Search
  • Halle Mohr

EXPLORING THE SENTIMENTS OF QUARANTINE, YOUR PERIOD, ACTIVISM & DANCE WITH THE LADIES OF LOUD BODIES

Updated: May 31

Maria Blanco and Yariana Baralt Torres are fully aware that the personal is political. The idea that politics should not be discussed at the dinner table is not one that resonates with them. Even so, they are fully aware of the limits of spoken word. As Maria puts it, “when we say political things, people don’t have to listen, but they will look at what you’re doing.” Loud Bodies, a Chicago-based dance company started in 2018, is rooted in the idea that movement is a way of communicating without words. Words can be so easily misconstrued whereas dance is a neutral language. I got the chance to speak with them and (ironically) write some words about the work they’re doing at Loud Bodies.

photo: Emma Peterson. right to left: Maria Blanco & Yariana Baralt Torres


HALLE: I GREW UP IN A FAMILY WHERE IF YOU HAD TO CRY, YOU’D GO INTO YOUR ROOM AND DO IT INTO A PILLOW SO NO ONE COULD HEAR YOU. I’VE NEVER REALLY BEEN MUCH OF A CRIER AS A RESULT. HOWEVER, EVERYDAY SINCE QUARANTINE STARTED, I’VE BEEN CRYING AT LEAST ONCE A DAY. I’M NOT EVEN PARTICULARLY SAD, IT’S JUST MY EMOTIONAL RELEASE. HOW DO YOU THINK QUARANTINE AND THESE EXCESS EMOTIONS HAVE TRANSLATED INTO YOUR DANCING? IS THIS HAVING AN IMPACT ON HOW YOU MOVE AT ALL?


YARIANA: I’VE NOTICED THAT I HAVE VERY LITTLE DESIRE TO MOVE. I LOVE TO DANCE AND IT’S MY WAY OF RELEASING MY EMOTIONAL ENERGY BUT FOR SOME REASON, NOT BEING ABLE TO LIVE MY LIFE NORMALLY HAS TAKEN AWAY FROM IT. WHEN I WAKE UP IN THE MORNING, I KNOW THAT MY LIFE IS NOT NORMAL RIGHT NOW AND MY BODY JUST DOES NOT WANT TO MOVE. WHAT’S HAPPENING FOR YOU IS THE OPPOSITE FOR ME. BEFORE THIS, I CRIED ALL THE TIME AND I NEVER CRY DURING QUARANTINE. I’M IN PAUSE MODE. I’M JUST READY FOR IT TO BE DONE AND GO BACK TO CREATING AND MOVING.


I’VE HAD TO FORCE MYSELF TO MOVE BECAUSE I KNOW MY BODY NEEDS IT. I’LL TAKE CLASSES OR PLAY SOME MUSIC AND IMPROVISE, JUST MOVE IN WHATEVER WAY MY BODY WANTS TO. THIS WHOLE MOMENT JUST FEELS UNREAL AND MY DANCING DOES NOT FEEL THE SAME. IT MIGHT BE BECAUSE I CAN’T GO OUT AND GO TO THE PLACES WHERE I USUALLY CREATE, WHERE I USUALLY FIND THAT JOY. MY HOUSE IS DIFFERENT BECAUSE IT FEELS LIKE A PLACE WHERE I SHOULD RELAX AND NOT WORK. IT’S WEIRD.


MARIA: IF SOMEONE WERE TO ASK ME HOW I FEEL RIGHT NOW I WOULD SAY THAT I FEEL INDIFFERENT. NEUTRAL. I FEEL NOTHING. AND FOR ME, THAT’S ALMOST WORSE THAN FEELING SAD. AS SOMEONE WHO TAKES AN ANTIDEPRESSANT EVERYDAY, YOU KNOW THE FEELING THE MEDICATION GIVES YOU IS THIS CONSTANT FEELING OF CONTENTEDNESS. AS MUCH AS FEELING CONTENT IS AMAZING, LIKE YOU’RE NOT SAD! YOU FEEL GOOD! THERE’S JUST A PART OF ME THAT LONGS FOR THE WAY I FELT WHEN I WAS DEPRESSED BECAUSE IT MADE ME FEEL SOMETHING, AT LEAST FOR ME PERSONALLY.


