Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Choreographic Residency: Week 5

Hello California, I'm back.  My trip to NYC was much needed and now, as much as I want to relax, I have to get back into the swing of things.  I'm not sure if I already shared this, but I have a lot of projects coming this fall.  I'm going to list them here:



  • And of course the Annenberg Community Beach House Choreographic Residency project.  I have finally solidified the showcase performance: Sunday, Oct 8, 5pm-630pm.
With these projects back to back to back to back, I'm having a hard time compartmentalizing them.  My mind is looking at all the projects like a big nebulous of creativity with no clear distinction or separation between the works.  For my sanity and clarity, I am devoting and scheduling specific times to work on each individual project.  With that said, I am noticing a through-line or connective tissue that binds these works together.  Some common themes:
  • Borders, boundaries, barriers 
  • Traveling/promenade performance
  • Binaries, polarities, contradictions

Choreographic Residency: Week 4

Please note, this post is a week late... Consider it a #latergram, for those Instagramers out there. Also, this is a #repost because I couldn't figure out how to adjust the font size in the earlier post

I'm out here in NYC merging research and leisure by going to immersive shows and museums.  I'm making reconnections with old friends and mentors.  I'm going to music festivals and going to rooftop brunches in drag.  No big deal; I am living.

And while my life here in NY is incredibly exciting, I cannot wait to return to LA.  The exciting thing about NYC is it's true, there's so much to do.  I have multiple "New York moments" daily.  Whether I'm taking a cab from Brooklyn to Manhattan and swooning over the striking sunset amidst the towering landscape, or taken by surprise by a street performer in the subway, New York really is a magical place -- especially in the summer.

I got the opportunity to watch Sleep No More, an immersive, site-specific theatrical performance that takes place in the McKittrick Hotel in the Chelsea District.  I've always been inspired by the show since I saw it during my first blizzard around that polar vortex time in 2013.  Once I got my ticket from the box office, I was asked to enter the performance space and watch my step.  Ensued a dark maze-like hallway that winds and turns until I entered a speakeasy bar with crooning singers.  The transportation and transformation of space awed me instantly.  I know that this is something I want to explore at the beach.  How, without walls in a expansive sandy beach, can I transport people and transform space?  Make the audience MOVE.  Furthermore, the audience was given masks and asked to never take them off during the performance.  The steward instructing us how to navigate throughout the space also provided insight on how the work should be viewed.  This is something I need to consider while creating performances in alternative spaces -- it's not like a traditional theatre where people know their assigned seat and watch quietly until the lights go out. The performance is 3 hours long and happens throughout the 4-5 floors of the abandoned hotel and the audience has the agency to roam and choose their own destiny.  The masks provide an anonymity for the spectator and creates a voyeuristic approach to entering the immersive performance.

During this last trip, I got to see the show twice: once with my partner and the other with my best friend -- I have friends in the show, so I got discounted tickets (insert winking smiley emoji here).  This time, while watching the show, I made a conscious effort to focus on the audience and how they engaged and interacted with the space and the performers.  I noticed that personalities shined as people would push their way to the front as others stayed behind.  I noticed that lust and desire was heightened because the masks, and perhaps the heavy-poured libations had in the bar before and during the show.  I noticed audience members' body language change when the performers got closer in proximity.  I love how the many spaces throughout the performance site offered the audience to explore and get lost.

I'm going to continue speaking about my influences from the past trip in NYC:

I saw Frank Ocean, an American R&B singer known for his idiosyncratic style, at the summer music festival Panorama NYC.  Now, I understand this seems more fun than research, but I believe art is entertainment, to some degree... and boy was this ARTISTIC.

