Posts Tagged ‘Anne Bluethenthal’

Anne & ANDARES in El Salvador! The beginnings: Days 1 & 2

February 16, 2015

From November 17-24, 2014, cultural geographer, dancer, and Salvadoran émigré, Luz Mena, and I returned to El Salvador for our second trip developing Forgiveness Project: El Salvador, now known as, ANDARES! Join us in our journey of art and discovery!

Anne and Luz with Mezoamerika

    Luz and Anne with Mezoamerika

Day One – Monday

After a night of no sleep for all of our preparations, Luz and I arrived in San Salvador in the afternoon. We were met by Bart, a family friend, who drove us first to Gabriela Mena’s home (Luz’s mom) where we picked up a supply of food for the week and then on to our Air B’nB on Calle Madre.

Our first evening ended very early for me—a delicious repast of guacamole and fresh corn tortillas, checking emails, studying our translation-transcriptions of all of our interviews from our June visit, and then off to bed for me. Luz enjoyed a visit with her sister, nieces, and newborn grand-neice before retiring as well.

Day Two – Tuesday

Our first morning was devoted to more preparations, reaching out to collaborators, videographer, translator, etc. I am studying hard to recall our first visit, to cull the most salient aspects of those first meetings and conversations, and to sharpen my own focus as we attempt to dig deeper. We still are far from knowing exactly what the scope of this project will be.

I am holding out hope that the one collaborator from whom we have not heard, will appear—Roberto Quezada. Meanwhile, there is still much to do with our other participants—Mauricio, Ennio, Patricia, Roberto, and Godofredo. This evening, we have the honor of visiting Mauricio and Ennio at Mauricio’s home, where we will get to see the collection of antique, indigenous flutes, hear music, break bread, and discuss where to go next. (more to come)

Mauricio picked us up in his truck to take us to his home in. First, he wanted to give us a heads up about their new band member, Rene Muñez. René is a world class pianist and composer who was also on the front lines of the guerilla movement in the revolution. He has seen it all and suffered greatly. Mauricio wanted to warn us that he would be a bit rough around the edges and that although he wanted to participate with us, he would want a lot more clarity than the others have been willing to ride with. We talked about the necessity for some open ended-ness, precisely because I, as the Artistic Director, was not on the front lines. Therefore, I would work to be as clear as possible about the parameters of the work, but that conceptually, I would be absolutely working with the material that theses collaborators come forward with. We stressed the importance of more continuous communications, which are difficult across the miles.

Meanwhile, I am keenly aware of how that very distance that had been worrisome over the last 4 months had completely dissolved as we met, embraced warmly, and fell instantly into conversation as though we had never parted this past June.

Ennio joined us on our way to Mauricio’s home. Soon after, Rene appeared. This handsome young man bore no resemblance to the image I had been prepared for. He was warm and kind and keenly intelligent. Clearly a serious artist, he wanted to express how the content of our work was a very concrete reality for him on a daily basis, and that he wanted to know that we would give clear parameters for the work they, as a band, would be generating. It was a rich conversation, to which he had much to contribute.

We watched the promotional video that they had put together for their band, Mezoamerica. Their specialty is the pre-hispanic flutes, made by indigenous Mayan-Lenca people of El Salvador. These flutes are so precious that they will need special governmental approval to take them out of the country.

I also showed them footage of my choreography from Unsing the Song, a piece I made as another international collaboration on genocide, in 2006. Then, we had the extreme honor and pleasure of hearing Mauricio and Ennio play us music from the flutes, as well as their drums, which they pulled from some corner of their modest apartment. Absolutely mesmerizing and heart opening sound.

We returned home moved, inspired, and deep into the next stages of formulating this project.


“Sailing Away” with Joanna Haigood

June 23, 2013
Amara Tabor-Smith is launching her epic, moving tribute to Ed Mock today! Which reminded me of this 2012 work of Joanna Haigood’s that I responded to but never posted. So here it is. See you on the street! And my next blog will no doubt be for Amara!
17 Reasons Sign


Walking down 17th Street from Dolores toward South Van Ness in San Francisco, I can still see the great 17 REASONS sign that framed that passage for over 70 years. It’s been gone since May 2002, yet its presence still reverberates for me as I travel my usual mission routes toward various dance and theater events. The memory of a place echoes into landscapes even long ago transformed, rebuilt, excavated.

