Kennedy Center Presents Local Dance Commissioning Project
September 19, 2017 @ 12:00am
“We’re actually performing that with 25 feet of hair…exploring what’s been woven into us over time.”
That’s choreographer MK Abadoo speaking to me about her new piece LOCS, premiering alongside another new work, You Can Play in the Sun, on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage this Thursday, September 21 and Friday, September 22. Abadoo’s new works are one-half of the Kennedy Center’s Local Dance Commissioning Project; the other, also a double feature, is from choreographer Kyoko Ruch. Her works, When Snails Collide and Erospace, run Thursday, September 28 and Friday, September 29.
Abadoo’s LOCS and You Can Play in the Sun draw on the speculative of Hugo Nebula Award winner Octavia Butler. She combines Butler’s speculative fiction with her own community organizing practice to create what she calls a “visionary fiction” that lifts up “the perspective and lives of the women of the African Diaspora.” Abadoo says what’s so inspiring about Butler’s work, in addition to her use of fiction to imagine different worlds, is that Butler generally has a woman protagonist of color.
“I was particularly drawn to the way relationships evolve within the group over time,” she says, referring to her focus on community organization.
For her, this practice isn’t knocking on doors, but bringing people together in an intentional way and asking what that organizing serves. She says though she understands the tension some of her colleagues feel, she personally finds no conflict between her job as an artist and her commitment to being an activist.
“Art-making practice can seem like it’s supposed to happen in a vacuum,” she says. “You go into the studio, then you make something and then you show the world.”
But Abadoo says that for her, as a black woman, “There’s no work that’s not politically or socially engaged – that’s just not possible or even realistic – based on the particular body that I occupy.”
Ruch takes a more playful approach to When Snails Collide, an absurdist take on notions of gender. The story comes across as a sort of through-the-gender-fluid looking glass, through the use of a “square-man” character who struggles to “find his feet.” The idea, she adds, is to draw the audience in by having them ask, “Whoa, what’s going on?”
Erospace is a collaboration with UK-based composer Scanner, who has extensive experience composing for dance, including full-length ballets for the Dutch National Ballet. Ruch discovered Scanner on SoundCloud a few years ago, and they have since developed a working relationship. She says she was drawn to his music because of the way it creates an environment.
“It takes you into another world,” Ruch says.
Scanner will use a modular synth (played by rerouting the wiring) for the piece, which will be projected onto the stage background. Instead of a dance solo, Ruch imagines the piece as a conversation between the dancer and the music.
“I imagine all those wires as a sort of play space for the dancer to move through, as if it were a giant playground,” she says.
Ruch plans to tour the works in the coming months, and expects Erospace will lead to larger projects with Scanner.
Don’t miss When Snails Collide/Erospace on September 28-29 and LOCS/You Can Play in the Sun on September 21-22. All performances are at 6 p.m., and free. The performances can also be caught on the Millennium Stage’s livestream, and you can check out Scanner’s work on SoundCloud and YouTube.
Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org