Several years ago I went to Joe's Pub to see an evening of dance performances by a number of troupes and companies. I remember that Bessie Award-winning choreographer and dancer Arthur Aviles presented a lyrical duet with two naked men. I remember an ensemble of really young dancers "voguing" a re-interpretation of Madonna's "Like It or Not." And I remember a marvelously lean, muscular and flawless woman body emerged from behind the curtain onto the Pub's small stage. She delivered a very simple yet poignant performance.
In my present vision of the memory she appeared with either a small tiny dress, or perhaps really short shorts and just the right size strapless top, a huge black wig on her head, sunglasses that covered her eyes, and walked around sort of parading her extraordinary fitness. But all of a sudden she began to bark. She held on to her point. With calculating steps she worked her way to the floor, until she was down in her hands and knees and barking louder. Her enactment lasted enough to make people uncomfortable. I was marveled at her successful intention of diverting attention. This was not about her beauty but a daring investigation of juxtaposing premises. This was about her duty to explore and expand on the rational of movement and the purpose of being in space, how to be in space, or who to be in space. It was desperation. She was seeking something that I don't know if she found, but she at least went for it.
I never talked to her about that performance, but it made sense to me. I was pushed into thinking about my inadequacies, my artistic paralysis, the valor of claiming free artistic expression, and the rectitude of pursuing just that.
I speak of Noemi Segarra, the dancer, choreographer, improviser, mover, explorer, and artist who I introduced in Piso/Floor. She is an example, and a bright one, of a kid who took to dance, stuck with it, and made something of it.
I can tell you this because I know her for at least 30 years and can attest to the fact that she mastered technique. She got a handle on the language of ballet and achieved its difficultly and athleticism at a very young age. Along the way she delved into Latin dance and kept improvisation as a constant.
Her artistic arch as a dancer and performer is profoundly tied to her philosophical inclinations and socio-political concerns. The influence of her friend and mentor, pioneer dancer and choreographer, Merian Soto, solidified her academic proclivities and she dedicated to it with discipline, in her voyage of investigating dance and movement.
Last spring I saw Noemí perform again in De Rumbo de Rumba. De rumbo roughly translated means on the road, and de rumba usually refers to a party with lots of drums.
The audience sat on the stage. The seats surrounded and delineated a performance area facing out onto the real seats of the theater. In the center of the stage, on the floor, laid a small mattress. Right at the ledge of the stage was the drum area for the seasoned musician Henry Cole. De Rumbo de Rumbahttp://http://cargocollective.com/no_se/de-rumbo-de-rumba was rehearsed as a duet. She ran around us, she ran in front of us, she threw herself on the floor, and she exploded in movement in a silent conversation with Henry.
As I watched tears rolled down my face. I cried in gratitude, nostalgia, acceptance, and admiration. She was free. We were free with her. We trusted her bare in front of us. She also trusted us with her, like she knew that eventually who so ever did not know what was happening would turn serious and attentive.
It was a black box moment. A transmission of the body language to the observer seeing images of a being clutching to the sheet of a mattress, rolling back and forth on the floor, lifting herself up and jumping all the while having melody, lyricism, exhaustion and beat and pulse. Who has not cried with their sheets? Who has not turned desperate in bed? Who has not been exhausted? How many of us have jumped out of ourselves to demonstrate? And I mean any kind of demonstration, actualization, manifestation, and revelation...
There is no place to hide in dance. No character, instrument, canvas, lenses, or sheet of paper to hold you. The moment is the most important time, the only time.
De Rumbo de Rumba opened the door for el rumbo de Piso Proyecto. The proposal takes a transportable floor wherein a body in it, goes out to face the world encumbered by its external dangers but also prepared to be received.
Piso Proyecto is an examination of discipline. It is a confrontation with the uncomfortable persistence of the unknown. It is a work vision of experiencing the world through observation but in engagement with it, like a lotus on the pond.