CURRENT WORK IN PROGRESS (2017 - 2018): SENTINEL
SENTINEL is a live performance and film project responding to the political climate, grappling with issues of surveillance, profiling, and the ever-growing domestic alienation of diverse bodies. Five site-specific solos take place in politically potent, public landmarks across the five boroughs. Spotlighted in magenta clay from head to toe, the dancers embody the political underpinnings of each location and their own lived experiences.
Its cast of performers calls attention to a diversity of perspectives and vulnerable experiences regarding social marginalization, particularly speaking to the impact of the new federal administration. Their personal stories are paired with local incidents of injustice [oftentimes neglected or reduced by the press due to the upsurge of media], aiming to address serious tensions surrounding matters of sex, gender, race, faith, and the combination thereof.
A final exhibition will screen films made of each field performance in a constructed surveillance room. Alongside this installation, a live reiteration of each solo will be on view in an adjacent room, impounded in a large-scale Plexiglas box. The scene echoes enduring issues of both conscious and unconscious stereotype, voyeurism, and repression. Audiences will be mobile, experiencing the exhibition at their own pace and positioning. Additionally, the event will include materials from field research and interviews with affected individuals concerning each site and its participants .
SENTINEL developed out of conversation and collaboration between company members. We felt compelled to produce a collective response, molding a platform for the individual to be seen and heard. Its heart lies in fostering compassion and building a public awareness of the stories shared.
The making of SENTINEL will be archived on this evolving webpage. We hope that you will follow us as we journey ahead.
To sample film footage of its site-specific performance, click here.
CHOREOGRAPHY & DIRECTION: DANIELLE RUSSO
PERFORMANCE & COLLABORATION: CESAR BRODERMANN, ROYA CARRERAS, JASON COLLINS, KAYLA FARRISH, MOLLY GRIFFIN
MAKEUP DESIGN: MARC WITMER
COSTUME DESIGN: JENNY LAI
FILM: LUKE OHLSON
On September 15, 2017, Cesar Brodermann performed his solo segment of SENTINEL in Port Richmond, Staten Island; the borough with the majority of unjust arrests resultant of the January 25th Executive Order ICE Raids neglecting New York City’s sanctuary status. ICE Raids in north shore neighborhoods such as Port Richmond specifically targeted Mexican immigrants. His solo soaks in his experiences as a gay Mexican immigrant, most especially right now.
"This era of politics wants to separate us...I have been in New York City for almost 4 years now, but I remember feeling scared of people on the street and feared being overlooked after the election results. Coming from a Mexican family where being gay was not an option, I have always been scared of being 'too gay' or 'too different'. New York City became a place where I could hold myself without the risk of judgement, but after last November I felt uncertain about behaving the way I did everyday, if I could still hold my best friend's hand on the street.
The color magenta has always held vulnerable meaning for me. They teach you when you are young that color can 'define' your gender. At the start of my performance in Staten Island, there was this little kid and he asked if I was gay. At this point in my life, I don't even think about my response. After I say yes, he goes, 'Ew, he's gay -- let's go,' telling his friends. I felt so attacked but also speechless. What do you tell a 7-year-old kid that already hates? It's about discussion, education, and focusing on younger generations. At the end of the day, we are all human beings."
On December 12, 2017, Jason Collins performed his solo segment of SENTINEL off of the C subway line. There have been numerous incidents of reported harassment and assault specifically targeting gay men on the A/C lines throughout 2017. As early as April of 2017, reports showed the number of hate crimes already doubled and the total number of hate crimes regarding sexual orientation already surpassing New York City's records for 2016. As a gay man living off of the C line, and having experienced profiled aggressions firsthand, Jason's performance addressed the reality of his everyday commute.
"I am inherently a person that likes to blend in. It might be a response to being bullied while growing up or just generally feeling 'other' most of my life, but it is no coincidence that I live in New York City because I am addicted to how anonymous I can be here. So, it should come as no surprise that being painted magenta and dancing in public was out of my comfort zone. But, thinking back on my experience while being made magenta in public, I find it difficult to separate this exaggerated experience from my own daily experience.
Since Trump’s election, it has become more and more apparent to me that people feel not only an ability but an obligation to openly hate. I have experienced it myself and I have witnessed it happen to others. Was I more vulnerable painted magenta and dancing on a subway platform than any other person in that station? No. To my surprise, our only difference was that I was an abstraction. I felt just as vulnerable when painted magenta as I do everyday."
