Jennifer Passios (pictured left) is an Boston based dancer and choreograher as well as a dancer in the Urbanity Underground program. Her piece was selected from the Creative Class showcase to be further developed under the mentorship of established choreographers and presented in Urbanity NeXt.
Tell me a little bit about the piece you are creating. What is your inspiration?
“The piece is entitled “SAM Eye Am”
Initially, I entertained visions of a giant laundry pile, plastic bowls with odd faces drawn on them, a sarcastic title, and a score saturated with jazz standards, none of which stuck. Over the last few months, I’ve eliminated the theatrics and instead, turned my attention towards the concept of chiseling someone else’s experience out of infinity. In any instant, there exist innumerable lenses through which to view that instant. The particular lens we choose, or, if you prefer, the lens that chooses us, determines which bits of that moment we observe and reflect upon, and which aspects we miss or discard. I’m chasing the extent to which an outside source (choreographer) can manipulate physicality (the dance) and how the viewing of that circumstantial control (sitting in the audience) results in a particular dissemination of ideas regarding the physicality. Ironically, this led me to Dr. Seuss.
The book Green Eggs and Ham, featuring the narrator Sam-I-Am (from whom I derived the title of my work) consists of just 50 words. Even in the case of this children’s book, we can categorize levels of awareness of the story’s lineage. At the most basic, readers see a story with a charming rhyme scheme ending in a moral about the value of trying new things. Looking a little deeper, you may choose to see the vocabulary lessons, perhaps smiling to yourself when listening to a novice reader deciphering the text because you understand that she is engaging in a learning activity disguised as a silly story. When I look at Green Eggs and Ham, I choose to see beyond the story to the challenge. Instead of beloved cartoon characters, I picture the excitement of solving a narrative with a word limit. SAM Eye AM is based on the same sort of game. The dance only consists of 30 movements. You will see each step or gesture in its original form many times, but we have also altered, deconstructed, and rebuilt them to create phrase work that I hope inspires fresh interest in each item. I’m looking forward to expanding the work and continue playing with how to keep my process accessible in the product.”
Tell me a bit about your process. How do you create?
“Have you ever owned a coloring book? I start with an outline and visualize how to fill it. I have a roughly imagined idea of what I want the saturated picture to feel like rather than look like. From there, I put the colors where they want to go. Odd, perhaps, personifying the elements of creation, but for this work, I have found my choreography emerging in a similar manner. The beginning of my rehearsal process involves a lot of listening. We play improvisation games and I try to absorb ideas about energy and relationships from those. I try out sounds and write a bit and then add those elements into improvisation exercises with a bit more structure. Phrase work and gestures appear and then, as with the coloring, I try to organize the movement into the configuration that it wants to be in. Movement can be kinder than coloring, though. It’s much easier to move elements around when they’re in the wrong spots if your eraser doesn’t smudge.”
What do you hope to leave your audience with?
“It’s a “choose your own adventure kind of dance” Since my interest lies in the perception of the physical mechanics, there is a lot of room for audience interpretation. I didn’t make a story line, not intentionally anyways, but a lot of people came up to me after presenting the work in the Urbanity Underground Show postulating that my dance was ABOUT dinosaurs or ABOUT sharks or ABOUT something. I didn’t intend for it to be ABOUT anything but having those talks gave me an indication of the gestures that made an impression. With this work, I’m striving to simply leave audiences with a hunger for curiosity and the opportunity to validate their own narratives. I hope their sense of wit is tickled.”
What do you hope to leave your dancers with?
“PLAY, a willingness to solve puzzles, perhaps a little audacity.”
What excites you about working with Urbanity Dance in Particular?
“In rehearsals, I continuously toss every interesting, potentially contusion inducing, an idea that fits in the context of my work at my dancers. They nod at me, sometimes like I’m crazy, and then go right on and try out what I have proposed or else find an even more satisfying circumlocution of my original proposal. Urbanity is a “yes” factory. I’m grateful to work amongst dancers who are willing to embrace a new “yes” of physicality as I say “yes” to the foreign land of choreography for the first time.”
Where can we learn more about your work?
“Pick a coffee shop- Any coffee shop with espresso. I’m still holding fast to a life where I learn about people in person rather than on a screen. So seriously, e-mail me and let’s find a time to talk (email@example.com). I also have a blog where I post my musings from time to time.
You can see her piece in our upcoming show, Urbanity NeXt.