Thoughts on Trust

By Emmaly Wiederholt

In Malinda LaVelle’s “Urge” I lick water off the floor. And yes, while one could argue that I’m crazy to willingly and repeatedly lick the floor (although I do clean it first), I want to argue that it’s because I trust her and the other members of Project Thrust so much that I am able to go places far beyond the confines of what I would normally feel comfortable doing.

The task is simple: there are six glasses of water surrounding me, and the more I drink the thirstier I become. I quickly go from polite sipping to grotesque chugging to all-out slathering myself in water. When the water in the glasses is used up I move on to the floor. I slurp until there is nothing left. I find myself still wanting more. The water becomes a metaphor for ecstasy and for desire fueling desire.

One of the most important functions of dance, or art for that matter, is to mine the depths of human feeling, to physically manifest emotions that are difficult to define, and to revel in the universality of those emotions. And because many deeply felt states are difficult to express and share with others, trust is one of the most essential components of a successful collaboration between a choreographer and a dancer. It is what enables choreographers to go places they’ve never gone before and what enables dancers to push themselves in ways they’ve never done before. If art is going to express deeply felt emotions, there needs to be a level of trust for the artists to bring all of their experience set to the table without fear of judgment or reprobation.

Local choreographer and dancer Kara Davis recently worked with six formerly incarcerated women on learning movement and choreography for Rising Voice’s performance “Moving Forward, Travelling On”. Rising Voices, a collaborative theater ensemble of previously incarcerated young women, is a part of Community Works, a program that seeks to engage youth and adults in arts, education, and restorative justice programs that heal the far-reaching impacts of incarceration. The show was incredibly intense, as each woman related her own personal story through prose, poetry, and movement. Although none of the women were trained actors or dancers, the raw emotion and sense of urgency with which they shared their stories transcended any inexperience performing.

After the show I spoke briefly to Kara about her experience working with the women, and she related how one of the most important challenges to overcome was gaining their trust. These women had dealt with child abuse, domestic abuse, rape, incarceration, etc. I imagine it was a huge hurdle to trust Kara when she began instructing them how to move their bodies. They had to be able to trust in themselves, in each other, and in the community around them in order to share their story in full confidence that it would be received and respected. The power and steadiness they brought to their performance was overwhelming. They are my heroes.

And so as I prepare to once more lick the stage in Project Thrust’s upcoming shows at ODC and Z-Space, I am once again reminded of the importance of trust in performance. I have to trust that my audience will dive with me into the feelings of ecstasy and thirst that drive me to lick the floor. The other performers will voyage on similar journeys, going dangerous emotional places that need support and trust. I know that the members of Project Thrust will support me on my psychological journey through “Urge”, as I will support them in turn.

Art, which exists to express emotion, can’t very well express it unless we trust one another in its expression.


Visit Community Works to learn more.

Project Thrust will be performing “Urge” at ODC on July 21 & 22 and at Z-Space on July 31.

Top Photo by Brian Henderson

Middle Photo by Van Nguyen-Stone at, pictured is Theresa Hamilton

2 Responses to “Thoughts on Trust”

  1. bayareadancewatch

    “…desire fueling desire…”

    Great wording!! Love it.

    On Ms Kara Davis’s new piece w/women who have been incarcerate – can you give a link to more info or when a performance may happen?

    There was an art exhibit (2004/05) by Fiona Tan called “Correction” and the video images of the women were the most compelling – so much so that after all these years I thought Ms Fan only used women, but looking back now it was men & women. Amazing. The show was at the UCLA Hammer Museum, Chicago & N.Y. There is plenty of info on the web, if Ms Davis is interested. After reading this article in Stance On Dance & Davis work I looked up that exhibit…so thank you.

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