On October 22, 2017, Kayla Farrish performed her solo segment of SENTINEL at the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Classon Avenue in Brooklyn. The discussion and decision of site location was an ongoing conversation from the very start of our process. We decided upon this location not only because of its devastating significance, but also due to the lack of news coverage and response. On September 7, 2017, a noose was found on a tree at said intersection. Exactly one week later, a second noose was found on a tree at a nearby division of the Brooklyn Public Library. The city has made minimal efforts to address these incidents, not to mention removal whereas a majority of the rope has been left on the tree at Eastern Parkway. Kayla's performance sought not to exploit nor sensationalize the dangerous degree of these events. Rather, her dance was –is– a call to action.
"As a black woman and artist, I have felt and experienced more and more aspects and facets of society’s standards for race, class, and gender. Seeing power at both high levels in major events such as unjust police brutality and mass incarceration, on towards a smaller day-to-day sense of accommodating and making my presence non-threatening to move forward. There are stories and images that I can’t get out of my head...I have a lot of rage, grief, and sadness about these moments and our push for change. It’s hard to bring your voice forward, or have the opportunity to do so. We discussed a great deal about requiring society's accountability. I absolutely believe in that. And while performing this solo next to where a noose was tied up, I could feel waves of keeping my power and truth and requiring this accountability looking forward into the eyes of people walking by. And then I would experience this desire to shrink or to soften to make others feel comfortable. To look down so that they could look at me.
I often wonder what happens to the voice of the black woman. I see and hear all this violence against black men. I see archetypes of black women, but I hear less of their voices and experiences. We are generous, giving, compassionate, malleable, and strong...In the solo, there was a repeated gesture directing to my pelvis and reproductive center, gripping and shaking. I continued this gesture for a long duration looking out for that needed accountability. Our rights to our bodies are governed, as our bodies continue to be objectified and politicized. It is my body that has this powerful capability for choice and for life. It was a huge decision to perform this work topless. The thought of being topless, painted fuchsia pink in public, made me a bit nervous at first. However, I felt strong in the form of my body. I felt empowered and capable, and my dance honored women and all people of color.
There is an increase in outright hatred and discrimination, and that can be attributed to Trump’s little discretion and permission for public prejudice. As a person of color, there has always been oppression and discrimination, and I did not believe this would change suddenly. However, I will not allow this hatred to be accepted nor go unaccounted for. I feel like much of my public demeanor or ways of surviving through various power dynamics and societal hierarchies had been taught to me at a young age. As people of color, we're taught to accommodate and assimilate to survive and succeed, and to live. I've grown more scared for my family in the South; I am just scared for all my family members and loved ones. Who knows what wrong time or place we have to be in. My father lives alone in Chicago for work right now, and it scares me that he is on his own. I worry for his safety. I felt the necessity of this process, this work –to perform with empowerment in the face of a symbol of terror and discrimination. And to bring attention to such a specific place and event, to bring attention to our time –what has changed and what has not, and what is continued to be allowed within our society."
On January 28, 2017, nearly 2,000 people gathered in protest of Executive Order 13769, commonly known as the Muslim ban, at John F. Kennedy Airport’s Terminal 4 where several individuals were already detained. On March 4, 2018, Roya Carreras performed on the same protest grounds at Terminal 4. As an Iranian-Hispanic woman raised in a Muslim home, her dance confronts the crisis and complexity of identity, heritage, and profiling on a most personal level.
"I have noticed that my first generation Persian family is more afraid to proclaim their heritage, especially its younger members. I felt a lot of fear and deep disappointment when Iran was added to the travel ban. My father was supposed to fly to Iran to see his family one week after the ban was initially implemented. When things like this happen, you immediately think of the worst case scenario. Will he be ok? Will he be allowed back? Will he lose his citizenship? Will he be bullied? Will my grandmother, cousins, and nephews be safe in Iran?
My sexuality and my heritage have always been a conflicting topic for me. I grew up with an extremely liberal mother while submerged in a first generation Muslim home. I was not allowed to dance until I lived with my mother. I was not allowed to experience what most American children experienced. I was raised to be hyper-sensitive of how I looked, how I dressed, and the attention I was drawing in. As a teenager I felt ashamed of my body and had a conflicting desire to both express myself and also hide. This translates into a difficulty of practicing self love; how can you love yourself if you are constantly hiding or accommodating an outside perspective?"
On-site photographs by Luke Ohlson
Rehearsal photographs by Steven Schreiber & Kayla Farrish