Going into CHOP SHOP: Bodies of Work, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and felt slightly intimidated. While I’m not entirely new to dance, having seen performances like the Nutcracker, I still classify myself as a dance newbie; I’m unfamiliar with the movements and lingo. However, I was pleasantly surprised to witness an event curated for people like me, with the purpose of presenting “accessible, creative work from artists that want to share their stories.” Bodies of Work offered an introduction to dance through eight captivating performances by various artists—allowing the audience to explore both the medium and their feelings regarding each piece.
The first piece, Lauren Horn’s Text Messages, consisted of Horn performing impressively rapid dance movements. She would elongate her arms and legs, crawling across the floor while intermittently reading text conversations between herself and her friends. It wasn’t exactly the dance movements that appealed to me in this piece, but rather the concept behind it. The story that Horn told—of texting her friends in a manner that would be funny (or weird) to anyone but those involved—was one that I could relate to on a personal level. I’ve undergone similar conversations that could only be understood by myself and the person with whom I was speaking because of both the oddity of the subject, and lack of context. As a result of such reflections, Horn’s work influenced the audience to think about technology’s role in their lives and their composure when behind a screen. Horn addressed the juxtaposition between face-to-face and face-to-screen communication by embodying dramatizations of topics over texts and emojis (through verbal and physical cues) in her piece. Although there were times in which the conversation was not understandable, the sheer weakness of the pronunciation a result of Horn’s breathlessness while dancing, the piece left a lasting impression and sparked a pondering question among the audience about our use of technology in this day and age.
The Stone Dance Collective performs Eva Stone's Semi-permanent. Photo by Bret Doss Photography.
The evening was rich in movement, and I found the pieces intriguing, since they brought to life the stories of many individuals. But, the story that stood out to me in particular was that of Eva Stone, the event’s curator. The Stone Dance Collective’s work, Semi-permanent, explored (as later revealed in a discussion following the event) Eva’s struggle with impostor syndrome. Impostorism, (so conveniently defined in the beginning of this piece by a dancer speaking directly to the audience), is the feeling of being an impostor, crediting success to luck, feeling that you haven’t worked for success and are therefore undeserving of it. It is synonymous with a fear of being exposed as a fraud. The piece followed four dancers, (Lorraine Constantine, Julia James, Sarah Poppe, and Emilee Putsche), beginning with them sitting at a dining table and repeating a hollow conversation. Soon, they began to switch table settings and roles within the group, creating a sense of chaos. This part reminded audience members of the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland. Since the Mad Hatter is an infamous package of chaos, making such a relationship strengthened the themes portrayed in the piece. In the discussion, Stone described this part as a dinner table floating in an unknown setting, like outer space, with four women speaking but no one to listen—stagnation being a symptom of imposterism, this description seemed apt.
As the work advanced, each dancer felt carved out of their own world and misplaced into a certain somewhere, together, sharing mutual feelings of self-absorption. They were all isolated, but assumed that none of their peers were, just like many with imposter syndrome. This piece also depicted the sensation of disorientation and out-of-place-ness felt by those with imposterism. I'd never heard about imposter syndrome before this event, but felt akin to its tendencies: the internalized fear of being exposed a fraud. Although the syndrome is not one known to affect the majority of individuals, self-doubt does have a heavy presence in our society, and acknowledging imposter syndrome’s existence seemed to resonate with the audience. Ultimately, Semi-permanent shed light on the realities of imposter syndrome, the feelings of displacement, confusion, and fear felt by those affected, while also touching on the internalized self-doubt we are conditioned to undergo in this social-media heavy society.
CHOP SHOP: Bodies of Work provided a well-rounded entrance for newbies into the world of dance: it provided the audience with examples of dance, and encouraged them to further explore the styles they had seen. Its range of movements and unique stories, embodied by a collection of artists passionate about their works, allowed for the examination of meaning and context behind the pieces. Many of these stories, being similar to mine, ultimately provided me with a better understanding of myself.