Genders & Sexualities on the Surface: researching the embodied experience – Kim Lasdon

The T&P Spectrum for this workshop is: , , ,

I’ve been investigating and researching a project called ‘lesbian bodies/contact improvisation’ with my local community (amazingly abundant with queer women!)  in collaboration with lesbian/queer women dancers in Ireland. Our investigations include dancing the ‘shadow of contact’ score, which was generated by and came to us from the West Coast/San Francisco contact community. In it, participants write their edgiest questions on slips of paper, in this case specifically regarding sexuality and gender, initially focused on questions of if and how our experiences and identities as lesbians/queer women informed or shifted our dancing or interactions with other dancers. These questions are shuffled and anonymously asked to dancers as they move. Dancers respond both verbally and with their movement. The information that arises from kinetic space, from bodies in contact, can be deeply surprising, reveal the unexpected and offer pathways into truths we weren’t previously aware of. We’ve videoed and audio-recorded some of our research. Some of us offered a performance of it at Mazopalooza, a CI festival in Mazomanie, WI in January 2011.

I would like to bring this exploration to a wider community (across genders and sexualities), using this score as a method to research gender and sexuality as we move, dance and find words. Coming from a queer-centric and kinetic perspective, this research offers gifts and depth to all of us. For me, gathering experience and information from a wide spectrum of people will deepen the research (and it will be fun!). During our time, if participants desire, we can play with variations on the score (i.e. same sex scores, all queer score, etc). I am happy to work the malleability of the score and with the collective curiosities of the group. Performance of the score is certainly possible

Read Kim Lasdon’s biography

I am including a series of questions and notes on responses that arose from the ongoing lesbian bodies/contact improvisation project as an example of where these explorations can go. This information is supplemental.

Questions from 12/5/10:

Is it possible to have two women dancing together in a way that could be read as lesbian without having any sexual content or sexual references? What is that way?

Is there a lesbian way of being? Is there a lesbian way of dancing?

How does identity arise in dance?

Gendered dance

How much of dancing as (the category) ‘woman’ is dancing as lesbian and how much of dancing as lesbian is dancing as woman?

If there is no fixed lesbian identity, or of there are so many variant lesbian identities, how do you make dance/performance of lesbian visible/readable in CI? Will it always be audience dependant?

In CI, if a wash of heterosexuality/heteronormativity is placed on everyone, how do we disrupt that as lesbians? Can the dances be queered, especially if our dance partners cannot read it? How?

Queer gender or queer sexuality? Are there ways to queer gender without queering sexuality and viceversa? What are they? Are there ways that lesbians queer gender in CI without queering sexuality in CI? What are they? How do our genders inform our sexualities and viceversa?

At jams (as in Madison) where sexualized energy is downplayed and discouraged, what part does a strong lesbian presence play?

Is there a difference between queer dancing (either male/female/trans) and straight dancing? What are the markers of these differences?

-bossy thighs

-being a base

-reciprocity (my turn to lift, my turn to ride, my turn to lift….)

Queer women avoiding each other in dance spaces due to fear of the expectation that we will be attracted to each other or that there will be an expectation that we *should* be attracted to each other.

Being ok to dance with the ‘otherness’ of another as queer. The quality of listening. Observation that it’s much more likely that a straight guy is not listening in a dance.

Lesbian identity has big contradictions that don’t really make any sense…so does CI.

Inhabiting a role and sticking to it. (tabletop)

Lifting into a pose vs. dynamic lifting; relationship to queerness

Tendencies and assumptions that are cultural markers but are not prescriptive or set to how a dance will actually go.

CI as a place for misfits and difference. Is this a queer notion? Is it our notion based on Madison or American CI? If so, is it a projection of our own queerness?

Lesbians are hard to read except by other lesbians. How much does it take for something to be read as lesbian sexual energy?

How much sexuality/sexual content has to be present when two women dance together before it would be read as lesbian? Would it be simply sexual or would it be lesbian? What other markers would have to be present/presented?

What about butch identities in CI?

What is ‘real’ lesbian sexuality?

Notion of queer sexualities as freedom from certain sexualizations.

As queers, learning when it’s safe to share and when it’s not. Does it lead to a specific deep listening?

Questions that were written as part of the “Shadow of Contact” score danced on 1/30/11. Questions were scribbled on scraps of paper and asked to dancers as they moved:

-are some types of dance more appealing to us as dykes, both to do, to watch?

-What part of your body do you feel your genders? What part of your body do you feel your queerness?

-How can the category ‘lesbian’ be visible without sex being visible?

-lesbian dance/gay male dance, why are there differences in visibility, type of work, etc?

-Where does your sexuality reside in your body right now?

-is sexual orientation the most embodied part of your identity, or dance a part of your identity? What about race, class, gender, etc?

-are there places/times in your life where you forget about your queerness?

-How does your class background affect you as a lesbian/queer dancer? Do you feel class in your body? Where?

- How would *this* dance change if you were packing/binding?

-Do you express/feel more of your genders/sexuality when dancing with other queer women than when you dance with straight men/women? Why?

- I don’t know what this has to do with dance but I’m wondering about the queer body as mother, the body of a child of queer parents with a “donor” not a father…?

-What makes a work (or a body) queer?

-When do you have an expectation that shared queerness will create a connection? Have you had times when it doesn’t?