Frank Ocean is elusive.  You never know when he's going to drop an album or make a surprise appearance.  His album Blonde is a cult classic, featuring tracks inspired by Brian Eno, incorporating ambient sounds with disruptive melodies and abrupt time-signature shifts.  His fascination with distorting and digitizing the human voice is artistically employed throughout the album, not to disguise vocal blemishes as many other contemporary pop songs do, but rather to display the disconnect from human connection in our internet and screen driven world.  I can go on and on about how much I love this artist and this album... OK, now about my experience at the show.  As thousands and thousands of fans rushed their way to the main stage, I pushed my way forward to get a decent view of Frank Ocean.  After all, I traveled cross-country to see him.  As they were setting up, there was an insane surround-sound setup that had different audio outputs all around us.  When Frank walked onto the stage, the audience roared as he put a cassette tape into the player, projecting it into the back left side of the auditorium. To further the nostalgic reverie, Spike Jonez comes on stage recording him with an old camcorder.  Now, you're probably wondering, how does this apply to the residency, Jay?  You just went to a music festival to live out your young adult life.  So what? Well... I'll tell you what.  I learned how to frame and curate experiences from this performance.  I learned with simple nostalgic cues and ideas, you can create impactful moments.

Ok, one last bit of inspiration, I promise.  I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Rei Kawakubo/Comme de Garçon: The Art of the In-Between.  

The exhibit was phenomenal.  It was ethereal and pushed boundaries of beauty by distorting the silhouette and presenting familiar things in peculiar ways.  By working with simple binaries, like life and death or self and other, Kawakubo creates beautiful designs that inspire me to push myself as an avant-garde artist.  Some dichotomies I'm interested in exploring for this residency are bound and free, past and future, and self and other.   

Altogether, these 3 seemingly disparate, fun, and entertaining experiences I had in NY are a directly and indirectly affecting my creative path for this choreographic residency at the beach house. From immersive theatre engaging audiences, to activating nostalgic memories, to whimsical polarities; my journey as a creative individual cannot be removed from my experiences and my histories.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Choreographic Residency: Week 3



I am writing this third week's blog entry 2500 miles cross country in NYC in a friend's apartment in Bed Stuy looking out the window overlooking some beautiful Brooklyn brownstones. Last week, I took my mother -- a feeble, yet surprisingly agile, Philippine immigrant woman whose english is limited -- to The Statue of Liberty. My mother never imagined coming to America as a child, let alone see the Statue of Liberty, a symbolic monument that welcomed immigrants as they arrived to the US amidst a striking NY cityscape. She, Lady Liberty, was spectacular. My mother and I could not believe our eyes as we took the ferry down to Liberty Island and stood beneath her in awe. We found ourselves amazed by the scale and detail of the colossal giant.

I had to explain to my mother the symbolic meaning behind the monumental gift from France, and she was surprised the statue purpose served as a beacon of light for newcomers entering the country. Together, my mom and I read the sonnet engraved at the bottom of the pedestal by Emma Lazarus.

The New Colossus 
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 


As my mother and I stood there, we couldn't help but be baffled by the current administration and their policies fueled by fear and xenophobia.  With Muslim bans and border walls, is this symbolic statue still a representation of America's open arms for refugees? Is she still the "mother of exiles?"  

This is not the first time, however, that the US has turned away refugees or immigrants.  We refused Jews entry into our country even with credible visas.  We had a Japanese registry and internment camp.  The following article paints a cyclical portrait of How America’s rejection of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany haunts our refugee policy today.

A few weeks back, I wrote about how I had difficulty connecting physical, emotional, and mental trauma to the beach.  Being here in NYC is giving me perspective and further information on how symbols and borders can serve as sites of trauma and healing.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Choreographic Residency: Week 2

As my time here at the Marion Davies Beach House continues, I remain at the beach somewhat perplexed at the enormity of the space; I'm stuck trying to sort out the framing for the work. The area in which I can create is (somewhat) limited to the beach house property all the way to the middle of the ocean.  I can't help but liken myself to Moana as I stare at the edge of the water... wondering "how far I'll go." Oh Moana, finally a Disney princess that looks like me, with unruly textured hair and leather colored skin and island ancestry.  Her plight reminds me of my family's migration story.  My dad immigrated to the US from the Philippines in 1933.  A long 30 day venture across the Pacific proved to be taxing, with some people on the ship not surviving.  My father had to throw them off the ship.  

