In the American Southwest, there are hiking trails so remote that only the most experienced backpackers can reach them. And in a few of these remote locations, on forgotten and largely unseen ledges or deep in a narrow cannon sit the perfectly preserved baskets of the Anasazi culture. Thousands of years old, and unimaginably fragile, these object are the kinds of artifacts from which information can be gleaned…in addition to their inherent beauty. They exist both as objects and as the memory of that object.
These rarities that exist most at the moment of being seen (after arduous treks through the back country) offer an ideological parallel when considering the Jacksonville Dance Theatre’s upcoming performance IN HERE: Artifact. Slated for the evening of March 25, the two-part event is an evening of solo performances—each one an original composition by the soloist—that takes the idea of “artifact” as the point of departure/meditation/instruction. The idea is one that Artistic Director Rebecca Levy began toying with at Art Basel Miami Beach 2016. She described being surrounded by hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars-worth of art, and as others around her were engaging in conversations about market valuation, productivity versus accessibility and other highly monetized phenomena, she was just “laterally drifting.”
“I was thinking about how we [dancers] experience the human condition in real time…how we create art that will literally never exist again," says Levy. "[Because] its power lies in its moment of disappearance, its moment on the stage."
This idea, of art that is made--to paraphrase choreographer/dancer Crystal Pite--“of blood and muscle and bone,” is to be almost unable to leave an artifact behind. “Visual artists think about art as a commodity," says Levy. "What if we could make something that lingered—where does the “making” [in a work of art] occur and is it relevant?”
Levy then went to her dancers and explained her idea to them. That the cue for this year’s solo performances would be “artifact” both the idea of one, as well as the opportunity to fabricate/incorporating the making of one into a performance. “What then, is that artifact?” Levy asks.
As the questions and speculations pile up, so too do the opportunities for the dancers. Levy explained that no restrictions have been placed on the dancers.“I don’t know how successful this is going to be—the dancers were wide-eyed and nervous," she says, laughing, explaining that she told the dancers that the work didn’t have to be brilliant--but they just need to make a lot of it. “I mean, if it makes sense they could even use a shitty, Mr. Brainwash-style, self-portrait.”
When asked about specific examples of what the audience might expect, Levy was cagey, “I promised the dancers I wouldn’t give details away...[but] they’re pretty gutsy,” offering that many of the performers have told her “I can’t do my solo until I do it.”
The Jacksonville Dance Theatre is a professional dance company, the only one in this city. As such, Levy and her partners, Tiffany S. Santiero and Katie McCaughan, feel that they have a responsibility not just to Jacksonville, but to their dancers as well. Every dancer is paid for their time and work; and in doing so, Levy hopes to reinforce ideas of artistic integrity, personal rigor and professional-level dance. “I’m trying to sustain a business that makes no money in a city that doesn’t understand what I am doing yet.”
Additionally, special guest Jennifer Logan of the Nancy Evans Dance Theatre (Los Angeles) will be performing in this concert. A friend and collaborator of the company, Logan has danced in the second annual solo JDT concert in 2015, and the third annual concert of duets in 2016.
Participating company members include: Winter Bosanko, Deonna Clinton, Amber Daniels, Samuel Hills III, Chelsea Hilding, Breanna King, Rebecca R. Levy, Hilary Libman, Dawn Morrow, Amalia Rivera, Anthony Sampson, Tiffany S. Santeiro, Tess Sturgeon, Kristen Sullivan, Jennifer Walker and Alexa Velez.
As an opportunity to bear witness to the individual dancer, IN HERE: Artifact functions in multiple modes. In the language of visual arts, it is a group show; in the language of performing arts, a showcase or recital; and in the language of poetry it could be called a collection. These descriptors are important as the work proposed and performed for IN HERE: Artifact can shift and stretch, change and transform, existing at the boundaries of two ideological landscapes, and like the baskets of the Anasazi, function in real time, in memory time, one time, with a left-behind artifact.