THE QUARANTINE HAS REMINDED ME A LOT OF WHAT MY ANTIDEPRESSANT HAS SHOWN ME WHICH IS THAT THIS FEELING OF NOTHINGNESS, OF BEING BORED, OF HAVING NO INSPIRATION, NOT SEEING PEOPLE, NOT BEING ABLE TO BE PART OF YOUR COMMUNITY, ESPECIALLY CHICAGO DANCE WHICH IS REALLY BIG ON COMMUNITY, IT’S WORSE. IT FEELS LIKE I HAVE NOTHING TO LIGHT MY FIRE.


HAL: WHAT KIND OF CULTURE DO YOU GUYS HAVE AT LOUD BODIES AND HOW DOES THAT IMPACT THE CHICAGO DANCE COMMUNITY?


YAR: WE’RE STILL PRETTY NEW SO I WOULDN’T DARE SAY THAT WE HAVE A HUGE IMPACT BUT WE’VE BEEN MOVING TOWARDS HAVING ONE. LOUD BODIES IS TWO YEARS OLD IN AUGUST SO WE’RE STILL IN THESE EARLY STAGES. WE DEFINITELY BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER THOUGH. IN THE CHICAGO [DANCE] COMMUNITY, THERE IS A HUGE CONTEMPORARY SCENE AND THERE’S A LOT OF STRUCTURE IN TERMS OF WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO AND WHAT YOU HAVE TO LOOK LIKE AND HOW YOU NEED TO MOVE TO BELONG TO. I THINK THAT WE’RE CHANGING THAT. YOU CAN BE A DANCER WITHOUT GOING TO BALLET CLASS EVERY DAY. WE’RE BRINGING TOGETHER PEOPLE THAT JUST WANT TO MOVE AND GROOVE.


MARIA: I THINK CHICAGO’S DANCE COMMUNITY IS A GREAT PLACE FOR LOUD BODIES TO BE. HERE, IT’S ACCEPTED AND IT EXCITES PEOPLE. I DON’T THINK THAT WOULD BE THE CASE EVERYWHERE. I THINK CHICAGO HAS ITS OWN VALUES. CHICAGO EATS THAT STUFF UP IN A REALLY WONDERFUL WAY AND IS A GREAT SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR WHAT WE’RE DOING.


I ALSO THINK THAT OUR GENERATION, PEOPLE THAT HAVE GRADUATED AROUND THE SAME TIME AS US FROM COLOMBIA OR LOYOLA OR WHEREVER, THEY ARE ALL AN AWESOME GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT FEEL THE SAME WAY WE FEEL, WHICH IS THAT WE WANT TO USE ART AS A PLATFORM TO TALK ABOUT THINGS. OUR GENERATION OF DANCERS IN CHICAGO ARE REALLY COOL AND ARE GOING TO DO A LOT FOR THE DANCE COMMUNITY HERE. I’M HOPING THAT WE WILL CONTINUE TO SLIDE IN THERE AND CREATE MORE, EVOLVE MORE, AND GET MORE PEOPLE TO BE ON OUR SIDE AND WORK IN A SIMILAR WAY AS US.


YAR: AND BRING MORE SOCIAL DANCE INTO PERFORMANCE ART.


MARIA: YEAH!


HAL: SOCIAL ACTIVISM DANCE?


YAR: YES, SOCIAL ACTIVISM DANCE BUT THERE’S ALSO SOCIAL DANCE, THE DANCING YOU DO WHEN YOU GO OUT TO A PARTY. IT’S NOT USUALLY CONSIDERED “TRAINED” OR “TECHNIQUE” DANCE. WHEN YOU GO TO SEE DANCE PERFORMANCES THAT ARE TRUE ‘DANCE’ PERFORMANCES, THEY ARE USUALLY BASED OFF OF TECHNIQUE LIKE BALLET, JAZZ, OR CONTEMPORARY. WE’RE BRINGING SOCIAL DANCE INTO THE MIX. WE’RE ABSOLUTELY NOT THE FIRST ONES TO DO THIS BUT WE HAVE IT IN OUR WORK.

photo: Emma Petersen


HAL: WHEN I WAS DOING RESEARCH ON DANCE AS A FORM OF SOCIAL ACTIVISM, I CAME ACROSS THE PHRASE “CULTURAL TATTOOING”, WHICH IS BASICALLY THIS IDEA THAT ELEMENTS OF THE DOMINANT IDEOLOGY OR CULTURE WITHIN A SOCIETY ARE LITERALLY PRESSED INTO YOUR SKIN, LIKE A TATTOO. IT’S A PART OF YOU WHETHER YOU CHOOSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE IT OR NOT. WHEN YOU THINK OF DANCE AS A FORM OF RESISTANCE, WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT ARE PRESSED INTO YOU WHERE YOU’RE LIKE “FUCK THIS, I OPPOSE THIS, I’M GOING TO USE DANCE TO RELEASE THIS”?