As my mind wanders whilst I meander around the beach, I keep asking myself, where does trauma exist on the beach.  A place where people relax, rejuvenate, and unwind, how can I portray something involving physical, emotional, and mental trauma?  When I thought of my dad seeking the American Dream and the risks he took for a better life for his family, it reminded me of the plight of refugees today.  Immediately, I thought of the image that went viral of a drowned Syrian boy, a child, washed up on the shores of Greece a couple years back. This arresting image is too real, too hard to even think about.  I'm fighting tears as I write this post thinking about the trauma of what it might be like to flee your home on a over-capacity raft in hopes to land somewhere safe.  

Below is an image of a photo series that my friend's Gema Galiana and Anthony Nikolchev created.  I think the images speak on their own...

Going back the idea of Framing.  The enormity of the beach is overwhelming.  I'm a huge fan of the spectacle.  I fell in love with this performance:  


Since I joined the circus a few years back, I fell in love with spectacle.  Considering my postmodern influence, these two worlds (the spectacle of the circus and the theory-based, academic postmodernism dance) seemed to be conflicting.  My aim is to merge these two aspects of me.  The efficacy of spectacle and thoughtful theory-based work is powerful. I hope the marriage of these two manifests in this project.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Choreographic Residency: Week 1


Remembering my interests
Remembering that memories are reconstructions, &
Remembering the feeling of sand between my toes.

Playing with speed, sound, spectacle, and sand... sand everywhere.

This week, I've been acquainting myself with the space and location, soaking in the sun and trying to understand beach culture.  In the first week, I've been walking around the boardwalk, lying on my Turkish towel in the sand amidst the endangered snowy plovers, catching some gnarly waves in my speedo, picking up trash along the coast, and biking along the boardwalk... All whilst awaiting inspiration to spark. The difficulty in this project, for me, is location and culture.  My work often deals with exertion, exhaustion, and physical trauma; I wouldn't exactly call my work "fun."  And that's where I find myself perplexed in this project.  How, Where, and Why does my work meet the beach?  

The project I've proposed is called, LUCID: Daydreaming on the Beachan immersive theatrical experience that investigates how our memories and dreams affect our mental health. Within my research, I'll delve into topics surrounding trauma, hallucinations, and panic attacks.  The ultimate challenge will be integrating the relaxed, care-free culture of the beach with such heavy, serious topics.

On my drive from the east side of Los Angeles to Santa Monica, I recalled one of my favorite episodes of my favorite podcast, Radiolab.  In that episode, Haunted Dreams, they discuss lucid dreaming techniques.  One technique is a state test: frequently asking yourself in your waking life, "Am I awake, or am I dreaming?"  This will become a learned habit that could possibly cross over into your dreaming state, granting you the possibility of controlling your dreams. Have you ever had a dream that you could do something that you couldn't do, and then woke up and felt the efficacy to do it?  That happens to me.  I dreamt I could do a backflip when I was a child, then I woke up the next day and tried it a couple times and accomplished it (after falling on my head a few times, but I did it).  Same with Krumping (an expressive form of hip hop dance with exaggerated gestures).  I know all this sounds bizarre, but I wonder if I could lucid dream and control the direction of my dreams, could I then control experiences and embodiments in my waking life?  It sounds very Neo from the Matrix, but I'm curious.  

During this residency, I will keep a dream journal to document my dreams when I wake in the morning, and maybe even some daydreaming experiences.  I will also ask my collaborators to keep a journal for dreams.  Stay tuned next week to see where my questions take me.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Annenberg Community Beach House welcomes incoming Choreographer-in-Residence Jay Carlon!