Memories of my toddler daughter return vividly as I walk past Dolores Park. The retired treacherous high swings and metal apparatus atop the bare ground are visible to me even through the beautifully renovated playground, equipped with state of the art flooring and safety features. We watched our children on those archaic climbing structures with fervent prayers and futile outstretched arms as they risked their lives in innocent play.

What happens to the old landscapes and all that they witnessed? Pieces of life lived in the old footprint seem to speak through new edifices like juxtaposed and simultaneous realities.

The house in which I raised my daughter was recently demolished. It will soon be replaced by a multi-use high rise with a whole foods market on the ground floor. I imagine the foundation to contain the remains of our beloved cat, Pablo and my daughter’s various plastic animals that were ceremoniously buried in the little patch of ground we called a back yard.

Photograph of "Sailing Away"

Photograph of “Sailing Away”

I was thinking about these things as I walked down Market Street today from Powell to Battery with Joanna Haigood’s Zaccho Dance Theatre in their powerful moving tableau-performance event, Sailing Away. The historical, site specific piece tells the story of eight prominent African Americans who lived and worked near Market Street during the mid-nineteenth century and of the events leading up to the mass exodus of African Americans from San Francisco in 1858.

I’ve watched Haigood’s work develop over 25 years. Her current statuesque profile holds the image for me of her lithe young body floating and flying among various aerial apparati, creating mesmerizing visual illusions and dramatic, even breath-taking imagery. I have long considered her performances to be at least as much visual exhibition as theatrical performance. She has become fluent, even eloquent in her ability to capture an entire short story in a few spare images. She is queen of the spare, striking, and eloquent existing inside the grand, passionate, and daring.

In a culture of rapid-fire, high impact, multi-layered aesthetic norms, Zaccho’s rich, spacious performances are a welcomed respite, allowing us to move toward her images, inside them, to enjoy the architectural as well as the characterological. Far from throwing a bunch of dance movement at an idea, Haigood allows the nuanced, carefully and mindfully selected dance elements to grow simply and subtly out of stillness, out of human interaction, out of the city-scape.

Walking alongside and amongst the performers as they silently moved from one historic site to the next, I felt as I always do but seldom stop to consider: I am living my current moment alongside all the ancestors that walked this same piece of land. I sense that they are near and among us, perhaps influencing us, inflecting our lives with traces of their own. This became an embodied, visible reality as the group of pedestrian viewers and passersby were cross currents, obstacles, and contrasting realities to the performers’ unfolding urban journey.

Sailing Away is a powerful and penetrating experiential journey of an art piece. It transports us to the living past. Much more gripping than being told about it, the images invite us to imagine ourselves there. How Haigood manages to make the simple swaying of bodies on the imagined ship transcend our stable stance into a sublime rather than clichéd moment is a mystery to me – but that she does. The superb performances of her cast (Bibene Byb Chanel, Antoine Hunter, Robert Henry Johnson, Jetta Martin, Shakiri, Raissa Simpson, Amara Tabor Smith, Travis Santell Rowland, and Matthew Wickett) skillfully maximize their startlingly beautiful and austere vocabulary into a stirring, disturbing, heart rending experience. I feel awakened and enlivened by it. I feel that I passed through the veil of time and got to live in those dual realities for 30 minutes. It was revelatory and surprisingly intimate. Thank you, Zaccho.

Watch excerpts of Sailing Away in the video below:

Yaroslavl, Russia Day Nine: Forgiveness Project Performance on our Last Day in Yaroslavl

March 27, 2013

Frances and I took deep breaths and fit so much into our last day in the Festival and in Yaroslavl, I kind of can’t believe it as I’m writing it. First, we visited a pristine, old monastery, then a scarf shop where I got souvenirs for those back home, a few other final purchases, another visit to that amazing café Anna took us to before…and lastly…our final performance!

Downtown Yaroslavl

Downtown Yaroslavl

It was such a tremendous experience and honor to create so many deep, personal, artistic, and professional connections with so many people, help create a dynamic, timely work that—according to many audience members—was able to transcend language barriers, and take in a city filled with so much history, in such a short amount of time. The comments on our performance from earlier in the week trickled in every subsequent day. Seems in spite of the difficulty of translating poetic and phonetically nuanced text, audience members were moved and very curious – requests to read the text were many – Both the organizers and press interviewers wanted to know more about dance that addresses “social issues.” This was gratifying – having the chance to have ongoing dialogue to deepen the work and to foster some more understanding and conversation.

