, a combination of these things?
Oh yes, a combination of all these things. When I arrived in Seattle in the summer of 2010, I already was hungry to be engaged in discourse around dance and performance, both in consideration of the art form as well as the contemporary social and political context we participate in as artists. Much of my explorations prior to arriving in Seattle was heavy on practice and light on theory—I began dancing in Paris in ’03 by attending technique classes that I found intriguing. I’ve never studied dance in an institutional setting but found a desire to apply my study of art history, primarily of visual art, to an embodied art form. I later attended L’ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, a school of physical theatre, whose inquiry is based solely on practice and improvisation–no note-taking, no texts, only the evaluation of what we see unfold before us from our fellow classmates. I have appreciated the extremity of my immersion in practice, but it came time to find some balance. I must site my participation in Deborah Hay’s Solo Performance Commissioning Project in 2009 as a pivotal experience. She was the first dance artist that I had been able to work with that had developed grounds for equal and simultaneous engagement of physical engagement and theoretical/philosophical inquiry.
Since that time, I have been eager to engage with artists that are interested in discourse around what it means to engage the body in performance. After several weeks in Seattle, I began to ask around. Folks in the Seattle dance community were happy to point me towards people like Tonya Lockyer, Vanessa DeWolf, Kris Wheeler, and Sandi Kurtz, and sure enough, I found this community was ready and willing to toss ideas around and build an infrastructure for more discourse. In many ways it had already been happening for quite some time, especially with Vanessa’s programming at Studio Current, but it seemed like the right time to create stronger partnerships and expand access to the dialog. Simultaneously, when Tonya Lockyer became the new director of Velocity she developed new discursive programs at Velocity, one of which is STANCE. Stance has been a group effort, but I view Tonya’s move to Velocity as a major catalyst of all of it. Tonya is personally invested in writing about dance through the lens of choreographic culture, and it is important to her that this more academic dialectic remain present and current. For me, engaging in discourse seems crucial to my ability to create a thriving and relevant creative practice.
How did STANCE get it’s name?
I wish I could flip open an old notebook with many of my early notes about STANCE. It is sitting on my desk in Seattle right now, but I am in Albuquerque, so I will have to wing it. I am ALWAYS slow to name things. Several times I brought ideas to the Velocity team, let them weigh in, and then went back to the drawing table. We wanted the name to be able to do a lot of things at once. I wanted it to evoke both movement and discourse and, since we were dreaming big, be something that fit within a continental understanding of the English language so that the journal could easily fit into the global contemporary dance network. I can’t recall many of the not-so-great ideas, but “circumstance” was another idea in my list of ideas. Tonya suggested just going with “stance”, and when we took it to the Velocity office, it was a clear winner. It was short, and direct. They appreciated its reference to both physical posture and opinion, its rooted-ness in the very act of communication, as well as its lighthearted wink at a nonchalant pronunciation of “it’s dance”. And that was that.
What does the term “choreographic culture” mean to you?
This is a way of framing our evolving choices around how we think of the body in physical relationship with its environment. How do we read movement? What does it mean to us? What forces influences our choices around physicality and our relationship with space? There is vast territory here. I look at the world around me, consider that my work and life is heavily based on consideration of the physical body, and realize that while I operate within a network that is in inquiry around the body, we are a small minority in the context of the nation and the world. The more our work with the body can co-mingle and communicate with our larger experience as humans, as well as other disciplines, the more relevant our work is and will be. What is choreography? What does that mean outside of a strict dance context? Personally, when I perform in front of an audience, my strongest desire is that what they see will bring them into closer relationship with their own bodily experience. The concept of Choreographic Culture encourages me to see choreography at work in the world around me, macro and micro, and brings vitally diverse perspective to my own practices.
Who are some of your favorite writers, artists, musicians?
Ouf, I’m never very good at dropping favorites. How about an artist that I’ve just discovered? I’ve just encountered Nina Waisman’s work while in Albuquerque. We were both engaged to present work during ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Art), an annual touring conference that fosters exchange, collaboration and discussion between art, science and technology. For many years, she has been on a track of inquiry looking at technology’s impact on “physical thinking,” and more generally, the theory and movement tactics linking mind, body and sociopolitical space. Much of her work becomes an interactive installation in which others move to create and alter a sound scape, revealing the “subtler turf-wars fought gesturally and rhythmically between control and creativity in our increasingly scripted environments.” It’s really interesting work. I appreciate that the basis of her inquiry into our relationship with technology is the understanding that movement is an instrumental part of the “pre-conscious scaffolding of all human logic”.
What is your favorite fictional place? Real place?
My favorite place is both a time and a place, and it’s real, but not specific, and most of the time I have to imagine it. You can decide if that makes it fictional or not.
It’s standing barefoot on the hot dirt in New Mexico in late July-early June, in the late afternoon when the huge clouds roll in and drop their monsoon rains. It smells, feels, and sounds in equal proportion to the extremity of what it looks like.
If you could inhabit anyone’s body for just a minute, would you? who would you choose?
I’d like to get inside anyone else’s body! And I don’t say that lightly. The inside of the body is such an intimate place, that I imagine that everyone has their own unspoken language there. How long would it take me to get my bearings inside someone else’s body? Could I employ my own intimate knowledge of my body, or would it be absolutely foreign? I would love to know.
Would you rather be able to levitate or teleport? Why?
Levitate, for sure. If I could teleport, it would make all this moving and traveling I have been doing a hell of a lot easier, not to mention the environmental impact. But, it should take time and effort to travel great distances, right? Something of value usually happens in the process. How about drawing a parallel to the dancing body: Point A and point B are less important than what it is that takes us there—the unfolding of that transition, the body in motion. I couldn’t bear erasing the body in motion. Levitate? I spend a lot of time levitated in the eaves of buildings in my dreams, so that sounds like something I could get into.
What was the last performance you saw that moved you to tears and or laughter?
As I mentioned before, I have been in Albuquerque working on a project and I recently stumbled upon a salsa gathering in Albuquerque’s Old Town Plaza. There were live musicians and a small, but very healthy gathering of people of all ages. Everyone there was either dancing or taking a break from dancing, and that was it—there was no eating, no drinking, just music and dancing, and I was immediately enveloped into the gathering. When I wasn’t dancing I was watching dancing and when I was dancing, I was being watched. Sometimes, when I am particularly caught up in nitty-gritty of making dance a career, I so appreciate opportunities like these ones that remind me what dance does for us as a society, or community, or culture.
STANCE editor Syniva Whitney asked Mary Margaret to respond to the above questions and wants to thank her for her thoughtful responses!