Crip/Mad Archive Dances
What it's all about:
The Crip/Mad Archive Dances address disabled and mad presences in asylum spaces and in dance archives through participatory performances grounded in disability culture.
What is on this page:
This page is the development archive of the Crip/Mad Archive Dances, initially conceived in 2021/2022 as part of a New York Public Library Dance Research Fellowship. You can find here short videos giving you a glimpse of the experiential nature of the project, a publication on the project in Theater, as well as the developmental background and the history of the early score development.
The project is ongoing. A recent performance installation/immersion in the stacks happened in the Jerome Robbins Dance Archive, NYPL, Lincoln Center, New York City, May 3 2023, 6.30pm. The longer 30+ mins video-in-process of the project recently screened as a workshop at York University, Toronto, May 26, as part of an Eco Soma graduate intensive. The final experimental documentary will be ready in early 2024.
An in-depth virtual community performance sharing was part of this three-part dance workshop:
Here is a glimpse from the new experimental/community media documentary in progress (premiere at the International Screendance Festival at the Salt Lake Film Society, Feb 2024)
A 4 minute clip from an approximately 30 minute long experimental documentary-in-progress about embodied disabled and mad gestures in and out of the archive, in eco soma engagement with site, elements, and time.
Video description: The excerpt opens on a slow drift over an old photograph of vegetation (the full documentary reveals this as part of the eco soma disability investigation of asylum memories). Then it switches to a round-dance: dancers in the present tuning with archival 1970s footage. After another drift over an asylum garden, Chanika Svetvilas, in a red-and-black striped sweater and hat, first faces the camera and then moves backward and forward against a pastel-colored outdoor wall, with a drawing of a ship at sea, and soil at the bottom of the screen. In a second community media contribution, Kym McDaniel, with a bright pink hat and warm clothes stands in a snowy garden, speaks, and then falls to her knees with a silent scream, fists shaking. We end on the asylum garden, with the camera panning to a human being at rest.
Participatory Actions at and around New York City's Lincoln Plaza, August and October 2021, January 2022.
After a day of work in the dance archives, tracking traces of disabled (crip) and mad dancerly lives, I'll offer an accessible dance score and movement ritual influenced by my finds which we can together enact outdoors, in public.
What am I doing at the archives?
Excerpt from my application:
"Crip/mad dramaturgies means excavating the creativity of disabled people in our cultural histories both within and without official archives. The realities of archival paucity, the few traces left by subjects deemed to have been mad or seen as disabled, also means that I embrace contemporary arts-based methods in humanities research, aligning myself with, for instance, Saidiya Hartman’s concept of critical fabulation as an archival intervention – a working method I also explored in The Anarcha Anti-Archive, where collaborators and I engaged Black studies and disability studies in our exploration of J. Marion Sims, the ‘father of US gynecology’ who experimented on slave women. At the NYPL, I hope to find surprising gems, celebrate disabled people in the oral history archive and beyond, and listen to how they narrate bodily and mental difference, and the changing bodyminds of dancers.
The methods of these intersected and ghosted history projects offer performance studies perspectives on medical or therapeutic industrial complexes, and engage intersectional perspectives on class, race, gender, sexuality and sanity in our life histories and our modes of expression. The project's core dramaturgical charge is to find ways to bring this research to bear on how we as disabled dancers see ourselves, each other, and our audiences as co-presences with creative force and energy. How do we share knowledges in ways that not only provide factual information, but allow for affective tracings that do not just see historical subjects as victims?
The library’s holdings will allow me to dive deep into dance’s archival traces of mental health difference, neurodiversity, and physical difference. A residency will also allow me to use the library’s surroundings as a staging ground from which to dance toward what might be missing in the archive (as I hope to spend some of my time in NYC organizing dance workshops with fellow disabled dancers)."
What can we do together (outdoors/indoors masked)?
Initial Score Days:
(Crip/Mad Archive Dances will be part of various site visits throughout 2022 and 2023, check the events page for details).
Sample 2023 Crip/Mad Archive Dances:
York University, Toronto, May: workshop screening of 30+ min project video
Jerome Robbins Dance Archive, New York Public Library, May: live performance
January 31st, 2023: My keynote as the McAndless Distinguished Professor at Eastern Michigan University: "Disability Histories: Arts-Based Methods, Archives and Futures"
Sample 2022 Crip/Mad Archive Dances:
October 12-14, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Theatre/Dance Program
November 17-19, Western University, Canada, Knowledge Creation through Performance residency
January 27/28 and January 31st 2022: final public presentation as part of the Fellows' Symposium, New York Public Library Dance Division
January 9th 2022: Crip/Mad Archive Dances video day, Duderstadt Video Performance Studies, University of Michigan
November 2nd 2021: Crip/Mad Archive Dances at Bennington College Dance Department, online
October 20th 2021, 7pm, Lincoln Center, Astor Gallery. We'll be using digitized video material from the archive in this indoor performance. Please wear comfy clothes for gentle moving, and bring your mask. If you are interested in participating, please email email@example.com. The Astor Gallery is accessible from the Amsterdam entrance.
October 15th 2021, 5.15-6pm, outdoors under the golden trees, at the Hyatt New Brunswick, plenary performance as part of Dance Studies Association's annual meeting: Galvanizing Dance Studies.
A short report on this event: We ended up in a procession, with 50 people in a park, as the last rays of warm sunshine kissed us, with fall leaves settling on us from the trees that sheltered us, supported by earth and sky. Like last time, when Elisabeth Motley folded Augustine's hysteric choreographic trace into our circle, we had guests with movement contributions; Stephanie with a movement remembering touch in prep for electroshocks, Chanika Svetvilas with a memory of walking, and dance elder Halifu Osumare gifting us with a memory lineage of Fred Benjamin's jazz dance. It was rich ceremony.
First Full Score Day: August 19th 2021, 4.30pm (in person, outdoors), The Green, Lincoln Center, NYC (the green astro-turf-like but actually soy-based community playground on Josie Robertson Plaza, designed by Mimi Lien. Look for my scooter, with the yellow battery).
An essay on this version of the Crip/Mad Archive Dances is forthcoming as an open-access online publication in Theater Magazine: Yale's Journal of Criticism, Plays, and Reportage, link will be posted here.
Interdependent Set-up, Try-out in Community: August 17th 2021, 7.00pm (in person, outdoors). Lincoln Plaza, NYC. Come out and help me find a site for our future actions, try out some initial score ideas with me. I'll bring a score based on three crip/mad ancestors that I have worked on in the past: Raimund Hoghe, Homer Avila, and (space and movement and) Vincent Van Gogh's painting of an Asylum Garden (at the bottom of this page, you can find two essays and one short story about these three ancestors, in case you want to prep a bit - but you don't have to!).
A short report on this first version: We danced on the Green in honor of crip elders who have passed, and offered space for all of us to honor all our elders. We danced iconic moments from Homer Avila's and Raimund Hoghe's repertoires, and found movement and sanctuary in Vincent Van Gogh's painting of an asylum garden. Two wonderful dance artists ran the score with me, tried out sites, and had a mini-photo shoot (as the community participatory actions are so rarely documented): Kate Freer and Hettie Barnhill. Thank you, and thanks to the tiny community participant who did the score with us - in our final score moment, giving thanks to ancestors, she gladly gave thanks to her grandmother.
This project is part of Petra Kuppers' dance research fellowship at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library, July to December 2021
The project developed out of two essays and one short story, and the lines of inquiry emerging from them. The first essay is on Raimund Hoghe, transmission and disability culture, and the second on Homer David Avila and the crip relic. The surrealist short story is based on Vincent van Gogh's stay in an asylum.