By Caroline (‘Swanee’) Swanson, Administrative Coordinator School of the Arts/Jack Kerouac School
Of all of the thesis performances I have witnessed at Naropa, Casandre Medel (BA Performance student at Naropa) has constructed a performance which has a feeling of embodying the most transformational, qualities of the human collective term, ‘community’. More than that, of being in congregation with one another.
Casandre begins with a challenge for us all:
“Let’s breathe, let’s look, and let’s speak.”
And so, we each took a breath.
“To control the breath is to control the mind…. We can fall in love or, hate someone… We shared that experience”
We then shared the act of looking at the person next to us and around us. It was beautiful to see the actions that looking inspired. Lovers kissed, friends smiled at each other or waved, acquaintances shook hands.
Next, we were asked to speak a word each of us felt was our quintessential self, but everyone saying their individual word together was entirely illegible, dissolving into laughter.
“What is community? I know, that’s a black hole of a question,” Casandre asked us all, with a creeping realization that what we had just done, what Casandre had just inspired was an energy to our context of the night. We weren’t just there to watch a performance. Each of us was there because our friend was performing or because we wanted to see the hard-work of our students. Casandre’s goal was to bring this to the forefront. As such it was an invitation to see ourselves in our comrades roles and ask the questions, how does all of this expand my community? And specifically,
“How do we shape our roles in community by using our creativity?”
What ensued was avideo montage of community members talking about community, family bonds with those we were born with and those we have chosen. Dennis Kerr said, “Spirituality and music. That’s what community is to me.” For Lorenzo Gonzalez, MFA Contemporary Performance chair said, “community is about finding harmony”. So, you see? Difference lies only in the semantics of experience. Videos edited with a thread building on what the other has said, building off an element of chaos that needs to occur.
Live performances followed as both individual and collective testimonials to the tender, wild beauty of experienced. To summarize them all would not do justice to either the performer or experience as audience member. To quote the first community performer,
“All firefighters are artists,” which is to say that art is in everything you do whether it is in shaping fire, or putting them out.
Thinking of Casandre’s stunning feminist arial choreography and the aria of its ascent, we can shape ourselves in protest to others’ unfair judgment of us. According to the reflections we want to see of ourselves and according freedom of movement, what this is really about is using what is appropriate to the time and space we require. Even at the end, as everyone took the stage together dancing in their myriad ways, the harmony evolved to each person’s movement.
This is the essence of finding community in art because otherwise, why do what we do? Whether it’s because of the people who shape us, or their absence or both, as humans it is our fate to change and be changed. What changes us changes how we place ourselves in roles we take on in community. These are the roles that have played their part in changing the harmony. The key here is that it is still in harmony.
To quote Fiona Small in her movement of the evening, “I am going to conjure the world in this strange little corner over here.”