The story of my newest project, Tundra, is part of an ongoing story about how I am trying to make sense out of the intersection of literature/narrative and dance. In the creation of Tundra, I started with a series of questions. What is it to be a woman in the world, alone? What is it to choose solitude? Does solitude turn into an exile from self, shadow self, or other? What does it mean to face ones shadow.
I turned to writing – as I often do – as a way to sort through these questions. The writing for Tundra grew, and started to take on the form of a story written in an old- English inspired prose. Simultaneously, I was working in the studio with movement.
I have always found writing and dance very difficult to integrate. Dance can be nonlinear, overlapping, and multi-dimensional. Dance can create a whole picture and experience without adhering to a linear sense of time. Beginnings and endings can mysteriously happen in reverse, and make perfect sense. Traditional written language is linear in nature.
I found myself struggling with merging the world that I had on paper, a half finished story about a sort of visitation of the shadow, with the world that was happening in the studio, in our bodies. I was very apprehensive about laying a narrative on top of the dance. Working across disciplines calls for a delicate balance, the right arrangement where one medium enhances the other, without overshadowing it. At this point in my process, the parts remained very separate, and I continued to think of the writing as a hazy backdrop that the audience might never see.
I made an initial draft of the dance Tundra in January 2007. I was utterly confused by it. Frustrated by my own inability to integrate and merge my ideas in a cohesive way, I wanted it out of my life. And luckily – life gave me a diversion; I was whisked away by Maida Withers to tour Russia.
Strangely enough, Maida took me to a personal tundra while we toured Moscow, and the physical tundra of Siberia. While in Russia I had a deepening of my own experience of solitude and land. I also found myself pushed to a limit, facing things that terrified me, and living in a sort of a barren and beautiful terrain (a terrain that I had psychically imagined as the world of my work at the time.) I couldn’t really escape. I suppose we never really can escape our thoughts. Through this journey, something shifted.
When I returned to the States I came back ready to finish my written story, and ready to take a different step with the performance, though I still wasn’t sure what that step would be. Shortly after returning to New York, in May of 2007, I was asked to perform informally at a Salon showing. I had no original sound score. So I decided to merge the written prose with the movement, and to allow the prose to be an integral part of the sound score for the dance. I created a score through the text and other found sound. For whatever reason, this was terrifying for me. I think I was scared to reveal too much, to move too close to narrative, and to lose the sense of mystery that I often try to cultivate in my work. Response to the performance was very positive though, and instead of losing its mysterious quality, people told me that it gained a whole new level of intrigue, that they were able to enter into the world in a more complete way.
Through the summer and now into the fall, I have been working to complete my dance/story. Using the story as the score, I am moving along creating it, part by part. I don’t know what it will be in the end, of course. But I am thrilled by this dive into the literary aspect of my work, and by the prospect of fusing these media together in a more cohesive way. It has also given me new fuel for other projects, new ideas about how I can incorporate story and narrative into my world of dance.
Maré Hieronimus is a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary dance artist, performer and teacher. Often working as a solo performer, Maré creates abstract and psychic landscapes, using the body in motion as the primary impulse. Her choreographic and improvisational performance experiments have been presented in gallery and site specific settings, including in NYC at Dixon Place, The Flea Theatre, Monkeytown, The 92nd St. Y, Solar One Powered Dance Festival, and Les Petit Versailles Gardens. Tundra can be seen this fall at White Wave Rising Festival October 31st, November 2nd, November 3rd, November 4th
originally published in Bourgeon Volume 3 #2 as: Finding the Dance Story: Musings on My Process With Tundra
by Mare Hieronimus