YAR: EVER SINCE I WAS VERY LITTLE, I'VE BEEN A MOVER. MY MOM USED TO TELL ME STORIES OF HOW I WOULD ALWAYS BE MOVING, ALWAYS BE DANCING. THAT JUST SHOWS THAT SINCE I WAS BORN INTO THIS WORLD, MOVEMENT HAS BEEN MY WAY OF EXPRESSING MYSELF. SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS OF DOING IT. MY MOTHER, AND I DON’T BLAME HER IN ANY WAY, SHE WAS JUST DOING WHAT SHE THOUGHT WAS BEST FOR ME, PUT ME IN BALLET AND I ALWAYS FELT SO RESTRICTED. I TRAINED IN BALLET GROWING UP BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW ANY BETTER.


MARIA: YAR IS ACTUALLY A REALLY GOOD BALLET DANCER, WHICH IS FUNNY.


YAR: MY COLLEGE PROFESSORS WOULD ALWAYS BE LIKE “WHY DO YOU HATE BALLET SO MUCH YOU’RE NOT BAD AT IT” AND I’D JUST BE LIKE “I HATE IT!!!”. THAT STYLE OF DANCE MAKES MY SOUL FEEL LIKE IT’S DEAD INSIDE. IT’S AN OPPRESSIVE STYLE FOR ME, FOR MY BODY TYPE, FOR WHO I AM INSIDE, HOWEVER YOU WANT TO TAKE THAT. I’M A VERY SPIRITUAL PERSON. I JUST CAN’T EXPRESS WHO I AM THROUGH IT.


IF YOU’RE A DANCER, YOU HAVE TO TRULY BELIEVE THAT YOUR BODY IS A TOOL AND HOME FOR YOU. IT’S CAPABLE OF SO MANY THINGS THAT WE CAN’T EVEN HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF UNTIL OUR BODY SHOWS US. SOMETIMES I’LL BE IMPROVISING AND BE LIKE “OH, I’VE NEVER MOVED IN THAT WAY BEFORE”. YOU CAN’T KNOW UNTIL YOUR BODY SHOWS YOU.


THAT’S MY APPROACH TO DANCE. I TRY TO FIND THE STYLES THAT BRING ME JOY, CHALLENGE MY BODY, OR MAKE ME FEEL GOOD. THAT ALSO LEADS ME TO THE DANCE COMMUNITIES THAT MAKE ME FEEL SUPPORTED AND NOT JUDGED.


MARIA: I’VE BEEN KIND OF WEIRD AND KIND OF AN UNDERDOG MY ENTIRE LIFE. I’VE ALWAYS USED THAT AS A WAY TO PICK MYSELF UP BY MY BOOTSTRAPS AND KICK SOME ASS, TO BE COMPLETELY HONEST. I GREW UP, SAME THING AS YAR, JUST SHAKING MY ASS AS A 6-YEAR OLD AND MY PARENTS WERE LIKE, GET THIS GIRL INTO A FUCKING DANCE CLASS. I WASN’T ALWAYS THE BEST DANCER BUT I WAS SO FUCKING PASSIONATE ABOUT IT. I ALWAYS MOVED FORWARD EVEN THOUGH EVERYONE WOULD TELL ME THAT I WASN’T THAT GOOD.


I ENDED UP GETTING INTO LOYOLA’S DANCE PROGRAM BUT ONCE I GOT THERE, I TOLD “YOU HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO IN BALLET”. I ONCE AGAIN USED THAT AS LEVERAGE TO WORK MY ASS OFF AND GET TO A PLACE WHERE I’M ABLE TO REALLY KEEP UP IN A PROFESSIONAL DANCE CLASS.


