I am a choreographer, eco-feminist-spoken-word-artist, and dancer, called to contribute to the legacy of female dance-makers who have illuminated what dominant culture masks or buries. I identify as an eco-feminist-choreo-poet, or rather, someone who dynamically combines poetry and dance to evoke an emotional response from audiences that primarily concerns the interconnectedness of women’s oppression and nature. My work creates a bridge between contemporary dance and urban social dance forms, namely, ‘high art’ and ‘street art’. Although street dance styles are not commonly performed on concert stages, they are nonetheless cultural traditions of performance. By abstracting Hip Hop dance styles and excavating them from their common performance contexts, my work reinterprets them as concert dance. Through my collaborative creative process, I experience the capacity of these ‘party dances’ to offer a broader interpretation of urban ritual.
In 2007, I created a solo dance theater production, The Sixth Vowel. Through personal story that piece responds to the ways the U.S. public school system crushes children’s creativity and imagination. In 2009, I founded an urban dance theater company called Embodiment Project (EP). The foundational principle of EP is to inquire into and articulate the subconscious stories that arise from distinct senses of ‘embodiment’, in essence slipping into the essentiality of humanity. Company members are selected based on their willingness to push their conceptual approaches to dance and performance, in addition to extensive dance training and a passion for Hip Hop dance and culture. EP combines a variety of street styles and social dance traditions (i.e., House, Hip Hop, Waacking, and Popping) with spoken word, live song, and theater. EP is now comprised of nine dancers and seven vocalists.
I am impassioned to find ways to create dance that reveals the dancer’s true nature and the hidden aspects of their character. I choreograph ensemble dances that question the prevalent system of ideals that calls vulnerability a weakness, and emotional expression naive vulnerability. My work, instead of relying on those dated ideals, creates a space where these emotional intricacies can be mapped through the bodies movement. Using stream of consciousness writing, collaboration, and meaningful dialogue, I work to pull out the voices of each performer. I draw not only from the physicality of each dancer, but also the complexity of their identity, lived experiences, and the anatomy of their ‘soul’.
In my analysis of the ways that dance can ‘speak’ and language can ‘move’, I have learned that bodies are walking, fumbling, dancing vessels of history. Movement has the capacity to unearth memories and navigate troubling, unknown space. While we can speak a lie, the language of our body cannot easily hide the truth. Beyond aesthetics and entertainment, dance is a form of ‘coded language’. I hope to move beyond the clichéd presentational modes of both Modern and Hip Hop, striving to create space for difficult, inescapable cross-cultural dialogues with grace, and honesty.
– Nicole Klaymoon