Text and Interview: Andy Fenwick
Video and Images Courtesy of Jessie Gold
If you weren’t able to make it to Roulette earlier in February, make sure you take a look at the video that Choreographer Jessie Gold has presented us with. Like everything else about the production it understands its own form, it’s intentional in its use of that form, and it innovates. Videos of this sort document a performance, typically attempting to duplicate the experience and perspective of the viewer. In this instance, however, videographer Video Dub Inc (Nathan Corbin/Tony Lowe), manages to weave in the performer’s perspective and the capture the energy that required to be a dancer in such a piece. Take a look, and I think you’ll agree.
Of course, while the video becomes very much its own thing, the immediacy of seeing the piece live is something special. It evolved through a year or so of work with the dancers Nikki Rollason and Elizabeth Hart, who are also both frequent collaborators of Jessie’s. The music and movement both begin minimally and crescendo, as the dancers fold in and out of postures that seem both impossible and graceful.
Jessie is in the midst of touring with Maria Hassabi, but we managed to catch up with her to gain a little more insight into her latest piece of choreography.
Can you tell us a little bit about Dance Roulette and how you got involved?
DANCEROULETTE has been going on for a few years now at Roulette. Roulette itself has a long lineage of presenting experimental and avant-garde music and dance performances before it found its home on Atlantic Ave. Dancer Jennifer Lafferty curated this program and invited me to be apart of it.
As a dancer, I know you’re in the midst of a world tour right now, and I’m sure this project required tons of time and energy. Is it a challenge to make space in your schedule and your mind for both your choreography and dance?
To a certain extent, yes, it has been challenging. The most difficult part was the organization of a performance that I am not in. There was a lot of planning and preparation going into this performance because I knew I was going to be in Minneapolis performing.
I started working on Untitled (FOLD) in the summer of 2016 in Miami with Nikki, one of the dancers, and working with Ivan on the music in the fall. Originally it was to be a solo. And, I started to see it more and more as a duet. The real challenge was rehearsing everyone separately. Nikki lives in Miami and the other dancer, Elizabeth, lives in NY who is a traveling artist as well.
In the end it all worked out fine and I think maybe even added something to the dancing. I was rehearsing one on one with Nikki in the summer and one on one with Elizabeth in the winter. It wasn’t until December that we all were able to get together to rehearse. They rehearsed on their own in NY without me before the performance.
The last time I saw you perform it was with Elizabeth under the name Hart of Gold; have you worked with Nikki Rollason before as well? And what’s the process of creating the piece with these two dancers?
Nikki was a dance idol of mine in high school. We both attended New World School of the Arts for dance in Miami and I always admired her dancing. Her honesty and openness to movement is ceaselessly refreshing. Nikki, Elizabeth and I performed together in Naomi Fisher’s film and performance “Vizcaya” in 2011 so we all already have had an ongoing dance/performance dialogue for a few years now. Elizabeth and I have been collaborating together since 2006. We’ve continuously made performance oriented works together in so many different iterations, this piece is a new one to add to our list.
There are two components to this piece. One being internal and the other being external. I have no idea if that really comes across to the viewer but in my process that is how I ended up orchestrating their parts.
Nikki is the internal component. Internal in the sense that she has a lot to focus on because her role has a lot of rules. Part of her choreography functions as a metronome. Her movement is isolated to a designated area.
Elizabeth’s role is the external component. She is not confined to a designated performance area. She gets to travel the perimeters of the theater, moves behind the audience and moves through spaces where Nikki cannot or even where the audience cannot.
At a certain point in the piece the music changes and there are some similarities in their movement’s. They are never in unison with each other though.
The subtitle of the piece, “Fold,” suggest a kind of inward or collapsing movement. How literally do you intend the subtitle to express the kind of movement in the piece itself?
It’s very literal for me. The inspiration for this piece came from a picture I took of a foam mattress folded up, tied with a string, and tossed on a sidewalk on Henry St. It looks a bit like an human form folded into itself leaving no indication of which way is up or down.
I also wanted this piece to find softness in hard lines so that hard lines became soft or collapsable. Or, to take the human figure and make it’s choreography so soft that it is dealing with collapsing. I was thinking there aren’t many straight lines in the body. We can make straight lines with choreography, by making lines in space with our bodies but ultimately nothing is truly straight.
Both Nikki and Elizabeth’s movement are depicting two different versions of “FOLD”. Elizabeth’s limbs are continually folding into herself so that she is not upright, going right or left, just finding more places to fold physically (she is representative of that folded up foam I took a pic of). Nikki sets up the softness in the beginning of the dance with her gaze and simple gestures of movement. Her lines are constantly collapsing.
Ivan and I worked on making an abstracted waltz. Waltzes generally are counted in 3’s as down, up, up. The music is only giving the beat of the down without the up, up. The music is in 3 but after a while it creates a very internal tension because the only indication of the waltz is the first beat of the 3. I also wanted the underlying track to sound like the speed of blood traveling through a body. That’s the internal component depicting itself aurally.
Nikki’s arms act as the metronome to the waltz, keeping the beat, the 1 of the 3, while Elizabeth inserts accents to also keep the rhythm then floating back into her state of folding–Nikki has rules and Eliz, not so much. Something shifts or folds into a new perspective after a few minutes of this rhythm and underlying white noise. As a viewer you can’t help but follow along with the rhythm and internalize it because Nikki and Elizabeth are creating a visual image of this tension.
Support provided by Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.