When Fear Hits the Body (excerpts)

BY A HOUSE UNBUILT, WITH MUSIC BY TODD MATTEI

Choreographed and directed by Victoria Bradford with movement by Angela Gronroos, Lisa Leszczewicz, Carla Gruby, Zack Bailey, and Ben Sanders.

A House Unbuilt presented a culminating performance from stories and questions raised on a recent outreach trip to Clarksdale, MS—some say the birthplace of Chicago. Working to build relationships in this and other communities in the Delta, the company has discovered that these connections are the foundation of a specific tie with the city of Chicago and the deep-rooted dynamics of race that persist in both regions, north and south. In the Elevate performance, AHU used the body to dig deeper into the themes that were shared and discovered while in Clarksdale. They then invited the audience to think and move through their own fears and impossibilities felt in the body, as they built relationships through sharing. 

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Clarksdale, Mississippi / Dialogue

BY A HOUSE UNBUILT

The Relay Team convened a dialogue in Clarksdale, Mississippi as part of the Smithsonian’s Water/Ways exhibition being hosted by Quapaw Canoe. Knowing that the community members who attended would shape the course of the dialogue, the Team had prepared a flexible framework. In all, eight community members attended, and as things progressed it became clear that they were just who the Team had hoped to meet. After introductions, the Team used a movement exercise called “Impossible Tasks” to break the ice, and the dancing seemed to open everyone’s hearts, as they overflowed with personal stories about life, the river, and doing impossible things. 

Among other things, Omar told a story of his impromptu 45 mile run to Memphis, Brenda sang part of a song, and everyone brainstormed ideas about how to provide opportunities for embodied learning and processing.  Natalie, from North Carolina, told a story about her son. He was in school one day and it began to snow outside. As it piled higher and higher, he kept watching it, pulled away from the lesson. The teacher kept calling his attention back to the task at hand. “There’s so much snow,” he’d reply. Finally his teacher gave him a ruler and let him go outside to measure how much snow there was. He came back in and could focus on the lesson. “He just needed his mind and body to connect,” said Natalie. “His mind was out there while his body was in the classroom, and sticking that ruler in the snow they both were in the same place. I feel like that’s what you all are doing. Sticking the ruler in the snow. You’re providing opportunities for the mind and body to connect, and that’s important.”

Clarksdale, Mississippi / Improvisation

BY A HOUSE UNBUILT (FEATURING CARLA GRUBY, ANGELA GRONROOS, & ZACK BAILEY)

The Relay Team arrived in Clarksdale, Mississippi on the afternoon of Saturday, September 22, 2018 in order to participate in the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit at Quapaw Canoe Company. Before landing on the spot, they had time to explore Clarksdale—walk the streets looking at the buildings, architecture, and businesses, getting a feel for the place. After driving the long haul from Chicago to Mississippi, the team was ready to move their bodies, and they liked the energy of Clarksdale. They liked the energy of the place, and were curious about how colorful and worn it looked, like a pair of favorite jeans that were falling apart. Knowing they didn’t have a lot of time to spend that day for exploring, Angela, Carla and Zack seized the moment to dance and began to improvise. The resulting movement is full of surprising images connected to the surrounding landscape. The welcome of this new place is evident in the response of the dancers, and the movement shows how it is possible to be inspired by a place hardly even known.

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Declivity—The First Movement of Relay of Voices: The Great River Run

BY A HOUSE UNBUILT, WITH MUSIC BY TODD MATTEI

Choreographed and directed by Victoria Bradford with movement by Angela Gronroos, Lisa Leszczewicz, Carla Gruby, Zack Bailey, and Ben Sanders.

“Declivity” is the first movement of Relay of Voices: The Great River Run, a site-responsive performance that in 2019 will last for 120 days, engage 104 towns and cities, and cover 2,300 miles along the Mississippi River Valley from Minnesota to Louisiana.  Bradford’s team will travel the river’s entirety on foot and follow its natural downward slope, a “declivity,” increasing as it goes in velocity, intensity, fierceness and impact.  

Relay also begins in Chicago, the city that brought the team together in order to reach and engage with the people of 104 mostly rural communities. MCA is located 641.9 miles away from the headwaters of the only river which connects 40% of the contiguous United States.  

Relay always begins in response to location, listening to place, and, in the case of MCA, bringing the river to the museum. In “Declivity”, the team is listening to the labor of the river, the might of its crosscurrents, and the story of labor told by the water, the land, and the people who work it and live with it. Performed as a 180 minute relay cycle beginning on the back lawn, going around the building, and using the front steps, they walk the bottom of the river, run upstream, get caught in the current, meander, wait, maneuver, levee, breech, and remind us of their paths as they go. 

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Declivity (excerpts)

BY TODD MATTEI (AHU COLLABORATOR)

Description forthcoming... 

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Run-4-Troops Relay — Dubuque, Iowa

RELAY TEAM

The Relay Team made a trip to Dubuque, Iowa to run our first relay together. They stayed at the fabulous Mandolin Inn and met with City Arts Administrator Debra Alleyne. In preparation for the official race on Saturday, the team staged their own practice relay from Dubuque to Bellevue to get a sense of the Mississippi River route they’ll be running next year as well as the relay logistics.

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Do Something Else (Relay)

BY A HOUSE UNBUILT, IN COLLABORATION WITH BRENT FOGT

In Do Something Else, Brent Fogt mounted an installation of off-kilter sculptures created from furniture and other found objects. These precariously balanced pieces were inspired by Fogt’s own yoga practice as well as his fascination with how we humans learn to walk, stand, and run. At the opening reception on June 1, 2018, Victoria Bradford’s A House Unbuilt interacted with the objects and moved through the various pathways of the installation. Playing off the ambulatory implications of Fogt’s sculptures, the dancers performed a durational relay encompassing the city block around the gallery as well as the gallery space itself.. 

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