Monday, September 27, 2010

Dandelion at BAC - And Still More Reflections

This is from collaborating performer Julia Hollas:

Opting Out/Diving In
I hate competition.  There's something about the required and unabashed self-assertiveness in it, the will to prove yourself as "better" than another, that I find constitutionally distasteful.  My parents say that when I was little they taught me not to kill ants and have been watching the ramifications of that lesson ever since, from a declaration of vegetarianism at age nine, to marching in anti-nuclear protests in high school, to the (thus far) final definitive moment when I quit my degree program in college, declared myself an artist, and moved to San Francisco, from then on out to be forever involved in the "process" of art making.  A clear statement: I would not be climbing up the ranks in a high-powered company.

Why didn't I choose New York?  The better known dance mecca of the U.S., that's really the spot for a young dancer who wants to make it big.  Honestly, I went west because the vibe suited me better.  New York felt too polished and defined: a successful dancer in New York evokes an immediate image in my mind, and the process of getting to that image felt like it would be too cut throat.  I didn't want to refine myself based on external criteria of  what it meant to be successful as a dancer, I wanted to find out why it was impossible for me to not dance, and pursue that to the end.  The amorphous Bay Area dance community seemed as if it would support that quest more.

Competition: succeeding in it means both being able to pursue the idea of yourself as better than another and accepting an outsider's point of view of what is and is not valuable. 

So, as we entered in to a project based around competition, I immediately decided not to compete.  I opted out.  I didn't care whether I won or lost, but I was clear that I wanted to create a valuable experience for myself.  To me this meant creating a piece of choreography that had been itching my brain for awhile, diving in to the physicality and emotional content of the material I was given to perform, and using every opportunity I could to find a sense of center and focus.

Then I realized that, by opting out, I was doing exactly what one does in competition.  I was choosing myself. 

From then on I began noticing what came up.  I saw how others played the game.  How some people played by sizing up the other players, what they were making, how they could make their own creation different.  How some played by considering the judges, their aesthetics, what they might like.  Others play indirectly: a show of sportsmanship, while it could just be good sportsmanship, could also be a play to gain points for the behavior.  A complaint against circumstance, while valid, could also be an attempt to bend the rules in one's favor.  Deciding not to compete and just focus on yourself could be just a tactic to refine your own machinery for warfare.  Whether we know it or not, we all play, and we all play differently.

I did come away with an incredibly sense of clarity from the residency.  I spent the time diving in to my own process.  I found more ways than expected of choosing and asserting myself.  I won the creative competition and came up somewhere in the middle in the performer competition, facts which continue to remain relatively meaningless.  (Relatively... I am in fact proud of my win.)  I've found a bit of acceptance in the fact that by asserting myself, I will occasionally be, intentionally or not, nudging myself above others, stepping on some toes, and taking things for myself.  I live and struggle with my all-too-human selfishness.  I trust that the search for balance will be a rich one.

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