CORE gives Atlanta a touch of France
Dance company presents two works that highlight the perspective of the audience as viewers of performance and residents of the city.
- Sue Schroeder
- HAPPY FEET: CORE dancers performing "Je Suis/I am"
With public spaces up for grabs as the more interesting alternative to a theater, it’s not surprising to stumble across a dance or visual art project outside one of the city’s notable sites. But this Sat., Oct. 18, and Sun., Oct. 19, some of the artists you might encounter Downtown or on the Beltline have traveled a little farther than usual to take to Atlanta's streets.
For the past year, CORE Performance Company of Decatur has been working in collaboration with the Toulouse-based company Association Manifeste on contemporary dance works that examine national identity, what it means to be an audience member or performer, and how that changes with location. CORE Artistic Director Sue Schroeder says, “When you collaborate across cultures, it is more of a commitment. It’s more of a commitment in resources, it’s more of a commitment energetically, but and, the rewards and the gifts are immense.” After rehearsing here last October and traveling to Toulouse this March, the collaborating companies are finally uniting to premiere two pieces with truly international perspectives.
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One of the works premiering this weekend, "Point of View of the Street Corner: The American Corner," and taking place at the intersection of Forsyth and Poplar streets will be the fourth in a series “Corners” created by Association Manifeste, in cities including Havana and Casablanca. In these corners, process and performance are intertwined: along with one dancer representing the perspective of the “home” country, the company members rehearse and create on the side of the street, taking inspiration from the movements of the pedestrians, as well as the specific ways the audience responds to dancing bodies in their midst. From what Schroeder has gathered from French choreographer Isabelle Saulle, Americans have a very specific way of moving.
“How we gesture, how we stand, how we move, how we walk, the intention of our walk — or perhaps the lack of intention — all of those things, there’s a very American way to do all of that, and it’s very noticeable to the French,” Schroeder says.
What exactly those distinct characteristics were she couldn’t say, but maybe that’s the point. Movement can communicate far more efficiently and intricately than spoken language, as Schroeder and her fellow choreographers found out during the creation of the second piece, "Je Suis/I am." Between Association Manifeste's choreographers Saulle and Adolfo Vargas, Schroeder and her fellow American Patton White, there was no common language. Often the mix of Spanish, French and English couldn’t cut it, but Schroeder insists, "with dance, the amazing thing is that if you can’t get it sorted out language-wise, you can show it movement wise.”
- John Ramspott
- CURBSIDE PERFORMANCE: Association Manifeste performs "Point of View on the Street Corner: The American Corner"
Again, the adaptability necessitated in the creation process seems like it will figure in the final product, as this "Je Suis/I am" will be performed in two very different locations, the High Museum's Mi Casa, Your Casa installation and at Historic Fourth Ward Park, as part of Art on the Atlanta Beltline.
“We remake it and reconfigure it depending on the site,” Schroeder explains, but adds that the challenge lies in maintaining the intent of the work, no matter what context it appears in to the audience. In this case the four collaborators focused on examining the very blurry line between the performer and the viewer. With no designated stage, and dancers in nondescript street clothes, Schroeder says “there’s this moment where it crystallizes for people, when they finally realize the performance is starting, and it’s curious for us to captivate that moment over and over.”
When her dancers went to France to rehearse, Schroeder says it was fascinating for them to see the different ways the citizens of Toulouse reacted to performance in public spaces: from an old woman who marched right through it, to cars that would jerk to a stop in the middle of the road to watch. Here in Atlanta, she says, we also have a particular way of interacting with site-specific performances.
“Atlanta’s unique lately, just in the last half dozen years," she says. "The audience members just get in your space and almost challenge you in a way that is very different from what we’ve found in other cities.“
Schroeder wonders if this characteristic of Atlanta audiences comes from just wanting to make sure we see everything, but surely the French dancers and choreographers will have a different interpretation of our habits. “When we pull people out of their country and we drop them into another country, it crystalizes for them and for us, our Americanism," she says. "It almost intensifies the identity.” But just as the collaboration is revealing national differences, it is also a process of uniting and sharing.
When CORE presented part of "Je Suis/I am" to a small audience last Friday, the piece inspired one viewer to wonder how it would be to meet a total stranger, and yet already know everything about them. The hope is that these international collaborations and performances can help continue to feed that curiosity.
Je Suis/I am. Sat., Oct. 18, at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. The High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St., N.E.; Sun., Oct. 19, at 2:15 p.m. Historic Fourth Ward Park, 680 Dallas St.
Point of View on the Street Corner: The American Corner. Sat., Oct. 18 and Sun., Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. Corner of Forsyth and Poplar streets.
For more information, visit the CORE website.