Interviews On Dance: J e l l o 6/12

This post is part of a series cataloging and responding to interviews I’m having with people across Chicago (artists, non artists, art enthusiasts, art un-enthusiasts) about their experiences and perspectives on dance. The project, “Speak! Through The Body, Uninhibited,” will use various artistic mediums to explore dance’s significance as a First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

“I’m a dance teacher and I had a very beautiful experience a few years ago with some of my students. They were in the fourth or fifth grade, and we were doing a ballet dance to an Echosmith song. The song spoke to being loving and being compassionate even though the world can be a very cruel and mean place. So, while we were sitting down talking about our performance quality for our ballet dance, we started talking about what it means to be compassionate, and it was just a really striking moment with these ten-year-old girls talking about the news.

…I just thought that was such a special, beautiful moment in our community, in a regular ballet classroom where we’re not just talking about smiling on stage or expressing ourselves, but we’re questioning morality.” – Monica Carrow

At J e l l o dances back in June, I kicked off “Speak! Through The Body, Uninhibited” with a live performance where I prompted questions to the audience about our relationship to everyday movement, codified movement and dance performance. Then, as audience members responded, I improvised movement to embody what they were saying (all to live, improvised accompaniment by Jacob Chaparro). 

That night, we had such a fulfilling conversation on dance and the arts that moved from our everyday lives as humans, to what it means and feels to be an artist, to how dance informs our understanding of humanity. I received such important feedback on the power of embodying words. In less than 20 minutes, a community had been established between strangers, all because people dared to speak their perspectives and experience those thoughts through movement. 

The past few weeks, I’ve been pulled away from making dance films because I had the opportunity to present a live work-in-progress as part of a summer open mic night. This opportunity allowed me to research what “Speak!” would look like in a choreographed, live performance format, and it also allowed me to reflect on the words shared at my performance with J e l l o. 

The piece is meant as research, meaning that when I create another choreographed, live performance for “Speak!” I don’t necessarily intend on using the same music or movement—although I may continue to incorporate some of the quotes in future work. This mini-project stood out as an opportunity for me to get my mind thinking about what it means to create choreography that interprets and comments on others’ words.

Take a look at the raw video from the open mic performance above to hear from some of those who spoke at J e l-l o—as well as a couple other interviewees—and to see dancer Sharidan Rickmon’s and my own reflections via movement. 

I don’t own the rights to any of the music in the piece, the music was for research and artistic purposes only. 

— Jordan Kunkel

Author: Guest Contributors