Michelle Boulé is a New York–based dancer and choreographer. She will be performing BREAK>Urge>Imprint, 2013, a collaborative work with cellist Okkyung Lee, at Mount Tremper Arts Summer Festival in Mount Tremper, New York, on July 6, and a new duet with dancer Lindsay Clark at Movement Research at Judson Church in the fall of 2013. Here, Boulé talks about her choreographic debut, WONDER, a solo performance commissioned by ISSUE Project Room.
WATCHING DANCE RAISES questions about what we want to experience. How much of it should be about satisfaction? And what creates that satisfaction?
I’ve been talking to a lot of music improvisers lately who usually show up unrehearsed to perform. Their framework for creating and experiencing is in this history of improvisation. Lately, I’ve loved watching their body language as they play. I’ve been interested in what radiates outward from their actions. It becomes almost distracting to me. I keep watching how they move to make music, and even what kinds of clothing they wear. I have to close my eyes sometimes; otherwise I’m just too distracted.
Dance is physical, but it’s also about energetic perception. I’ve been taking that into consideration for the duet I’m doing at Mount Tremper. How can we toss something across space that is affecting and resonant? In general, I feel like I start with this base question about what is held in the body and what it conveys. Then, I go forward.
For WONDER, I knew that I wanted to work with Authentic Movement, which is a movement therapy. There is a mover and a witness in the space. The mover closes her eyes and follows her “authentic” movement impulses, while the witness keeps the mover safe from running into anything. It’s about wondering and perceiving in a subtle sense. This practice permeates into simple observational moments. When I am looking at a plank of wood, for instance, I’m perceiving much more than its flatness. What we see and how we see is always filtered through so much memory and past experience.
Having worked as a performer for so long and going through different injuries, I began assessing what was happening in my body, gathering sometimes esoteric information like the consciousness states of organs and body parts. I became interested in the body as a conduit. But when we talk about value in our market-driven culture, what becomes the currency of this information? We’re defined by the structures that surround us, even those of funding. In New York, one can only get money as a choreographer, not as a dancer, which is ridiculous. But I think that’s starting to shift, especially with David Thomson getting the USA Ford Fellowship last year. He applied as a dance artist, rather than solely as a choreographer—because he really is a complete artist! And he’s interested in shifting that paradigm. I’m ready to shift my belief systems around so that doing this work doesn’t have to be so hard—and that’s called flexibility.