Performing for the last time in the Festival marked both the end of our day to day, nearly hour to hour work with other artists, but also our stay in Yaroslavl… We barely slept and literally left at 2am in order to make it back to Moscow in preparation for our last day in Russia. (ANNE)

Amazing rush performing for the last time in Yaroslavl. Up very late. Gone at 2am! Very tired. (FRANCES)

Yaroslavl, Russia Day Eight: Rehearsals and Revelry

March 27, 2013

We had rehearsal on stage for a couple of hours… our forgiveness piece seems to be coming together and may possibly even be stage worthy despite our hastened rehearsal process. Lena and Anna took Frances, Véronique Marco, Alessandro and I to the old city, where we got to see some of the oldest houses. (They were lovely wood houses as opposed to the stone and stucco in our part of town).

Cathedral in Yaroslavl

Cathedral in Yaroslavl

The old city is surrounded by and known for its ponds; according to our translators there are about 8-10 of them surrounding the old cathedral. Currently, these ponds are polluted with chemical and human waste, but the city is also working on cleaning them as part of an effort to attract more tourists to the area. (FRANCES)

We spent most of the afternoon looking through the old cathedral – an exact replica of the one in Saint Petersberg – which is under reconstruction. The women were very pleased with how their churches – having been desecrated under Lenin – are being reclaimed and their families are able to practice their religions again. Lena and I walked and talked a lot today and she was happy to share more in depth than I have been able to, what her life is like, what the shifting political scene is, how the generations of her family have changed, and how they all feel about it. I was very grateful. And, we were once again exhausted.

Enjoying a boat ride on the famous Volga River, (Europe's largest river,) with Festival participants in Yaroslavl

Enjoying a boat ride on the famous Volga River, (Europe’s largest river,) in Yaroslavl

But we continued on, and were gifted with an amazing boat trip on the in the early evening – There was dancing and vodka and visiting with colleagues.

It was much fun. (ANNE)

Yaroslavl, Russia Day Seven: The Forgiveness Lab Continues…

March 27, 2013

On day four of Forgiveness Lab, Frances and I continued some separate directing and construction work. We’re working well as a team. I had figured out to use the music of Marc Ream, (a long-term composer and collaborator with ABD,) which fit perfectly. Joel created the score from student text – a weirdly simple, spare, haunting piece that Charlotte agreed to sing live for us. Dustin agreed to improvise two little duet sections with Frances – they are brilliant together; and Monaca agreed to join Véronique for another duet section in addition to reading my previously constructed forgiveness text. The pieces are falling into place miraculously and the students are extremely pleased with their work. Yay!

Finally a break...Anne and Frances sitting with the Festival and Link Vostok Director, Lisa First, in a café in Yaroslavl

Finally a break…Anne and Frances sitting with the Festival and Link Vostok Director, Lisa First, in a café in Yaroslavl

In spite of being a bit bedraggled after all that work, we followed the dear interpreter, Anna, to the local street market and to a few stores to purchase gifts. She offered invaluable information about our surroundings, the buildings, the people, etc. Then she found us a lovely café where we finally had some good strong coffee, SUSHI (yay!), and enjoyed the ambience of the town. The café had seating inside and out, with netted hammocks for whomever wished to rest in out front. Later that evening, Sonsheree Giles, Joel Brown, and Sebastian Grubb from the Axis Dance Company, Liz Lerman, Oleg Soulimenco, and a Russian dance company all performed in what was a beautiful concert.

In the midst of much teaching and performing, we are getting to know a lovely and richly varied group of colleagues from around the world. With us on this journey from the US are the remarkable Axis Dance Company folk, the amazing Liz Lerman and three gorgeous artists who work with her (Samantha Speis of Urban Bush Women, Ted Johnson, and Kate Freer all of New York City,) and Tamara Pullman of Los Angeles. New to me from NYC are members of the Urban Dance Collective: Royce Zachary, Stephanie Booth, and Cara Robino.) The Festival Director, Lisa First, hails from Minneapolis, along with Evy Muench, Heidi, Monaca, and Dustin.) There are Charlotte, Alessandro and his son Nicholas from Italy, and Jasmin Hoffer and Oleg from Austria. Meeting Véronique from France was especially exciting as she already is talking about future collaborations between her and ABD to take place in France. It has also been a pleasure to work with Francine from Holland and the Hungarian Ferenc Feher and David. (ANNE)

Frances with dancers, choreographers, and other participants in the Festival on the Volga

Frances with dancers, choreographers, and other participants in the Festival on the Volga

Yaroslavl, Russia Day Six: Forgiveness Project Lab Moves into Rehearsals

March 23, 2013

Today, I needed to shift the Forgiveness Lab from generation of material and deep conversation into construction, collaboration, and rehearsing. This compressed process leaves really only 2 days to construct and rehearse.