A LOT OF THAT IS BROUGHT TO MY DANCE. I’M A BIG IMPROVISER BECAUSE I WANT TO MOVE HOW MY BODY WANTS TO MOVE. I’M ALSO A VERY INJURED PERSON AND BALLET AND THOSE TYPES OF STRUCTURED DANCE HAVE ALWAYS MADE MY BODY FEEL LIKE SHIT AND I’M OVER IT. I DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ANYMORE SO WHY DO IT.


I’M GOING TO MOVE THE WAY I WANT TO MOVE WHICH IS THROUGH IMPROVISATIONS, SOCIAL DANCE, AND HIGHLY SENSUAL AND SEXUAL MOVEMENT. THAT’S HOW MY BODY WANTS TO MOVE AND NOW THAT I’VE INDULGED IN THAT, I’VE FOUND THAT IS WHERE I FIT.


I ACTUALLY HAVEN’T BEEN THE UNDERDOG IN MOST CASES, I WAS JUST IN THE WRONG PLACE. THAT’S A BIG THING THAT HAS TRANSFERRED TO LOUD BODIES. HOW CAN WE REPRESENT PEOPLE, BODY TYPES, RACES, OR CULTURES THAT USUALLY AREN’T. HOW CAN WE REPRESENT THE UNDERDOGS?


HAL: SO YOU GUYS WERE BOTH BROUGHT UP IN THESE REALLY TRADITIONAL DANCE COMMUNITIES AND STYLES LIKE IMPROVISATION AND SENSUAL DANCE HAVE HELPED YOU BREAK THROUGH THOSE BOUNDARIES. RELATING THIS BACK TO YOUR PERFORMANCES, YOU GUYS HAD A SHOW THAT REVOLVED AROUND MENSTRUATION RIGHT BEFORE QUARANTINE. HOW DID THAT COME INTO FRUITION?


YAR: MARIA HAD ACTUALLY TEXTED ME BECAUSE SHE SAW THE DOCUMENTARY ‘PERIOD, END OF SENTENCE’ AND WAS LIKE “I JUST WATCHED THIS AND WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT”. I WAS LIKE "GREAT", WHICH IS USUALLY WHAT I SAY ABOUT ALL OF MARIA'S IDEAS.


WE STARTED TO DO SOME RESEARCH ABOUT HOW WE COULD USE DANCE AS A PLATFORM AS ACTIVISM. AS PEOPLE WHO MENSTRUATE, WE WANTED TO NOT ONLY CREATE A DANCE BUT GET OTHERS INVOLVED. WE FOUND THIS NON-PROFIT HERE IN CHICAGO CALLED ‘CHICAGO PERIOD PROJECT’ AND WE RANDOMLY EMAILED THE FOUNDER BEING LIKE “HEY, WE’RE TWO YOUNG WOMEN WHO JUST STARTED A DANCE COMPANY", AND THAT WE WANTED TO HAVE A SHOW WHERE WE COULD PERFORM AND COLLECT MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS. WE JUST DIDN'T HAVE ANY WAY OF DISTRIBUTING THEM. WE WANTED TO COLLAB WITH THEM WHERE WE COULD COLLECT PRODUCTS AT OUR SHOW AND THEN DISTRIBUTE USING [CHICAGO PERIOD PROJECT’S] SYSTEM THROUGHOUT THE CITY.


IF YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT CHICAGO PERIOD PROJECT, THEY’RE AMAZING, FOLLOW THEM. THEY COLLECT PRODUCTS AND THEN TAKE THEM TO SHELTERS OR SCHOOLS OR ANYWHERE WHERE PEOPLE DON’T HAVE ACCESS OR THE MEANS TO AFFORD THESE [MENSTRUAL] PRODUCTS ON A MONTHLY BASIS. THEY CAN BE EXPENSIVE. AS PEOPLE WHO HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ABLE TO AFFORD THESE PRODUCTS, WE DON’T THINK ABOUT THOSE THAT FIND THEMSELVES IN SITUATIONS WHERE THEY HAVE TO PICK BETWEEN BUYING FOOD OR BUYING TAMPONS. SO, WE CONNECTED WITH CPP, THE FOUNDER WAS DOWN, AND WE STARTED TO COLLAB.


