What follows is a deluge of questions that routinely cross my mind as I consider Chicago an artistic home. I am a white cisgendered lesbian who has extensive experience in the field of dance and performance and am deeply invested in the continuation, visibility, sustainability and advancement of the form. I am a critical thinker and tend to be just as hard on myself as I am on others. I do this because I desperately want to challenge the status quo as reflected in the art that we make and the infrastructures that support it.
These questions are certainly biased but are absolutely genuine. I am not sure I can respond to every question and there are hundreds more I could have asked. I am interested in the all the possible answers.
A Pile of Sincere Questions Specifically For and About Our Postmodern/Contemporary Dance/Performance Community(ies) in Chicago
1. Do you feel seen as an independent artist? If yes, how do you know you are seen? If no, why do you think you are invisible?
4. What is the appeal of the company model? Does forming a non-profit dance/performance company help you organize and secure funding and performance opportunities? If you have a “company” but are not legally incorporated what purpose does that label serve? Does using the word “company” legitimize your work in Chicago? Elsewhere in the US? Outside the US?
10. Do you have a sense of where your work “fits in” to current postmodern/ contemporary dance/performance zeitgeists in Chicago? In the US? Outside the US? Can you put words to what those zeitgeists might be? Do you think you make work that contributes to current “conversations”? Or are you happily oblivious?
16. How many shows do you attend a month? How many are shows that your friends are in? If you do go to a show conceived of and performed by folks who are mostly strangers to you, do you feel like you can make a connection with them afterward? Do you feel like you should? What do you do if you don’t particularly like the show? What do you do if you love the show? What keeps you from attending shows?
23. How much or in what way does the audience influence the work that you make? Are you making work that speaks mostly to your creative peers? Or do you imagine your audience is unversed in your form? Which is the more appealing prospect? How successful do you think you are in reaching both groups?
28. How much effort do you put in to identifying and expanding your audience base? Do you dream of reaching people who prefer to spend their money on “high art” (or pop music or sporting events or expensive dinners or nights out drinking) with your less mainstream art? What would you need to do to attract those people? Should you? Do you dream of reaching audiences with little disposable income? Should you? Do you feel comfortable using marketing strategies that identify and target specific potential new audiences? How do those strategies apply to/support the specificity of our field? Are you a member of Audience Architects? Do they understand what you do?
38. How are you editing your work? How do you decide which move/action/design element stays or goes? Do you participate in works-in-progress showings? Do you surround yourself with people who can offer constructive criticism? Do you feel like you can get honest feedback? Do you want honest feedback? Do you feel safe presenting work in this community?
45. Dance Makers- Where do you show your work? How much money (on average) do you fork over to show there? Does that venue provide technical/production support? Should they? Whose responsibility is it to present work? The artist? A private or public presenter? How much does the reputation of the presenting organization contribute to the success of your work? Do they continue to support you after your show? Should they? Do you find yourself in situations where you can talk to presenters about your work? Do presenters intimidate you? Should they?
58. Performance Makers- Where do you show your work? Do you need/want/receive technical support? How much money (on average) do you fork over to show there? Whose responsibility is it to present work? The artist? A private or public presenter? How much does the reputation of the presenting organization contribute to the success of your work? Do you find yourself in situations where you can talk to presenters about your work? Do presenters intimidate you? Should they?
68. If the expected cost of producing or attending a show is different for “dance makers” than it is for “performance makers”, what might that say about the relationship between economics, class and aesthetics? How do those relationships play out in an evaluation of artistic success? How do those relationships play out in the opportunities for presentation? How might race and gender contribute to these dynamics? How does economic disparity effect the potential for artistic collaboration/conversation between dance makers and performance makers? How do you feel about the distinctions between “dance” and “performance” in Chicago? Elsewhere in the US? Outside the US?
76. Do you feel like you are at an advantage having graduated from SAIC or Columbia College as you create/perform in and around Chicago? In what way(s)? Do you feel like you are at an advantage if your art/dance/performance degree is from somewhere outside of Chicago? Do you feel like you are at an advantage if you do NOT have an art-related degree as you create/perform in and around Chicago? In what way(s)?
81. In what ways are your experiences of privilege and/or disadvantage reflected in your work?
82. Who’s work do you like in Seattle? In Portland? In San Francisco? In LA? In Austin? In Minneapolis? In Detroit? In Philadelphia? In DC? In Northampton? In Miami? In New York City? In Chicago?
95. What might someone who does not live/work in the Chicago Pomo/Contemporary Dance/Performance scene say about the Chicago scene? What do you think the perception of these particular communities might be to outsiders?
97. If you overheard this statement, “Hubbard and Joffrey aside, there is no notable dance/performance happening in Chicago” what/who would you use as an example to refute such a statement? And if they asked, “Well, why haven’t I heard of them?” how would you respond?
99. What do you imagine success looks like in this field? What do you imagine your life will look like in ten years? Do you think/feel the Chicago Pomo/Contemporary Dance/Performance scene can sustain you? Do you think it should?
image by Christine Wallers