Art Catch: Studio Visit

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12/09/2008 2:30 PM |

Art Catch is a weekly online column by The L‘s Patricial Milder. This week, a Q&A with dancer/choreographer Jordan Marinov.

On Halloween – feels like forever ago – before spending my night convincing drunk people that I could read palms ("yes, it’s a costume, but I chose to be a fortune teller because I’m psychic"), I visited a studio space near Madison Square park to see a dance preview. The pieces were excerpts, or interpretations of excerpts, from an art film Asphalt, Muscle and Bone by the photographer/filmmaker Bill Hayward, who is best known for his portraits (from Bob Dylan to Ronald Regan) of what he calls the "collaborative-self" of people in the arts.

Because we were a small audience of 11 – me, Eliot Feld, the choreographer’s mom (and her pumpkin shaped cookies) – the name of the piece, Intimacies, took on a whole new meaning. The performances are opening for the public soon, but since this particular preview was so small and the piece is a physical exercise in such extremes of romantic emotion, I wondered, as one sometimes does, what it was like to embody trauma and ecstasy within arms length of strangers (or worse, your mom, ew). So I asked.

Dancer/choreographer Jordan Marinov talks to me about the messy process of collaboration, sharing the stage with video monitors, and being very, very dramatic.

The L Magazine: Since you’re in the middle of these two projects – the
film and the live show based on the film – how do you take what we saw
on the stage and adapt it for film? What’s the relationship there?

Jordan Marinov: The main difference when choreographing for film is in
dimension I would say, because you lose the fullness of the movement.
You can’t rely so much on the presence of the performers, in my
opinion. Since it’s flattened out quite a bit, you have to be very
mindful of shape, of the way the movement is filling the screen. I
can’t really explain the relationship between the film and the live
show because one is more Bill’s project and one is more mine, but they
are happening simultaneously and they are interdependent. It is my
vision, and it’s their [Bill Hayward, Anna Elman, Billy Blanken]
visions and that is the beautiful thing about this work is that it is a
real collaboration.

The L: In this case, it made sense to have the TVs there and to have the
excerpts from the film. But, you know, almost every show I see has
video monitors onstage. It’s just something that people do now. As an
audience member it really affects the room a lot and as a performer, I
just wonder how you use the video, how it affects you performance. Are
they just props to you?

JM: I think it is really challenging to make that work. I think there
is a bit of pressure because people have very short attention spans,
they are used to media and they want media, so I feel like a lot of
choreographers feel pressured to add that in. We didn’t do it for that
reason. I have to say, though, that I don’t think the transition
between what we were doing and what was being played on the screen was
perfect in this go. I try to not view it as only a prop because that
creates a lot of disconnect, so I try to view it as another dimension
to the work. It is taking this art form that has been live, and only
about bodies, and it gives the audience a little bit of distance, which
people are comfortable with these days. The idea of voyeurism is
another thing we brought into this. I think the audience is challenged
with the intensity being right in front of them, and then I don’t know,
but I imagine it might have been kind of nice to have that distance,
somewhat, with the film.

The L: I can say it gives you a little bit of space, because you get
all that pressure from the performance. I’m actually really interested
in that part of it too, for you as a performer – how did the emotion in
this piece get so extremely heightened?

JM: Well I think the reason that the piece was so emotionally dense was
because of all the back work that we have done. It’s not as though we
created phrases and put them on the stage in a typical dance process.
This process was I think, unique in that it was really a journey. It
wasn’t so much just about making an 8-count phrase that looked good. I
created a structured improv based mainly based on shame and blame and
violation. We would videotape them and then go back and pick out the
pieces that we felt really meant something. And from there we created
our phrases. So that’s how it became so dense with emotion.

The L: I met your mom. She’s a cool lady, but still, when there are
people that know you and you are performing such an intense piece, is
that a strange feeling?

JM: It does have an affect. There is something about just having people
in the audience and not knowing them. It’s the anonymity: I’m just an
artist, I’m not your daughter, I’m not your girlfriend, I’m not your
sister, I don’t have to be anything else but this in this moment. And
we try to give it fully, every night, regardless, but I have to say I
found it more challenging when I knew people, and I think the reason
was mainly because of the small space. I don’t usually feel that way
with large audiences. Also because this work was so deep, emotional,
and also sexual and intimate, and having loved ones in the audience was
a challenge, but it was fun too because they got to see that side of me.

The L
: You did some acting on the stage as well. Why did you bring that component in?

JM: We added in the voice because we were trying to express everything
physically and we took it to a level where there was nothing else we
could do to each other – we had thrown each other around quite a bit,
we had had these sexy moments all this stuff, so what comes next? My
goal was to break the pattern of movement and take it into dialogue in
order to heighten the level of intensity even more. So then we brought
in the voice. Billy’s monologue was based on a poem “The Death of Me” by
Gordon Lish about "I wanted to be amazing, I wanted to be so amazing
but it is your fault that I’m not.." and how it is that you get into a
relationship and you blame the other person for your failures. I think
that’s a very interesting question and that is one that we tried to
explore a bit.

The L: It seems like you go through just about every emotion in this
piece. You even became violent at times. Is it safe to say these are
all parts of you?

JM: Yes, it’s me, but it’s also not me, and it’s kind of an interesting
place to be because I’ve channeled my life into this, but there is also
a line. I’m not just putting on the stage a story of my own experience.
The goal is to start with myself, and then channel a greater truth.
That is what Billy and I both try to do. If you start from a greater
truth, or you try to be more general in the beginning I find it’s very
difficult to connect to what you’re doing. There are deeper and deeper
parts that I’ve found, and that is a little scary sometimes, like whoa,
I didn’t know I could go here. But great, I’m allowing this part of
myself to be revealed, and in this culture, in these times, there are a
lot of parts of ourselves that we are not encouraged to explore, so for
me this is beautiful because it is a combination of both.

The next performances will be February 26-28, April 29-31, and June 23-27.

One Comment

  • Hi,

    I am trying to get contact information for Bill Hayward, if he is the same photographer by that name who did a photo shoot of Eva Evdokimova for Ballet News in 1983.

    Many thanks,

    Nicole Dekle Collins

    Dance critic