Sound Memory fast-forwarded (with added dialogue between Eva and Apollinaire)

About a year ago, a rough draft of Julian Barnett’s “Sound Memory” at the La Mama Festival jumpstarted all sorts of memories for me, and now it’s back in full: at Danspace Project this Thursday through Sunday.

The esteemed Eva Yaa Asantewaa, irregular Foot contributor, has a half-hour interview with Barnett here on her blog, Infinite Body.

I love Eva’s interview style–her engagement and clarity, the way she follows up on questions, the way she nudges her subjects along without ever betraying one iota of impatience. Julian Barnett, on the other hand, reminds me of the gulf that exists between the way certain choreographers (usually in a postmodern vein and usually under 40) talk and the way they dance and choreograph.

When talking, the most fierce and engaging of movers can be overtaken by a wayward vagueness, a tendency toward the most banal of abstractions. I’m guessing they’re trying to get their minds around something they know best from moving or watching others move, and English isn’t helping them. It’s as if they understood language as a repository for all that doesn’t have a place in the world, as if they’d never encountered an active verb, a concrete noun, a verb in the imperative or vocative mood.

It drives me crazy.

But I’m guessing “Sound Memory” in full will be a real trip, as people used to say. The last time, anyway, it took me far and near.

Postscript Monday March 16, evening (we had an email back-and-forth that yielded some insights…):

Eva writes: Thank you! Doing the “Body and Soul” podcast interviews has taught me that dance folks might just be in the early stages of learning how to verbalize their concepts and visions for a listening audience of peers, fans and newbies. They’re also just learning that this is a resource that they can use to their advantage. (How many forget to put links to their interviews on their Web sites or press materials?) So, I’m patient and working on faith that our comfortable interactions will not only be fruitful in the moment but also train dance artists in what’s possible and useful. Aside from that, I love hearing whatever they have to say. Some interviews are smoother than others but all put me closer to the artistry that I love and respect. Thanks for featuring this talk with Julian Barnett. I enjoyed and was very moved and inspired by your commentary on an earlier version of his new work–as I told him–and I look forward to his Danspace Project program.

All the best,

Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Body and Soul podcast

Apollinaire: I hear you, Eva, but I don’t understand the degree of fuzziness that so many dance artists seem to require of themselves. That’s the weird part: they seem to be working toward vagueness.

Eva: Specificity is not on the menu for many because they are, almost to a person, reluctant to direct the audience or provide answers in their work, let alone in a preview interview about it. I kinda understand that. At the same time, it makes my project a bit more challenging. I’m hoping most listeners will hear within and around what’s actually said.

Apollinaire: I think you’ve hit on it, Eva! They don’t want to prescribe our response. But they don’t realize how powerful both we and they are: that we’re not Pods, we’re not preprogrammable, and the dance isn’t something we read like a book, anyway; we move with it as we like, whatever anyone has said beforehand.

Eva: Yes, it’s such a powerful artform. Think of it: the basic medium is the body, the same body that the dancer lives in and walks around in and feeds every day. If non-dancers really stopped to think about that, really think about it, it might electrify them. I would think it might transform them and the way they live in their own skin. It’s really the spookiest art in that way. The daily and quite difficult honing of the body to deliver the energies and information of art: It’s a mission, it’s a shamanic commitment.

Apollinaire: Amen!

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. says

    I realize I’m a week (or year) late in joining this conversation. But I needed to see the piece and ruminate and wanted to add my quick n dirty two-bits onto what you both so eloquently provided. Note: my perspective includes the elusiveness of the choreographer and the interpretive tendencies of a critic and the – cough – authoritative absolutes of an academic – so I could contradict myself at any moment:
    – Many dancers don’t write esp. if they didn’t come through a liberal arts program. I always thought the one thing a liberal arts ed provided was the ability to write a basic paper. But even dance majors (and many MFAs) at pretty elite, expensive, private colleges are horribly unschooled in articulating creative process or providing descriptive language for dance. It’s chronic and rampant. We don’t spend a fraction of our time developing our written and spoken language, because we’re intent on the physical one. As if we couldn’t be multilingual. We’ve bought into a separation of mind and body. If we think or describe or write too much about dance, we’ll kill it.
    – That said, art is exploration. And art is a discussion. So, if I could concretely explain exactly what I was after, or wanted to say, or whatever – then why bother making art? We’re after the elusive and unknown. And, esp. when we’re inside our own work, we don’t know what we’re saying til someone else responds, and someone else responds differently and so on…
    – So, what am I saying? Dancers should work on developing their articulation about their process and their work, yes. But they can only go so far. We writers have to complete… mmm, no… we have to continue the dialogue for them.
    [Apollinaire responds]
    Maura! I’m so happy to hear from you. Welcome!
    What you say is very interesting. And I understand about being so inside the work that you wouldn’t even know quite what to say about it–you’re still not quite sure what it is. I talked with a choreographer recently who said, “It’s hard to talk about something that doesn’t yet exist.” And a dance doesn’t really exist until it hits the stage. But he ended up having quite a bit to say anyway–about why he was interested to make this piece that didn’t yet exist. That is, it seems to me that if choreographers just started wherever they were (not to sound too zen about it), they’d do fine.
    My question (there always is one): I’m not sure what the difference is between this belief, which you accept is a problem–“We’ve bought into a separation of mind and body, that if we think or describe or write too much about dance, we’ll kill it”–and this one, which you don’t: “So, if I could concretely explain exactly what I was after, or wanted to say, or whatever – then why bother making art? We’re after the elusive and unknown.” I mean, isn’t the same misconception governing both, that somehow talking adversely affects dancing and dancemaking? That if you could describe what you’re doing you wouldn’t do it? I mean, I could see the problem if you had to dance about your dance, or write about writing, but writing and talking is a distinct enough medium (with its own paths into mystery and elusiveness) that it would seem to me to be safe.
    And what did you think of the Barnett, Maura? Will you be posting a review somewhere?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *