Five Questions for Keely Garfield

Keely Garfield is in the midst of her latest “eruption” (as Claudia LaRocco calls it) at Duo Multicultural Arts Center (DMAC) this weekend. “Twin Pines” runs tonight and tomorrow at 8pm. For those wary of modern-day hallucinogens, Keely serves up a good, chemical-free, inducement of altered states.

I remember doing a 10-day Vipassana meditation many years ago and actually had the entire treatment for a violent HK style action movie done in my head half way through my time there. So what was it about the jackhammer in your mind during your retreat that prompted this latest investigation? Hmm…um…well…where was I? Er…god.  Here.  Ok.  And then, the dropping into the space between my ears, between I hate him and I love her.  Between long, long ago and the very far away distant distance.  What would it look like to make a dance that looked like the contents of my head?  The stage suddenly overcrowded with rundown runamuck random riots and then belligerently boring bits. A gestalt and a quietude.  What would happen if I met the buddha on this road? Would I kill her?  And then it was irresistible.  I had to know what an actual moving meditation would look like, feel like, sound like and where it would take me that was different from where I had been before.  Wake up!

I recall seeing you on 4th St. soon after reading a FB post about you hauling a tree stump up many stairs this past June. How did working at DMAC impact the work you made? Twin Pines happens on all three floors of DMAC.  To be clear.  “Stump” is performed in the third floor studio and “Flesh” occurs on stage. In between, “Mulch Milch,” a film created by myself and Brandin Steffensen after the tornado that brought trees down outside our house in Brooklyn blocking the front door, plays on the second floor at intermission.  During my extended residency at DMAC, there was construction going on.  Jackhammers, literally, accompanied our every move.  Dust rained through the cracks in the ceiling.  One day I thought it would be wonderful to have a tree in the piece. When I went down into the street they were piling up stumps of a tree that was being cut down and hauled out of the marble cemetery.  One by one, I carried 7 of those stumps up five flights of stairs.  All the time chanting to myself, ” I have no body, I have no mind, I am just the breath of life…”  My heart nearly burst through my chest and then I realized that even though I now had my tree, I had no guarantee that they would make the piece any better.  Today, when I went to buy cat food – there is a phantom cat in the work given voice to eventually as part of the soundtrack by Sasha the resident DMAC cat – the guy asked me if I wanted a free box of tissues and he handed me a box with a picture of twin pine trees on it. DMAC is a channel, a place in between worlds; It’s very special.

You’ve got a great crew with you once again. What does collaboration mean to you? Choreography is an inherently collaborative art, collective act.  Choreography is simply a vehicle for dancing.  Omagbitse, Brandin, Anthony and I dance together.  Matthew sings his dance.  We are all alive at the same moment.  In many ancient mythologies the “whole man” consisted of: a natural body.. a spiritual body.. a heart…. a double… a soul… a shadow.. an intangible ethereal casing or spirit, a form and a name. Now, that’s collaboration!

What is yoga to you? Listening. Compassion in action.  The pause at the bottom of the breath out, and the miracle of the breath in. Barely there and beautiful. Also, I work as an integrative yoga therapist with people dealing with cancer and witnessing people drop into themselves through this practice is inspiring and makes making dances for me more valiant, more real, more imperative.

How have you changed as an artist in the past 10 years? 20? You’re kidding right?  Well…I used to be very interested in choreography with a capital C. You know, making things with a beginning, middle and end, space and time etc.  Now I am much more interested in dancing with a capital D and I like things that are too long, lopsided, heavy handed and barely there.  I used to spend a lot of time thinking about dances, now I want more time to read…

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