Deciding to turn the students’ texts into lyrics, I enlisted the artistry of Joel Brown, (from Axis Dance Company,) to compose something simple. Joel agreed – delightedly. I also pulled in Monaca and Dustin, (from Minneapolis,) to do some text reading and improvising along with the students. This really up’d the situation for the students, who would see the material they helped to generate being performed with professionals, etc. I’m delighted to have my colleagues engage the material and to be a part of this “process piece.”


We have been so busy teaching and performing that Frances and I have done little to no exploration of the city! Each day we promise to go shopping or sight-seeing, and each day the work seems to take over our time. We are putting in a lot of hours at the studio – and happily so. And, we hope to get some windows to see this ancient city beyond the pathway from hotel to theater. (ANNE)

Dinner at the hotel is often entertaining – if not delicious. On this particular night, a group of slightly intoxicated Russian socialites invited a few of us dancers on the dance floor. Much fun was had by all. After a few rounds of random improvisations, Anne and I found ourselves out there on our own and managed to do a couple of brilliant lifts, both of which took us totally by surprise – we are still wishing we could recall how we did them. I guess what happens in Russia stays in Russia. Later on the front steps of the hotel, where we went to cool off overlooking the river, the women came over to us and engaged in a high-pitched conversation across three languages. It was hilarious and no telling what was said, but we were having a blast communicating nonetheless. 🙂 (FRANCES)

Yaroslavl, Russia Day Five: Day Two of the Forgiveness Project Laboratory Workshop

March 23, 2013

On our first day, the student-artists delved into personal stories of forgiveness. Frances and I have been talking with other participants on the subject, teasing apart variations on meanings of the word, on conditions that allow one to forgive, on the connection between the personal, the global, and even the economic aspects of forgiveness. All this helped to inform the artistic conversation/process. Students wonderfully engaged in writing and moving and constructing from their personal stories, opening hearts right away to one another and to the subject.

Feminist Punk-Rock Band "Pussy Riot"

Feminist Punk-Rock Band “Pussy Riot”

There were big things happening on the front pages and t.v. screens and everyone’s minds: the recent arrest (without bail) of the Russian feminist punk-rock band, Pussy Riot, who had performed a politically/socially charged and subversive show in a Moscow church. Unlike in the US and internationally, there was not much consensus as to whether or not what Pussy Riot had done was righteous, wrong, ­­forgivable, or worth jail time. It was a heated subject that touched upon tradition, religion and faith, individual freedom, their values…It brought up more questions than answers and was a deep, powerful exploration into the complexities of both forgiveness and speaking about sensitive subjects that may trigger those around you.

Indeed, the most powerful moment in the workshop had to do with the tension among performers as to what the role of politics was in the artistic process. Using the theme of forgiveness, I encouraged everyone to speak openly across their differences and their discomforts, practicing forgiveness as a conversational tool. Forgiving ourselves for any lack of skill with words and forgiving one another for holding views we may disagree with. This was as profound moment of insight and release for the group and, stepping back, I had the privilege of watching them arrive at new insight together landing on the consensus that all is in fact both political and personal – A perfect place to continue our work!

Many of the student-artists emphasized how grateful they were to have this opportunity to dive into this issue in such a personal and constructive method. Through this deep diving, there was considerable generation of both textual and movement material. We will have much to work with as the week unfolds. I am touched and delighted by the work we did today.

Poster for International Festival of Movement and Dance on the Volga Performances

Poster for International Festival of Movement and Dance on the Volga Performances

No rest there. Frances and I ran right into tech rehearsal and then directly to our performance, working right up to the last minute with translations of our text and figuring out how to present them, as well as thinking and talking through the many layered meanings of the words and their cultural context. It is painfully clear that this is a deep and painstaking piece of work – it’s simply not possible to do justice to this in a mere two days.

