The following is a transcript of an email interview in which I respond to a series of questions from Jorge, one of the cast members. He used the material generated from the interview for an article in In Dance, a Bay Area dance monthly published by Dancers’ Group, where Jorge works part-time. Similar to the blog, I have no idea if this kind of prepress actually gets widely read or has a significant impact on audience development or revenue, especially when the interview is not for mainstream media. Nonetheless, interviews, like the blog promotions, help me to collect my thoughts and get a picture of the process, of myself in the process that directly influences the making of the work. And it was especially interesting as a kind of mentorship dialogue with someone who was participating in the work as a way of studying the choreographic/dramaturgical process.
Why did you decide to do a piece about Juvenile Incarceration?
Major influences (artistic, political, etc) in developing this piece? (this may be too broad as stated here)
You are one of the leading experimenters in contemporary performance in the Bay Area, are there any new challenges you are presenting yourself in creating this piece? In the process or in the actual show?
Goals and challenges in casting this piece? What were you looking for?
Getting black youth into the project. The city, the arts and dance communities, my life, are all so segregated that even reaching directly to African Americans who work with youth did not lead to any participants contacting me. Genres of performance are also very segregated and my work - postmodern dance, experimental performance, contemporary circus - are all marked as white, i.e., they are not marked as culturally specific or ethnically specific contexts. Most of the black artists in the bay area are working in these specific forms and contexts. Hip hop, which is both multicultural and international, can be an integrated space - especially when the teacher/choreographer is not Black.
I wanted to work with a range of ages and yet still call it a youth/young adult project, so I capped the age at 24.... as if 25 is some kind of line. I wanted to interrupt the division between high school and college aged artists and people. I wanted diverse performance genres and life experiences. I wanted a minority white.
Have you worked with youth before? in performance?
†I remember you telling us that you used to work as a supervisor for juvenile delinquents during their "supervised work" days. †Did you learn anything then that you keep with you today as you develop this piece?
This was my actual direct introduction to systematic racism in the US. I had just moved to the States and although I had read about racism I’d had very limited experience. The lack of white youth in juvy, and the majority of black youth, despite contrary proportionate statistics in society in general helped me to wake up.
†How is it working with young performers? I think I am the oldest at 24, but I am half your age?
†What were you doing when you were our age? 16? 24?
I graduated high school in 1978. That summer I worked 3 jobs and then went to Europe. My parents had convinced me to go to college, and bargained to pay my flights if I did, so I did. I enrolled in a university in the east of France and dropped out soon after. I hitchhiked and touristed for a few months. I tried to move to Switzerland to be a ski bum but it was a bad year for snow and there were no jobs. I came home broke and got a job selling jeans in a mall.
In the summer of 1979 my dad got me into the International Labourer’s Union, which led to a job on a demolition crew, dismantling a uranium mine 90 miles from our town. I rode on a bus with workers who had been laid off at the local mine. 8 hours work, 3 hours commute. Everyday. Then almost every night I went dancing with Marie and other friends who had been in our little freak clique of social misfits at high school.
What are your goals for this piece? How do you want the audience to be affected/changed?
I want audiences to be more aware of the juvenile justice system, of the amazingness of young humans, and therefore of themselves and their own bodies. I want people to feel more implicated in the criminal justice system, to understand their participation - voluntary and involuntary - in the prison industrial complex and more. And I want to offer a group of young artists an experience that is inspiring and empowering.