In the Making: Social Animal Please Tame Me

Social Animal/Please Tame Me is a 25-minute dance work for an ensemble of dancers exploring consent, non-consent, consensus, and other collective decision making strategies as key elements of the compositional process. In Social Animal, I seek to examine and expose the labor of negotiation that is often embedded and obscured by group choreography. What does it take for the performers to move together as a group or pair? How do I create a frame to see the cast’s power and agency in their interactions with one another and me, a director who calls many but not all of the shots? The performance begins with an idealized image of collectivity: seamless unison, patterns that interconnect, and simultaneous action as if moved by an unseen hand. Interrupting this sequence, the group begins playing games wherein movers make calls that affect the rules of the choreography. They give orders, make requests, push and pull at one another’s bodies, listen for refusal/redirection, and use improvisation to absorb, resist, and address the accumulated affect of power-negotiations on their bodies.

    Social Animal engages with and critiques utopian or essentialist notions of consensus and consent. The scores that we are working with yield agreements that are unequal and contested as often as mutual. And yet, through many attempts and failures to shift the locus of power from one to many, I am tasting the promise of collaboration in new and exciting ways. The six performer-collaborators bring a wide range of training histories and personal experience into rehearsal, contributing and shaping the work as it forms. I am also engaged in research that fuels the work by examining collective dance practices from my own training history, collective strategies for political organizing, and drawing tools from feminist and queer communities that have developed and promoted consensual practices as a means to combat rape-culture.    

Performer/Collaborators: Raha Benham, Charli Brissey, Catalina Cabal, Grant Hill, Jen Lu, Diana Shephard