WE WANTED TO BE A DONATION SITE BUT WE ALSO WANTED TO CREATE A WORK THAT SPOKE ABOUT MANY ISSUES REGARDING MENSTRUATION. WE DIDN’T ONLY WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE LACK OF ACCESSIBILITY TO PRODUCTS. WE DID THINGS LIKE CHANGE THE LANGUAGE FROM “GIRLS” HAVING THEIR PERIODS TO “PEOPLE” HAVING THEIR PERIODS BECAUSE NOT EVERYONE WHO MENSTRUATES IDENTIFIES AS A WOMAN. YOUNG PEOPLE THAT MENSTRUATE ARE STILL BEING BULLIED IN SCHOOL FOR IT LIKE SOMETIMES YOU’RE SMELLY OR YOU MIGHT BLEED THROUGH YOUR PANTS AND PEOPLE WILL MAKE FUN OF YOU FOR IT.


HAL: I’M GETTING WAR FLASHBACKS TO SEVENTH GRADE.


YAR: FORREAL! SO YEAH, WE CREATED A PIECE ABOUT ALL OF IT AND WE HAD A LOT OF SUCCESS. WE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT BECAUSE THIS WAS OUR FIRST SELF-PRODUCED SHOW. WE HAD TWO SOLD-OUT NIGHTS, COLLECTED A TON OF PRODUCTS, AND HAD A LOT OF GOOD FEEDBACK.


dancers performing "Legalize Menstruation". photo: Hanako Maki. dancers from left to right: Simone Stevents, Kait Dessoffy, Kristen Donavan, & Marceia Scruggs


MARIA: IT WAS AN AWESOME EXPERIENCE. IT WAS FUCKING HARD BECAUSE WE’VE NEVER PRODUCED OUR OWN SHOW BEFORE LIKE THERE’S SO MANY DIFFERENT ELEMENTS THAT WE ENCOUNTERED FOR THE FIRST TIME. WE LEARNED SO MUCH. IT TOOK US OVER A YEAR TO GET IT UP AND IT HAPPENED RIGHT BEFORE QUARANTINE. FEBRUARY 29TH. IT WAS A LITERAL BLESSING, WHOEVER’S UP THERE BLESSED US.


THE ONLY THING I WANT TO ADD IS THAT LOUD BODIES WANTS TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL A LITTLE UNCOMFORTABLE. WE WANTED TO BRING A BUNCH OF PEOPLE IN A ROOM AND BE LIKE “LISTEN… YOU’RE GOING TO LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THEIR PERIODS AND AT THE END, WE’RE ALL GONNA TALK ABOUT IT TOGETHER. WE’RE GONNA STOP BEING AFRAID OF THIS THING THAT SO MANY PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT”. WE REALLY WANTED TO GO INTO SCHOOLS AND START PRESENTING THE WORK THERE BUT NOW THAT THIS HAS ALL HAPPENED, WE’RE NOT ABLE TO.


THAT’S SOMETHING WE’RE KEEPING IN MIND SO WE CAN KEEP THAT MOMENTUM GOING. WE’D HAVE TO ‘PG’ IT A LOT BUT WE WANT TO EDUCATE YOUNGER PEOPLE.


HAL: WHAT WAS THE LAYOUT OF THE SHOW?


YAR: WE HAD TWO PIECES. ONE CHOREOGRAPHED BY OUR FRIEND, WHICH WAS SHORTER AND THEN A LONGER PIECE THAT WE CREATED, THEN A Q&A.


THE Q&A WAS WITH ASHLEY NOVOA, WHO IS THE FOUNDER OF CPP. THE Q&A REALLY STARTED A DISCUSSION WHERE TALKING ABOUT PERIODS SEEMED COMPLETELY NORMALIZED, LIKE OUR DANCERS WERE CASUALLY TELLING STORIES ABOUT GETTING THEIR PERIODS AT INCONVENIENT TIMES. IT REALLY PERSONIFIED THE IDEA OF IT. HAVE YOU SEEN THAT SCENE IN BIG MOUTH WHERE THE PERIODS COME TO LIFE AND THEY’RE LIKE “I’M GOING TO GO FUCK UP SHARON!”, IT WAS LIKE THAT WHERE WE COULD USE HUMOR TO ENGAGE PEOPLE TOO.


THE AUDIENCE LOVED IT. PEOPLE WERE SHARING STORIES ABOUT THEIR FIRST PERIODS AND OTHER FUNNY STORIES.


HAL: OH MY GOD, I SOBBED. I WAS 11 AND I CRIED MY EYES OUT.