Jay Carlon begins the investigative stage of his residency July and August, and will be onsite creating and rehearsing with his company beginning 9/5/17. He'll be conducting two public workshops, Tuesday 9/19/17 at 6:30pm and Saturday 9/30 at 10:30am.

Lucid: Daydreaming at the Beach is the working title for his new piece to be created at the Beach House. An immersive theatrical experience that investigates how our memories and dreams affect mental health, the 90-minute experience collages, amplifies, and deconstructs memories, inviting the community of the audience to engage in conversations about their recollections of dreams and personal beloved spaces. Performances will take place October 7-8.

Stay tuned for Carlon's updates here to learn more!

Jay Carlon was born in Santa Barbara County to a migrant working family and attended the University of California, Irvine for his BFA in Dance and the California State University, Long Beach for his MFA; his roots in California are embedded in this soil and are evident in his identity-based work and performance. In 2016, he co-founded CARLON + LOLLIE, a collaborative team of artists whose creative desires are to re-present our collective and individual psyches by reimagining the conventions of performance and space. He is a performer and directing and management associate with site-based aerial spectacle theatre company Australia’s Strange Fruit, where he has performed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the opening of the Wallis Annenberg Theatre in Beverly Hills, and the 2016 EXPO (Antalya, Turkey). Carlon’s immersive, interactive, and site-based choreography has been showcased at HomeLA, LA Dance Festival, 92nd Y, The CURRENT SESSIONS, Electric Lodge, ARC Pasadena, and at Automata Theatre, where he was recently a D+R resident with Los Angeles Performance Practice. Jay has also performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Palissimo, and Schoen Movement Company.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Taking the Orchid with Me

The graceful purple orchid on the small table in the Artist in Resident's Office that I've called mine for the past nine weeks has no idea that it's about to change environments. It has become accustomed to the diffuse northern light bouncing off the ocean, the glittering sand, and the floor-to-ceiling windows of the handsome condos next door. The orchid doesn't know that its situation has been only temporary—but I do, which has allowed me to appreciate my precious time here all the more.

I leave this beautiful place with tremendous gratitude, a sense of accomplishment—not to mention love and wonder—and an even deeper commitment to poetry. Part of my agreement in accepting this residency was "to complete or make significant progress" on a chapbook of poems, tentatively titled "Fugue for a New Life," a project that I had only just begun in the spring of 2016. I wasn't sure I could actually compile an entire manuscript of 20 poems during my tenure as writer in residence, but I was confident that within this bright and solitary office with the ocean in constant eye shot, I could at least make significant progress toward it.

Once I arrived at the Beach House I began drafting new poems immediately, yet the thought that I could actually compile enough work to constitute a chapbook (typically 20–32 pages) seemed daunting, since I tend to work fairly slowly, revising quite a bit before being able to say a poem is finished. Then, when I began to organize my solo reading to be held at the Beach House February 21, my perspective began to shift. "Fugue for a New Life" is a collection of love poems as seen through the various lenses of art, music, science, and "the art of listening." Recognizing these interwoven themes allowed me to look at how some of my earlier, published poems related to others. It also gave me new ideas for substantially revising some unpublished work. Becoming aware of the various resonances within and between poems allowed me to organize the reading, as well as the manuscript itself, in a more organic way, irrespective of when each poem was written.


I still thought I might fall short of my goal of completing the chapbook, but I just kept going anyway, without being concerned about how many poems I had, since I was clearly making "significant progress." Then, in the last two weeks, as the poems began to come more easily and I was able to see how they fit with the whole, I decided to count them, and Voila!, I had the requisite twenty.

So it is with great delight and gratitude that I can hold up my manuscript, "Fugue to a New Life," as the product of one of the most fruitful periods of writing I have ever experienced. Thank you, Annenberg Community Beach House, and thank you deep blue sea of poetry, for giving me this extraordinary opportunity! And yes, I'm taking the orchid with me.