Alice Gosti, Dance
Dance, especially choreography, is a never ending research process into one’s self and one’s understanding of the world. My project involves the creation, production, management, documentation and transmission of a dance/performance piece in unconventional performance spaces: airports. This project is about creating a performance piece that in ten days will travel from airport to airport all around the world. It will interact with a characteristic shared by all airports—the power to alter one’s perception of space and time. I am interested in juxtaposing the airport—a place where space and time are warped or even suspendedwith dance, an art form completely dependent on how we perceive the body moving in space and time. The idea of airport-dance, as a touring performance, is something that has never been done before in dance. During my research, I found a great amount of public art developed in airports, but all of it was visual, stationary; in some rare cases music concerts were hosted. The kinesthetic and visceral aspects of art are completely absent from these spaces. I think now is the time for this innovative research project. The anthropologist Marc Augé defines airports as non-places. With this concept he refers to places of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as places. Airports are like time warps, gateways of transition between places and time zones. When one visits an airport it is only to transition from place A to place B and to get to B at a set time after a set amount of traveling. There is no real consciousness related to the airport itself as a place. This sense of non-place that an airport generates has always fascinated me. As young girl traveling from Perugia, Italy to see my grandmother on the other side of the world in Seattle, I felt that airports were magical places, capable of generating an incredible range of emotions. The sensation of traveling around the world without ever seeing or stepping into it has always amazed me. For example, I can say that I have been in London once, but I have actually transitioned through London’s Heathrow international airport nine times in four years. These transitory experiences do not equal the experience of visiting London. This research process allows me to delve into the deep attachment and fascination that I have had with airports since my early childhood. My intent is to situate a dance performance, dance being an art form that can never be repeated identically, in a place that corrupts all sense of time and space. The audience/travelers will decide if they want to take the time to engage with the performance and watch it in that single moment, or to leave and continue in their traveling. The act of engaging with the performance invites to a more consciously constructed sense of time and space. The viewers will watch the performance, appreciating it in a different way because of the airport (non-place) venue. No audience member will be formally invited to enter the airport to see the dance performance. The airport dance audience will be completely determined by chance. I will develop a 10-15 minute solo work, exploring the idea of the airport as a non-place in relation to dance as an ephemeral art. To do this I will add the results of personal ethnographic airport memories. Although the solo choreography will be created in a traditional studio space, it will have to be continually adapted to fit each new airport site Upon completion of this choreographic phase of the project, I will travel from airport to airport, circling the world, performing this piece. All the performances will be digitally recorded. The recordings and all the information about the performance (including the travel and production logistics) will be posted on a web-site. If viewers connect to the page at the right time, they will also be able to see the video of the performance streaming live. To do this I will collaborate with two students from the Digital Arts and Experimental Media department, Jared Timothy Friend and Michael McCrea. They will travel with me, and work on the audio, video documentation and on the installation of the website. Those individuals who will be able to view the performance only through its web format will be able to perceive some of the differences that each performance presents by seeing the same choreography adapted to the physical differences around the world from airport to airport. Space and time will change, but not the essential compositional structure. Not only will the physical space around the performer change, but the hours of jet-lag, of uncomfortable sleeping, of air-conditioning and poorly circulating air will all play a fundamental role in the execution, perception and reception of the work. As the performer I will reach a level of exhaustion that will modify the dance from the inside. As one who feels ill but has to keep going and make the best of the day. This will be an experience in which I will be able to push my exhaustion boundaries. In dance, this type of performance would be defined as a site-specific work. It is the place, the architecture, the sounds, the people around you that inform your performance and its reception. Documentation of the performance sites is therefore essential to the understanding of this performance. This project has a great potential of influencing those that view it. As I have said, there are two ways that the audience/viewers will be able to engage with the dance: live performance or broadcast. The choreography is performed live in the airports to an random audience and it can be viewed streaming live on the archive, through the internet. Either viewing option brings dance performance to a new level vis a vis traditional presentation modes. Another aspect that interests me in this project is that there appears to be more security restriction for dance work, since it involves direct human activity, than for static forms of art. This performance is therefore deeply rooted in the concept of freedom of expression. Even in an airport one should feel free to express oneself if it is done not in a harmful way. Dance can be a very powerful medium. It is not merely entertainment as many people seem to believe; it is a powerful communicative art form. Dance has a very specific kinesthetic power, that (when used well) can generate intense emotions. As a viewer one is not solely left with the momentary pleasant sensation of having seen something beautiful. Instead one is left with intense emotions and questions that might never be solved, but that have generated a profound thought process. In my dance piece I will be working on the concept of airports as non-places. I would like the audience for my dance to feel stimulated and interested in understanding what the performance they are viewing is trying to address. My intention is to provoke thought in the audience. I would love to have viewers start thinking of where they are in the present tense, rather than where they will go next. For example, I would feel successful if I were able to make their transit in and out the Seattle airport something unforgettable, by putting dance and the place of the airport in a new context. This will influence not only those that will view the performance live, but