YAR: LITERALLY SAME BECAUSE I KNEW EXACTLY WHAT IT WAS AND I WAS LIKE NO, THIS IS TRASH. ALSO EVEN MEN AND PEOPLE THAT DON’T MENSTRUATE WERE LIKE “I NEVER EVEN THOUGHT OF THIS AND I FEEL LIKE I SHOULD KNOW SO I CAN HELP”. THERE’S A POINT IN THE DANCE WHERE ONE OF THE DANCERS ASKS “HEY, DOES ANYONE HAVE A TAMPON?” AND ALL THE OTHER DANCERS ON STAGE ARE LIKE “SHH, SHUT UP, DON’T LET ANYONE HEAR YOU” WHICH IS MAKING FUN OF THE FACT THAT WE’RE EVEN ASHAMED OF IT. BY MAKING PEOPLE LAUGH AT IT, WE’RE MAKING THEM THINK ABOUT IT.

“Legalize Menstruation”. photo: Hanoko Maki. dancers: Marceia Scruggs & Kait Dessoffy.


HAL: THERE’S SO MUCH SHAME ATTACHED TO THE IDEA OF GETTING YOUR PERIOD AND YOU GUYS TOOK THIS IDEA AND YOU RIDICULED IT.


MARIA: AFTER MY BROTHER-IN-LAW SAW THE SHOW, HE WAS LIKE “EVERY TIME I WATCH LOUD BODIES PIECES, IT REMINDS ME OF A CARTOON. IT’S SO WHIMSICAL AND WEIRD”. WHICH IS TRUE BUT THEN THERE’S ALSO THESE BEAUTIFUL, INCREDIBLY TALENTED DANCERS INVOLVED, AND REALLY FUN MUSIC.


IT NUDGES PEOPLE YOU WOULDN’T THINK INTO ENJOYING IT AND THINKING ABOUT IT. MY FATHER FOR EXAMPLE, A DIE-HARD CONSERVATIVE, CAME TO ONE OF OUR SHOWS ABOUT WOMEN’S BODY HAIR AND WAS LIKE “I LOVED IT!” BECAUSE HE THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY AND ENTERTAINING. I MEAN, MAYBE HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT BUT AT LEAST HE THOUGHT ABOUT IT, OR WHOEVER HE TOLD ABOUT IT THOUGHT ABOUT IT.

“Legalize Menstruation”. photo: Hanoko Maki. dancer: Kristen Donavan


HAL: THE MOVIE ‘BLACK SWAN’ SHED A PRETTY DARK LIGHT ON THE CLASSICAL BALLET SCENE. IT SEEMED HARSH AND INTENSE WITH NO ROOM FOR IMPROVISATION. WITH BALLET, IT SEEMS LIKE YOU’RE FORCED TO ACCEPT THESE TRADITIONAL TECHNIQUES RATHER THAN QUESTION THEM. YOU GUYS ARE DOING THE EXACT OPPOSITE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT TRADITIONAL FORM OF DANCE EDUCATION?


MARIA: IT’S RACIST!!!


YAR: (FLIPPING OFF THE CAMERA) IT’S RACIST AS FUCK. IT’S FUCKED UP. IT’S ELITIST. IT PRIORITIZES TYPES OF DANCE AND TECHNIQUES THAT ARE CREATED BY WHITE PEOPLE.


MARIA: RICH, WHITE PEOPLE. SO, WE WENT TO LOYOLA AND THEIR PROGRAM IS BALLET 5 DAYS A WEEK.


YAR: IT’S VERY ELITIST.


MARIA: VERY ELITIST BUT DON’T GET ME WRONG, WE HAD A GREAT EXPERIENCE AND THERE WERE A LOT OF POSITIVES. I THINK WE HAVE SUCH A STRONG FEELING ABOUT THIS BECAUSE AT LOYOLA, WE EXPERIENCED THE “YOU GUYS HAVE TO TAKE BALLET 5 DAYS A WEEK BECAUSE THAT’S THE CORE OF DANCE TECHNIQUE”. THEN THERE WAS YAR AND I WHO WANTED TO KNOW HOW TO DO HOUSE DANCE IN A CLUB, OR WEST AFRICAN DANCE. WHY IS THAT NOT A FOUNDATIONAL CORE? AND THEN YOU HAVE ALL THESE DANCERS WHO ARE FUCKIN’ PRIMABALLERINAS BUT CAN’T MOVE THIER BODIES IN ANY OTHER WAY.


