In the Studio: Land/Home Journal 1

Photos by Keira Hew-Jwyn Chang 
So Land/Home is well on its way. The work is revealing itself to me as we continue to dive deep (as always).  I am so blessed to be working with a group of amazing dance artists: Peiling Kao, Sophia Leiby, Jochelle Perena and Nzinga Woods. For this piece I am interested in creating a "home" with my dancers on stage that holds all the beauty and complexity of what it means to be people displaced from the physicality of our homelands. 

Our shared physical location of home is the U.S. For me, I do not think we can be at home if we do not feel safe and valued. During the first rehearsal I asked my dancers the question: What are the myths we tell ourselves to maintain our complacency in the face of injustice in the U.S.?  This rehearsal was right after the announcement of the disheartening and upsetting Mehserle sentencing decision so we all had a lot to say. Some of the social control myths that folks came up with were:

-The Promised Land: The Christian idea that the here and now is not our home, but Heaven, the Promised Land, is our home.  
- I am only one person, I am powerless: My actions have no affect on the system. In this case, how do we expand our idea of power so that we understand “I” as part of a whole? There is power of the people and power of faith and practice.
- The U.S. judicial system is just:  We all know this is not true (ex: Mehserle verdict & sentencing), yet there continues to be an increased reliance on  prisons, policing and courts to ascertain justice in society. Why?
- Pick yourself up by your Boot Straps Mentality: The idea that if you are poor, for example, that it is because you do not work hard enough. In this case, there is no acknowledgement of the “boot of systemic and internalized oppression” on your neck that is affecting your ability to change your situation.

Each of these control myths do not recognize the insidiousness of structural and internalized oppression.  After this conversation with my dancers, I introduced them to Augusto Boal's Theater of the Oppressed image theater techniques and asked them each to create a freedom phrase and constraint phrase in response to our conversation using only one movement and sound/phrase idea. The dancers created their own phrases and also "shaped" fellow dancers. It was powerful to witness the truths about survival and freedom our bodies had to offer us. 

CLICK HERE to view a clip from an excerpt of a solo piece I have been working on inspired by black lesbian warrior poet Audre Lorde entitled Loving Audre Lorde is Like.... It includes movement material that incorporates my own freedom and constraint phrases.  An excerpt of Loving Audre Lorde is Like... will as be included in Land/Home. SJRH will premier an excerpt of Land/Home next Sunday, Dec 12 at CounterPULSE in SF, 2pm (it is FREE). Please come out to support as well as give your feedback about the work. The 30 min version of the work will premier in Jan 2011 at the Garage in SF, Jan 14, 16 & 27.  Looking forward to sharing it with you all.

With love and in solidarity, 

Sheena