Gilbert asks: One of the things I have come to realize as a dance critic is how much it involves writing about bodies in such a direct way, at least compared to other performing arts, in which discussions about bodies as physical things largely (and probably rightly so) reduced. Did it ever seem difficult to you?
Gia answers: Usually it doesn’t sound complicated, but at the same time I’m aware of the sensitivity it takes to write on the body and how easily something can be misinterpreted. I don’t want to hurt anyone – and that doesn’t mean I haven’t – but I’m doing my best not to be cruel. And while I might like the shape of a dancer’s leg or the length of an arm, I don’t like to fetishize the body or the dancers. I really dislike writing about them like creatures or objects. Dance is on the body, but I don’t fully think about what a body looks like – sometimes a skinny dancer can’t really dance. I love older dancers. And I’m really excited to see the performances of the dancers who have just had babies because I think their dancing will change – it will have a different kind of awareness and freedom.
What matters most to me is what this body does, how it moves in space, what residue it leaves behind; or, in stillness, how it changes and holds the space around it. One thing that interests me so much about this digital era of performance is how dancers who are in full control of their bodies don’t lose their magnetism and directivity on film. Ayodele Casel’s recent Joyce show, “Chasing Magic,” blew me away (and Mandy Patinkin, too, apparently), and part of the reason was the power of the dancers, including herself – how I could feel the power of her dancing and the cellular control she has over her body through the screen. It’s wild. Mayfield Brooks, in “Whale Fall,” another digital performance, was so intuitive, so visceral. It was another performance that bled across the screen.
Gilbert asks: I remember at the start of this pandemic, after the performing arts shut down, you wrote an article about how we were all trying to avoid each other in public places for fear of spreading the virus. It was you who saw how civilian bodies moved relative to each other and you could write about it. It is one of the many ways in which you see ‘dance’ as existing outside the typical places – in all forms of culture and in everyday life. I guess that’s no more a question than an observation.
Gia answers: At the start of the pandemic, I felt that people were suddenly becoming aware of their bodies: of their placement in space, of standing up a bit to – in my imagination at least – feel their own weight. People are so far removed from their bodies. Recently I wrote another story, which I consider to be a complementary piece to the one you mentioned, titled “Slow Down to Feel”. It was in January, when the closing really dragged on; It was winter. It was getting hard to do not feeling lethargic. Ignoring your body is like being half alive; I wanted to show people how they could transform their minds – at least to get through the next few months – with somatic practices that lead to a new kind of internal attention.