Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Art Catch: Studio Visit

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 2:30 PM

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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.

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