Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program



Maria Simpson

Abstract/Artist's Statement

None More Parted Than US

Fall 2010

Cast: Andrew Buchanan, Chris Chroucher, Sarah Cuk, Bianca Frias, Kalena Fujii, Ayana Enomoto-Hurst, Gwen Kaplin, Julia Meyer, Nadine Muniez, Rushell Reid,

Barbara Reynolds

Music: Dean Sharp, Carlos Valdez, and Hauschka

Vocals: Claire Baum, Keenan Houser

None More Parted Than US began as an exploration of the current themes of American nationalism. I had come back from my semester abroad in Ghana with a clear idea of what a nation with a strong sense of unity looked like, and I was curious if there was any sense of unity in our fragmented, seemingly apathetic nation. With the front page of the New York Times and my dancers as resources, I explored themes of power, assumption, and vulnerability as they relate to the United States involvement in war, immigration, race relations: in the time of Obama, the family unit, and the housing and financial crisis. While each topic is complex, I felt that each American is made up of the events that we witness or become involved in; therefore, I strived to give a complete picture of current American nationalism.

As the exploration progressed, questions of race and gender as they relate to themes of power, assumption and vulnerability emerged. I noticed that the cast I had selected was racially diverse cast without a majority. With the permission of the dancers I began to ask my questions about race in rehearsal. These questions became the central topic of this dance. I did not want to preach to the audience but rather I wanted ask them questions and ask them to look at themselves. This meant organizing my questions and themes in two ways. The first was to show the audience how everyone wished to be identified. In the same voice that we later hear calling out “Men, Latinas, Blacks, Whites” etc. we hear, “vegetarian, sports lovers, blonde” etc. We know that the dancers want to be considered as such when they run across the stage in response to a word. As an audience member you know more about the dancers and you see those adjectives as a part of them, even during other sections of the dance. By setting up the dance in this way, I wanted the audience to notice if they were aware when there isn’t a white person on stage, or if a group has one dancer from each racial group. I hoped that they would wonder if I had organized it that way on purpose or if they were projecting what they had seen in the other scenes onto the one currently in front of them. My desire was to heighten the audience’s awareness of when they noticed race and gender more than they noticed the bodies dancing or standing in the space. I was curious about how the audience would see one section when prepped with another; that was by my purposeful design, highlighting the diversity of my dancers by grouping them, versus having all of them as dancing bodies.

While these themes of minorities, segregation and witnessing came to the foreground of this dance, the other issues mentioned earlier (war, immigration, and the housing and financial crisis) remained. They were addressed through different means including: music, costumes, lighting and poetry. Each of these elements added another layer to the dance, so that I could address the many issues of America. The layers of text song and lighting that I added allowed the audience to see the issues of race and witnessing that I was questioning in the context of the American schema.

Civil Rd.

Spring 2011

Cast: Claire Baum, Chris Chroucher, Kalena Fujii, Ayana Enomoto-Hurst, Gwen Kaplin, Barbara Reynolds

Music: Genesis by Justice

The first half of my senior project dealt with many elements of American nationalism, including issues surrounding gender and race. None More Parted Than US asked the audience to think about how people (including themselves) witness others being identified by their gender or race. This dance also looked at many different types of relationships. As I began to choreograph Civil Rd., I continued to think about race, and specifically racism and how it influences our relationships with other people. In a lecture this year Bill T. Jones said, and I am paraphrasing, in order to discuss the general, one must discuss the personal. Listening to this idea I began to question how racist and sexist comments operated in the context of the family and the neighborhood and how that could be translated to movement.

I produced movement and movement quality by combining my experiences with those of my fellow dancers. We also wrote and discussed our own experiences of our neighborhoods, families and times that we have witnessed someone we know being racist. I also prompted discussions with my fellow dancers about the definition of entitlement, and about those who we feel operate as if they are entitled to something. I did this because those people we knew who made the bigoted remarks also seemed to be the ones operating on a sense of entitlement. From there we integrated the writings and discussions into the movement from a solo I had created in Ghana. Using the images, ideas, and emotions that had been cultivated in these writing we changed the way the material was performed. We also used the writings and discussions to create new material. Some of the material produced was gentle and considered while other parts of the material and its quality was disjointed, awkward, and constantly changing direction. Both qualities firmly defined the relationships we had with that person we cared for, but who also made us angry, embarrassed or upset because of their insensitive remarks. We are bound to these people in some way, but it does not mean that we are okay with their actions.

As I refined the construction of Civil Rd. the focus was also refined. I looked to find other places where we are bound to a person despite our real relationship to them. The family portraits became a pivotal moment because a portrait is just a moment, yet it lasts forever. Family portraits also interested me because the viewer cannot see anything that isn’t plainly stated in the frame. The people and their relationships are unknown and full of potential. As I shaped this dance I tried to preserve this disjointed unknown in the relationship of one part of the dance to another, as well as from dancer to dancer. In the case of dancer to dancer I molded the relationships through the focus, manipulation of others, and long pauses. I also wanted to tap into the potential to know more about the people in these portraits and how they relate to one another. I did this by showing the dancers in solos, duets and trios before and after the more central events as well as the ways the move through these events.

Through the many different families: multiracial, single parent, multi-generational, single ethnicity, there is still that person who makes us feel and act the way that those writings made us dance. The male dancer in the piece, because we so often discussed this person as a brother, uncle or father figure, has the subtle control over the logic of the piece. Revisiting old movements, and themes allowed me to become more specific and clear in my intentions and the way that I organize the work.

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