YAR: AND YOU ARE BEING GRADED. THAT’S THE OTHER THING ABOUT GOING TO COLLEGE FOR DANCE IS THAT ALL OF A SUDDEN, YOU’RE BEING GRADED FOR DOING WHAT YOU LOVE. YOU’RE BEING GRADED ON THESE STEREOTYPES.


MARIA: EXACTLY. WE WERE BEING JUDGED ON HOW WE DO IN A BALLET CLASS AND I’M HORRIBLE AT BALLET. IT’S NOT GOOD FOR YOUR CONFIDENCE BECAUSE YOU’RE LIKE “WELL, MAYBE I’M NOT A GOOD DANCER” AND IT’S LIKE NO, YOU’RE JUST NOT A BALLET DANCER. YAR AND I HAVEN’T TAKEN A BALLET CLASS SINCE WE GRADUATED 2 YEARS AGO AND WE’RE PROFESSIONAL, WORKING DANCERS IN CHICAGO. DON’T GET ME WRONG, THERE ARE PLENTY OF PEOPLE THAT TAKE BALLET THAT LOVE HAVING IT PART OF THEIR PRACTICE AND THAT’S GREAT, WE’RE JUST TRYING TO SHOW THAT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE.


HAL: WITH INTERPRETIVE DANCE, YOU CAN BE GIVEN A PROMPT LIKE “THINK ABOUT A TIME YOU FELT _____” AND THEN YOU TAKE YOUR EXPERIENCE AND TURN IT INTO MOVEMENT. THAT’S SUBJECTIVE. HOW CAN YOU PLACE A GRADE ON THAT?


MARIA: DANCE IS VERY ABSTRACT AND SUBJECTIVE BUT IT CAN ALSO BE VERY ACADEMIC. YAR AND I LOVE THAT IT CAN BE REALLY RESEARCH-BASED AND THERE WERE A LOT OF CLASSES OUTSIDE OF BALLET AND MODERN DANCE AT LOYOLA THAT WE HAD TO TAKE SUCH AS DANCE COMPOSITION, WHICH IS CREATING WORK, OR DANCE PEDAGOGY, WHICH IS LEARNING HOW TO TEACH DANCE. AS MUCH AS THOSE THINGS CAN BE SUPER ABSTRACT. THERE’S A GRADING SCALE BASED OFF EFFORT AND HOW FAR YOU ARE WILLING TO PUSH YOURSELF. I DON’T THINK THAT OUR INSTRUCTORS WOULD BE LIKE “EH, I DON’T LIKE THAT DANCE SO THEY GET A ‘C’.”


photo: Emma Petersen


HAL: WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS FOR CREATING? HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR PERSONAL NARRATIVE AND TURN THAT INTO MOVEMENT?


MARIA: YAR AND I USE A LOT OF IMPROVISATION. JUST PUTTING ON A SONG THAT MAKES YOU FEEL A CERTAIN TYPE OF WAY IN RELATION TO THE TOPIC OR THING YOU ARE RESEARCHING. THEN, MAYBE IMPROV-ING MOVEMENT BY VIDEOTAPING YOURSELF, RE-WATCHING IT AND BEING LIKE “OH, THAT WAS COOL, LET ME BUILD OFF OF THAT”. THEN THERE’S MUSIC, WHICH IS SUPER BIG FOR ME. WHEN I HEAR A SONG I’M LIKE “YEP, THAT’LL PAIR WITH THIS SECTION, WHEN I’M DOING THIS STUFF”.


AT LOUD BODIES, IT’S VERY COLLABORATIVE. I’M IN THIS SPACE WITH YAR AND OTHER DANCERS IN WHICH WE’RE IMPROV-ING AND CREATING TOGETHER. THAT’S WHERE A LOT OF THE CREATING HAPPENS AND WHEN WE START DIVING IN AND RESEARCH WHAT WE WANT TO DO.