Nonetheless, we had a gracious and appreciative audience. Frances did a brilliant job in her first performance of the solo, “Daughters Untold.” And we devoured a late dinner before collapsing into bed, knowing another long day was before us. (ANNE)

Yaroslavl, Russia Day Four: Forgiveness Project Lab Begins

March 23, 2013

Day Four was a long one! The second day of workshops continued with our first laboratory for the Forgiveness Project during which text and movements are generated. Anne and I were both moved and pleasantly surprised by the response of the participants to the tasks. It brought up insights to our cultural differences, approaches and responses to certain subject matters – in particular, forgiveness and how pain is harbored within. Today, we finally met Irina, our Russian translator for the duration of the festival. Stage rehearsals began, and we are officially in prep mode towards performance night. (FRANCES)

First Forgiveness Project Lab: Anne and Frances with dancers and community members

First Forgiveness Project Lab: Anne and Frances with dancers and community members in Yaroslavl, Russia

Rehearsal this morning led to our first Forgiveness lab, then right into translating my performance text, more rehearsal, more translation…I had time to slip into Liz Lerman’s workshop on the Critical Response Process, which was such a pleasure. After years of using Liz’s process both in academic and professional settings, it was lovely to witness Liz’s own introduction of the process and get to talk about it with her afterwards. Then, more translation, technical consultations with Heidi Eckwall (our Technical Director who is from Minneapolis)…finally, ravenous, a retreat back to the hotel for…potatoes and mushrooms 🙂 :(.

It was a long day – invigorating, provocative, intriguing, revelatory, and exhausting. I am hungry for more conversation about all that is emerging, about the insights, questions, challenges; eager to hear my colleagues’ stories. Specifically, Frances and I were touched by the emotional accessibility of the students – their willingness to give themselves over to the process, to allow themselves to have strong feelings without reservation or embarrassment or shyness. One lovely student acknowledged to me that we had taken her/them to difficult places and just when I thought her response was turning into a complaint, she thanked us for that opportunity.

Getting our interpreter 3 days late has been a real hardship to us. Not only were we more left on our own to navigate Yaroslavl, it meant that our performance text only had one day to get translated. With all of the dense language, metaphor, and cultural irony in them, I am doubtful the translation will work in performance. We’ll see. Tomorrow Frances and I will perform! (ANNE)

Yaroslavl, Russia Day Three: Festival Begins and Remy Charlip

August 25, 2012

Our festival kicks off with a downpour of rain, and a full day of classes and workshops.  Anne led an Alexander infused Modern Dance Technique class for a group of local Russian students and some festival guest artists.  We introduced a movement section for the “Forgiveness Project” to the class, as well, conducted interviews with some of our fellow artists, as part of the project research. (FRANCES)

First class: Anne’s doing dance philosophy in midst of technique class w interpreter 🙂

Knowing this morning my dear friend, Remy was to be buried made the day a bitter-sweet one for me here in Yaroslavl. His spirit has been with me as I overlook the Volga river and as I anticipate the workshops ahead and how I might incorporate his influence in my work. I let my particular anxieties rest, remembering his unwavering support and faith in my work. I miss him dearly treasuring not only the years we worked and made art together, not only the years of our deepening friendship after his stroke, not only the tears and laughter as we worked and confided through our struggles and victories these many months, but also the days and hours as he made his final transition, and also the moments after when we all gathered around him, and also the beautiful ceremony we had bedside, and finally the intimacy I will never lose with those of us who shared those moments, the way I feel he brought us together and bound us in the love he had given us individually. That he is flying free is absolutely clear to me. That his spirit burns brighter than ever is also clear. My tears are for myself as I will so miss my weekly visits – the most gracious hour of my week. Thank you so much, dear Remy!

Overlooking the Volga River, thinking of Remy

I have brought Remy up on several occasions here among my international colleagues. Always his name is greeted with at least one pair of widening eyes and several stories of his travels to the various countries represented here, of his sense of wonder, of his broad influence and his delightful spirit.

We kicked off the festival with a roundtable of dance artists from Russia, America, Italy, Hungary, France, Austria, and others – a beginning of talking across cultures and economies into the conditions and aesthetics operating in our dance worlds. Then I taught a packed modern class interpreted rigorously by Nastya.  The rain is washing the city now as I sit with the pleasure of that class and also with the memory of my friend.

Remy, I know you were so excited for this trip I’m on and would be thrilled to hear my stories. And, I’m sorry to not be there among your beloveds back home as they send you off in what I imagine to be a beautiful, elegant, and grand way.

Rita Felciano on Remy

John Held on Remy’s life and work

Tomorrow we begin work on the Forgiveness Project – the Russian chapter. More on this to come soon! (ANNE)

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