freedom practice is a container jesse hewit and i work with in teaching situations. here’s our letter to participants. anyone can be a participant. find a friend or several and talk about the slippery and multifarious concept of “freedom.”
the quotidian practice (homework) is included at the bottom.
Dear Freedom Practitioners,
An observation/proposal from Larry and Jesse:
Freedom comes from disruption, comes from feeling familiarity, comes from sudden dislocation and disorientation. So arguably, making art and thinking about the power of art are both processes of getting free. It’s a weird and humbling thing to think about, as we are – more than ever – so hugely aware of how embedded we are in the prisons and ruts of contemporary social and political systems. But when we look around and feel scared and frustrated, the two of us can’t shake the feeling that we have a choice; and the choice is about what we practice*. And so, Freedom Practice is about studying our quotidian impulses and behaviors, and learning their innards in a effort to infuse beauty, hope, and impracticality into each and every little thing we do.
But… it’s fucking personal. So, we need you to collaborate with us, please. We need you to ignite your own ideas and experiences of choice, of resistance, of madness, of body intelligence and survival. We want to build a new behavior, and this time of practicing with you is our research. We hoped that dropping the word “freedom” – as an object – into a text about a dance workshop might get your mind working on how, with our dance/art practice, we can begin to re-animate such a word; a word that comes with such a big blasting bombastic charge (a charge that is sometimes useful and other times not useful at all). It seems that a word like FREEDOM gets tossed around with such frequency that its potency becomes diluted by the sheer volume of its occurrence. Still… we think that we kinda know exactly what we mean, when we say FREEDOM. It’s a bodily state. It’s a way of being together. And when we can’t muster much action around any of this, it is at least an intention. One distillation of all of this is what ye olde dictionary (online) says, just to get pedantic on ourselves:
freedom- the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
So…In order to really work at generating new theories that can come from any direction in the room, we want to address FREEDOM in relation to the teaching environment. It is both personally and politically important to us to complicate the codified nature of the dance workshop. In an attempt to activate that definition, we came up with a couple of ideas to lay out as a baseline for how we engage with each other during Freedom PRACTICE.
-whoever shows up are the right people.
-whatever happens is what happened.
-all systems of value are by their nature subjective. questions of good and bad / right and wrong can be engaged however the systems / ideas that created those values should also be engaged.
-the structures of power in this room are subjective. jesse and larry are acting as teachers and will thereby be negotiating within and around the precarious framework of the workshop. there are implicit dynamics of power in that framework. engage / question/ submit / refuse/ play with that as you see fit. as an aside we’ll ask you consider the group body and be respectful of the other folks in the room.
-nobody in this room is accountable for being entertaining / pleasing / interesting / clever / beautiful / ugly etc. for yourself or for anyone else. You can always however, choose to personally engage these qualities and thrill yourself.
-You are encouraged to recognize that you are constantly making choices. We propose that agency and choice can be quiet and small, and can also be huge and momentous. There is so much active power in us. Therefore, we invite you to constantly question and investigate HOW and WHY you make these choices.
this list will get complicated as the week goes on. we want your input and want to practice strategizing freedom TOGETHER. So if you’ve got thoughts you wanna share, do it!
We’ll include the workshop description here:
Freedom Practice leans into and tones the necessary behaviors to exist in a politicized body. Guided by concepts of resistance, joy, and obsession, we believe in enacting a continuous state of research and improvisation, in articulating the wild and contradictory powers and ideas of the dancing body, and in allowing the grit and madness of our contemporary state to fuel our physical impulses. This workshop will focus on: long-form ecstatic moving states to push the breakage of pattern/posturing in our performance practices; focused sensory response research to identify which elements we each have the strongest individual dynamics with; total image ball/runway/witnessed solos to create dreams and magic and instant art works; and texts and discussion about bodies, time, and what’s going on around us.
We’ll be working the studio, but as a counter-point we’ll also be engaging “quotidian practices.” We’ll create scores/rituals that we can take home and invite into the minutiae of our bodies, our homes, our beds, our dreams. We extend the practice to excavate the creative viability of the big wide world around us. Using the practice as both a personal and political tool to unlock the total possibility of LIVING ART. Let’s try hard! It is our personal belief, that the world needs these shake ups RIGHT. now. The potential of art/creativity/ritual/magic need to be unhinged from the pivots of “career” and “profession,” and allowed to seep into the totality of our being/living.
We’re fucking stoked.
Jesse and Larry
*The variant contexts of freedom require some contextualizing for a dance class. There is a Prison Industrial Complex, child slavery, still-unmitigated worldwide effects of the Atlantic slave trade, but that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss freedom as a personal thing. We focus on the frame of the dance class while still considering the myriad of other reads freedom has as a wide-ranging and often brutal issue, not necessarily out of guilt so much as out of a desire to build culture that acknowledges wider political context gracefully, mirthfully, and with integrity.