Dear Mariana,

The last dance of yours I performed in was called Nocturnal Disciplines. There was this one move—I can best describe it as a durational hip swerving and circling / spatial zig zagging / internal digging. We spent many hours working in the practice of that action. You watching and directing, languaging the movement; me moving into and out of and back into the action—a kind of body unbecoming itself. Hips for legs / hands for eyes / fingers for eyelashes.

So in Originators when you say: “Dancing for Monika makes me aware of my shape in the world,” I am reminded of our time in the studio, and the way that making a dance formalizes and excavates this naive and crucial encounter between you and your cousin. In Originators, you tell us this story, and later restage the scene with Lydia, Elsa, and Kate as Monika’s stand-ins. We watch them watch you, dancing deeply to house music. 

Originators has me musing on the channels and pathways through which we view each other—what observing makes possible, and the fragile politics of who is watching and and who is being watched. Dance historian Susan Manning uses the term “cross-viewing” to describe the process by which “spectators [in a performance] may catch glimpses of subjectivities from social locations that differ from their own.” Originators presents a kind of poly-meta-cross-viewing. We witness the resonances of your observations—as I watch you dance, I see how you watched the Sonidero dancers, and how that watching allows you to move a new relationship to yourself here and now. It’s an ethnography that returns to and is remade through the body telling, the body in motion.

Writing this letter one week before Originators opens, I find myself occupying (at least) two positions simultaneously—a position rooted in the past of our relationship, and one pointed toward the future—a speculation on my role, and the broader role of the audience in the context of this work. I can predict that the audience will be specific—for instance, there will be many dancers, but most likely not any versed in Sonidero. What, I wonder, will my/our cross-viewing make possible? I think Originators is a story for us. 

With Love, Lauren


By Lauren Bakst for ORIGINATORS (January, 2016)