Small Explosions

Editor’s note: This month on Stance on Dance, several dance artists have been asked to share a pivotal dance experience that changed their trajectory or the way they think about dance. 


Miriam Wolodarski’s Fall Work

Mott Studio of ODC as part of the SPF7 Festival, July 2014

One of the most challenging things about dance for me is writing about it.  It’s like trying to describe the taste of water. To say why I love dance seems so obvious I feel silly in saying it.  But then I meet people who tell me they “cannot dance” and I fold over again and again inside myself, trying to understand why things that feel so natural and beautiful are feared.  I go out and spend whatever I can afford to see performances so that I may break my own rules over and over. In doing this I’ve come to develop a taste for work. Not very often does something blow my mind, and why should it? I don’t expect to always like dance performances but when I do the epiphanies happen in small ways. Like that thread of perfection that runs through everything and never stays.

The last time I felt these small explosions was last summer when I saw Miriam Wolodarski’s San Francisco premiere of Fall Work.  The piece is mostly Miriam rummaging through the solo but there is a male performer who joins in for part of the piece. It seemed as if the guy on lights and sound (Joe Landini) and the audience have their important roles in the piece as well. The performance took place in Mott Studio, a humble-sized studio I’ve rehearsed in many times before. I sat on cushions on the floor and drank wine. The audience’s backs faced a wall and our eyes faced Miriam and behind her, a glass wall of windows, feasting us on San Francisco rooftops and the sky at dusk. I already felt comfortable. Like sitting down to eat and laugh with friends.

The meal was odd and delightful. Miriam started her performance before we entered the room.  She walked around the studio (stage) in a dirty, ripped, yellow garbage looking suit. She moves and twitches — an exact replica of so many crazy people I’ve seen on the streets of this crazy city. Already a huge accomplishment in my eyes, I opened them wider and patiently followed her every impulse. Everything Miriam did, said, drew, drank, ate, squished, landed upon in Fall Work reminded me of a little girl casually orchestrating her huge imaginary world. With so much authority that the imaginary becomes real. There is wit in her mind as well, and commentary to contemporary performance. For example: how women are often asked to take their clothes off for the sake of art. As she talked about this she was in the studio bathroom with the door ajar, undressing and changing her costume. And I do remember at some point in the show I saw her boobs.

Her work lead us through a sequence of events each surprising and brave.  As a dance artist, I seek something from performances. I’ve become pretty numb to recycled movement set to interesting or non-interesting music. Miriam’s performance made me realize I am looking for a world. I enjoy performance that re-sensitizes the core of my imagination. I am turned off when performance tries to impress or force metaphors/life morals upon me. I prefer to feel the experience in my psyche; this is enough to shift my mind and curl my eyes. To see the sun is wonderful, but to taste it… how many people believe in nothing enough to say they have actually tasted the sun?


I went back and saw Miriam’s show a second time, and loved it all over again.