also those that will only be able to view it in its web version. For those that are not fortunate to encounter the performance in their traveling, the video documentation will show a different side of the performance involving the relevance of the place itself, and how each airport space influences the performance outcome. The web viewers may think about this performance and have a different understanding of airports the next time they travel through them. It is imperative for this dance to be performed in airports because the dance itself is about airports. My intent is to enable people to see airports under a different light. Therefore this dance piece is not only beneficial for me; it can become something unforgettable for all of those that will be involved. It can become something that might change the view that people have not only of airports, but also of dance. It is my intention to communicate with the different airport authorities that I will be traveling through. At this time I know that in the ten days I have I will very likely travel through Frankfurt, Delhi, Bangkok, Tokyo and back to Seattle. I will work with airport officials to inform them about my project, and work with them in determining the best place in their airports for my performance to happen. In the event that the airports agree to my proposals, I will choose in each airport those places that are waiting areas behind customs. These would therefore be the most populated and commercial areas. My audience will be constituted by not only people in transit, but also people waiting for their connecting flights. In the event that the airports do not designate a space for me, I will still perform in those public areas that are right outside of the customs area. I will perform next to the check-in desks, or on the unloading zones just outside the airport doors. If I am interrupted by security, I will comply, but the videos and the documentation will include this interruption. This raises some interesting questions about the role of the airport in our society, a post 9/11 society. Since then, traveling internationally has become much more stressful and worrisome. Nowadays a traveler feels as frightened as he does protected by security. For example most of the airports stories I have heard in the last couple years as part of my anthropological studies, have involved unpleasant body searches. Last year while traveling to San Francisco to the American Collage Dance Festival, a national dance conference, with a group of students from the University of Washington, I decided to do an experiment. Close to our gate, I started improvising, many travelers and custodial personnel stopped to watch, curious about what was going on. I improvised for five to ten minutes and nothing harmful happened. The movement I chose for the choreography will talk about airports; therefore no offensive material will be presented. We will perform at every airport destination we reach. To make this project successful I have to find what I want to communicate to the audience as a dancer and choreographer. It is necessary to engage in deep movement research and choreographic analysis. What movement, what space, best exemplifies the message that I want to convey in the movement and in the entire structure of the dance? I want this dance to have a clear purpose, something that can be communicated. Mark Haim is my research mentor. Since his arrival in the Seattle dance community, his presence has been of incredible support and influence to all the dancers, choreographers and artists in the community. He is respected and honored all over the world for his artistry. His presence and experience in dance and choreography are critical in guiding me into the production of a complete, well conceived dance performance. Mark and I have spent a lot of time discussing my ideas. Brain storming with him has been necessary in my personal understanding of this project. For most of the actual creative process, I will be on my own. Mark will come in once progress is achieved to discuss its relation to what I am trying to convey. Betsy Cooper has been an important figure as well, helping me to understand the financial side of my project. This involves researching, writing grants and clearly expressing my vision. I am getting close to graduation and I am poised to work on a project that seems very complicated and challenging. When I first began choreographing (five or six years ago), I traveled around the world and had ideas of a traveling performance with a dance company that would entertain travelers in their never-ending hours transferring from one flight to another. Now I have found a poetic way to undertake in such a project, it is a work that will investigate and comment on how people live in certain places and spaces. I am ready to completely dedicate myself in an innovative and complex creation. It is amazing to me to realize how much I have already learned about all the aspects that are behind the development of an idea and the production of a performance. I have already learned very valuable things, such us writing for scholarships and grants, as well as choreographic tools and performance suggestions. I also have learned how it is important to talk and talk, to think and think some more about one’s ideas, while allowing the idea to develop and grow. This is why I feel that I cannot even imagine how much more I will learn from this project. From trying to realize a project that started as a dream that I always saw as impossible. I now know where to start, and what questions to ask. I want to be a professional dancer, choreographer, video artist and artist and I feel that I am getting closer and closer to knowing the way to make my dreams possible. To develop this project, I intend to do the following: • Research general airport architectural plans, books on airports, urban planning, and aviation organizations to understand as much as possible about how these structures are conceived of and constructed. • Navigate the web-cites of the airports we will be going to be able to determine the internet connections we will need to have for the streaming live. • Develop a choreographed piece using the results of my research, also using a collection of airport memories that I will gather using ethnographic methods. • Talk to the airport management about the project and how it can be facilitated. • Talk to airlines management and see if they would agree on helping with financing. • Plan the route of the trip and the time I will dispose of in each place I will land. • Work on a website in which all the information about the project will be posted, including pictures, videos and audio recordings. • Collaborate with a costume designer from the University of Washington Drama Department that will work on the costume knowing the poetic behind the piece and some of the choreography. • Collaborate with two students from the Digital Arts and Experimental Media department, Jared Timothy Friend and Michael McCrea, which will be able to help with the audio and video documentation and the website. • Work on a possible presentational form for the documentation in a way that the audience that will view the documentation will have a similar reaction to those that saw it in the airport.