Shaped by Society
An MFA Dance Thesis Concert
About the Work
In the whole discourse of dance accessibility and my role in contemporary dance, I had to think about how exactly I was going to contribute to the conversion of Joe Shmoe from blissfully absent to moderately engaged in watching/talking about dance.
I began looking at my own training and dance aesthetics. I thought back to the 90s when I first started dancing and how I began to view the world through the TV lens. Lights, cameras, money, precision, and cold calculated greed all came to my mind along with the frustration of not having any of those things and being shut down by “the man.” There was this idea that only the privileged could continue to shape the style of having it all. Then there was the rebellion to that idea that was fueled by gangster rap and hip hop. The movement blended commercial hip hop choreography with the wild freestyle of breakdance.
All of these influences became my training regimes. I wanted to be all of those things and none of those things. So for my concert, I decided that it would be a deconstruction of all of those influences that, for better or worse, have created me as I am- a man ready to contribute to dance with athleticism, hip hop, and western world lines.
From this idea, I created my concert in 3 sections:
Almost 3 years ago, as I was looking to start grad school, I created a duet that had a pretty straight forward theme of money and greed. An overly bravado bass line from a popular hip hop album provided the audio backdrop for a mix of contemporary and funkstyles movement. I named the work “C.R.E.A.M.” in honor of the Wu-Tang Clan song from the 90s that used the same acronym. In the song, the acronym is explained to mean that “cash rules everything around me, CREAM get the money. Dolla’ dolla’ bill ya’ll.”
Fast forward to my thesis. I wanted to express the same sentiment in a less comedic fashion to embody the athletic aspects of commercial dance that I always gravitated to. So I dubbed this iteration of money and greed as the manifestation of those elements in dance for better or worse. My trio uses their extreme flexibility and choreographic precision to boast and showcase their status to each other and the audience.
The original name for this piece was “Debt” but it still explores the same emotional duress that comes with wanting what you can’t have. Or even worse, getting what you always wanted for a price. The movement is wilder and more charged by character than it is by set movement. When it came time to officially name the piece, I wanted to stay literal but I also wanted to find something worse than debt to describe the feeling. It was that driving feeling that made me push harder to train and become who I am today. I knew I’d never be a Prince in a ballet but it made me work my tendus that much more. I knew I’d never tour with Red Bull either, but it forced me to one day perfect my windmills. And some part of me knows that I’ll never own a Porsche, but that idea is also what put me in the direction of fulfilling my role in the dance world.
That worse idea than debt was bankruptcy but for some reason that word didn’t hold the same weight that I wanted. So instead, I did some research and found the form for the declaration of bankruptcy. That form’s designation is the cold description that I wanted: B2710.
This final section is where I finally enter the picture. The previous two sections inform these two character entities that accompany me in the work. They are the devils on my shoulders who whisper influences into my ear in a not so subtle way. Each one represents a different aspect from the previous two works to integrate their style and affect my own. Through it all, I still fight to retain my own individuality. For better or worse, I don't judge, advocate, or condone the way that the western world has created my dance aesthetic. Instead, I seek to present it without apology as a testament to who I am and how I contribute to the dance world.
Shaped by Society