I've been dancing the news. Talking and dancing, being all the parts of the news. The movement is very gestural, the kind of gesture that happens when one is speaking, explaining and describing, but here the gesture takes on the whole body. What is being explained is a personal vision: that flickering, fluid vision of the world, that we each have, that vision which is fed by the news media. It's a dream-like vision, with visual, kinetic, and verbal components.
I always begin a performance by carrying in a pile of newspapers and using them to make a path to walk on. Often I start in darkness, except for a flashlight dangling from my waist that fitfully illuminates feet, newspapers, and busy hands. Somewhere along the way I get the idea for what topic I'm going to start with, I turn the flashlight off and the lights come on as I shape the papers around on the floor making them into maps, and start talking and animating the human dramas above ground, interwoven with the seismic/tectonic dramas below.
picture of Simone Forti dancing News Animations on a path of newspapers
Photo: Davidson Gigliotti from a video by Johannes Holub
In a way, I work these world activity images, work them out through my body as energy models. I figure the whole of it out in space, trying to sketch all the information out in physical space, to see what my body knowledge of it is.
Though I never know what I'm going to get into in performance, I do have a lot of riff's that start to weave in. And I try to always get into some new stuff, especially if there's something l've been wanting to get my hands into and I don't quite know how to do it. Some wonderful goofy images sometimes present themselves. In a performance I did last weekend, the first thing that came to me was to make myself a bed in the newspapers and to start in about Mayor Koch's plan to house the homeless in old military ships. Then I had him sending them off to the Persian Gulf, and at some point I picked up this page with a big picture of a beautiful model and I was stroking her, and making a continuity from her belly to mine, and carrying on about the daughter of Mohammed, and about the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers being like Fallopian tubes emptying into the Gulf. Then, when after many windings of various related and unrelated topics I felt it was time to finish, my eyes fell on the New York Times Magazine cover photo of a young Nicaraguan Contra. "What's to become of them if the US withdraws its support?" had been the theme of the lead articles. I tucked the picture of the young guerrilla soldier into bed in the newspapers and made him comfortable. I wasn't satisfied. I looked around and there was the page with the big beautiful affluent New York model. I tucked her in at his side.
Being a dancer I see and understand things through movement. I even see the news as pressures, wedges, and balance shifts, and anyway, so much of the language of the news media is in terms of physical dynamics: "the dollar in free fall," and Iran sending forth "human waves" across its border and into Iraq. And that's what I dance, and I sometimes think of myself as the king's fool. drawing of 'human waves crashing into Iraq' by Simone Forti
It was Berenice Fisher who first got me interested in working with the news. About three years ago I was teaching a workshop called "Work in Progress," and was encouraging people to bring in notes and ideas relating to some new directions they were starting to sense and to explore. Berenice, one of the participants, was coming from an academic background and an involvement in the women's movement. She wanted to develop a way to help people find a more personal relationship to the newspaper and thought that working with movement would be a good approach. She had people work with headlines that had made some impression on them. I don't remember my headline, but I remember my movement. My right hand went off like an airfoil through turbulent air, while my eyes followed my left index finger into the opposite direction. I remember that the headline had posed a kind of contradiction, something about India. Another person working on the exercise had some people helping her. She had three people lying on the floor on their stomachs, their hands behind their backs, their heads raised as high as possible, eyes looking around. It was a work session, people were working, talking, and trying movements. I casually looked across the room and saw those three people on the floor, on their stomachs, hands behind backs, heads away from floor, eyes looking around. And I saw a double image. In my tradition of dance, people often work on the floor.
I'm used to seeing all kinds of movement and seeing it concretely. But in this case I saw something else as well. The three were vulnerable. They were in a state of emergency. Prisoners of war.
I had only recently started following the news myself and it wasn't coming easily to me. I just decided I could at least read even if I couldn't remember, and I started to experience, at least during the act of reading, a sense of familiarity with the stories, with the personages. But most of all I started to accumulate kinesthetic impressions of pressures and currents, and accumulations and pending collapses. And I did start to understand more and more, and to do it in a freewheeling kind of way.