A LOT OF PEOPLE DON’T USE DISCUSSION AS A TOOL BUT FOR US, IF WE ARE DOING A DANCE ABOUT A TOPIC THAT HAS A LOT OF WEIGHT TO IT, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT. THERE’S A LOT OF DISCUSSION WITH EACH OTHER BUT ALSO WITH DANCERS IN THE ROOM


YAR: YEAH, EVEN BEFORE WE START IMPROVISING, WE HAVE DIALOGUE ABOUT WHAT WE WANT TO EXPRESS THROUGH OUR DANCE. WHEN WE DID OUR MENSTRUATION SHOW, WE DEFINITELY WANTED TO MENTION THE LACK OF ACCESSIBILITY FOR MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD THEM AND THE TABOO SURROUNDING PERIODS, LIKE GETTING IN A STAIN IN PUBLIC. WE LITERALLY WRITE DOWN TOPICS SO WE CAN MAKE SURE THAT CERTAIN THINGS ARE SAID OR SEEN IN SOME WAY TO GET ACROSS OUR MESSAGE. ONCE WE HAVE THOSE IDEAS, WE ARE ABLE TO START IMPROVISING WITH IT IN MIND. IT’S A THOUGHTFUL EXPRESSION.


MARIA AND I ARE VERY PASSIONATE ABOUT THE FACT THAT NOWADAYS, WITH ACTIVISM BECOMING POPULAR, THERE ARE A LOT OF DANCERS AND ARTISTS IN OUR COMMUNITY THAT WOULD CREATE A DANCE ABOUT A SOCIAL ISSUE. THEN YOU SEE THE DANCE, IT SAYS NOTHING ABOUT THE ISSUE AND THE PIECE COULD HAVE BEEN ABOUT ANY OTHER TOPIC. IT COULD WORK BECAUSE NOTHING WAS SAID.


MARIA: LIKE A PERFORMANCE ABOUT RACISM THAT HAS ALL-WHITE DANCERS LIKE HM, STRANGE.


YAR: BUT THAT’S WHY WE TALK A LOT BECAUSE WE NEED TO FIGURE OUT HEY, ARE WE ACTUALLY SAYING SOMETHING THROUGH THIS DANCE? BECAUSE IF NOT, LET’S NOT DO IT.


HAL: HOW ELSE DOES SOCIAL JUSTICE PLAY INTO YOUR PERFORMANCES? WHAT OTHER ISSUES HAVE YOU GUYS COVERED?


YAR: SO, MARIA AND I BOTH DOUBLE MAJORED IN DANCE AND SOCIOLOGY. WE’VE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL STRUCTURES, THEIR INFLUENCE ON US, AND THE INJUSTICES WITHIN THESE SOCIAL SYSTEMS. WE ARE INSPIRED BY SO MANY DIFFERENT TOPICS. EVEN THOUGH WE’RE SIMILAR AND PASSIONATE ABOUT MANY OF THE SAME THINGS, WE’RE TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE.


IN MY WORKS, I SPEAK A LOT ABOUT RACE, IDENTITY, AND CULTURE, LIKE CULTURE SHOCK OR CULTURES CLASHING. BEING A WOMAN IS A STRONG PART OF ME AND I KNOW THAT GOES FOR MARIA AS WELL. OUR FEMALE IDENTITY IS STRONG. WE FEEL VERY PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT WOMEN HAVE TO ENDURE LIKE HARASSMENT OR BEING TOLD WHAT WE CAN OR CAN’T DO WITH OUR BODIES OR WITH OUR CAREERS. I ALSO CARE A LOT ABOUT SEXUALITY AND EXPRESSING AND EXPLORING YOUR SEXUAL IDENTITY.


MARIA: A BIG THING IS ALSO SELF-LOVE. FINDING WAYS TO MOVE OUR BODIES THAT MAKES US LOVE OURSELVES AND FINDING WAYS TO EXPRESS THAT LOVE WITHOUT BEING ASHAMED OF IT. THAT’S ADDED INTO EVERY LOUD BODIES WORK, WHETHER IT’S NOTICED OR NOT. IT’S LETTING THESE DANCERS DANCE HOW THEY WANT TO DANCE, ACT HOW THEY WANT TO ACT, AND BE COMPLETELY THEMSELVES. A LOT OF IT IS ABOUT IDENTITY, FINDING THAT LOVE FOR YOURSELF, AND IT’S A BIG SARCASTIC “FUCK YOU” TO A LOT OF PEOPLE.


71 views

© 2020 Fun House Entertainment LLC. All Rights Reserved

  • Fun House Entertainment Facebook
  • Fun House Entertainment linkedIn
  • Fun House Entertainment Vimeo
  • Fun House Entertainment Instagram