Phoebe Berglund’s Rite of Spring @ Orgy Park

Phoebe Berglund presented ‘Rite of Spring’ at Orgy Park in Bushwick on May 1. The process included a group of us creating a dance floor by cutting tiles from raw terracotta and laying them out as a floor. We also imprinted steps into the clay, recreating sections of Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring and incorporating new dance as well. This conversation is from the following week when we chatted about the process.

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Matthew Newton

via Skype

Phoebe: I wanted to focus on the Rite of Spring because it was a lost ballet, it had disappeared for so many years and this interested me in my work on dance archives. The way the Joffrey Ballet had reconstructed the dance, it took the dance scholars 15 years to do the research, gathering source materials from the musical score, visuals and oral histories. I had no intention of reconstructing the work exactly but was interested in generating a new experience, a new dance, a new archive through researching the Rite of Spring archive.
Nikima Jagudajev: Didn’t the 100th anniversary just happen?
Phoebe: yes 2013
Nikima: aha
Katie Dean: I didn’t know that. Was Nijinsky’s the first Rite of Spring? My ballet dance history knowledge is suck. {google answer is that yes it was the first one}.Well we definitely brought spring in on Sunday. I’ve been thinking about the piece a lot this week, about being close to the earth/clay for so long and out in the rain, that I haven’t had such a long tactile experience like that in a while/related to nature. That terracotta color too, I don’t see so much here.
Nikima: Yes very long term tactile with nature, so nice

Matthew Newton

Matthew Newton

Phoebe: The first Act, Adoration of the Earth, we definitely were into the earth in the clay. There are so many things about Rite of Spring that are attractive- Nijinsky’s geometric, angular choreography worked well on our grid system of tiles. Nijinsky created counterpoint in his choreography with color, which we did. Many of the scenes are of brooding serene women. The piece is very matriarchal.
Stormy Budwig: My mom came to our show! I thought a lot about matrilineal connection throughout the piece. Also: When it started to really rain about thirty minutes in, it felt like ‘ok now the stakes are properly set’.
Nikima: The contemporary brooding serene woman – the relaxed content thinker
Jessica Cook: It’s funny, I think we set out to be relaxed and content! With the cold and rain a lot was at stake/running through our heads, perhaps a small worry of catastrophe. But somehow I think we transcended into this upper penthouse of interconnected focus. Task masters/daydreamer/wanderer/thinker women.

Matthew Newton

Matthew Newton

Nikima: But not just thinking. I want to say dreaming but not in the sense that it takes you away from where you are. There are so many negative connotations to daydreaming, but it’s like a simple gentle way to multitask
Stormy:  Gentle and active.
 Nikima: Like thinking about things but not completely distracted, or taken away from the space that you are inhabiting. It is actually very relevant to the tactile, allowing for a full body sense of peace.
Stormy: The day-dreaming can arise from (or be semi-influenced by) all the minutiae that’s happening in the present.
Katie: The negative connotation of daydreaming removes you from your present or something, but this didn’t do that.
Jessica: Or something yes something.
Phoebe: Being present in your daily labor, in mundane tasks.
Nikima: Being present and also using the time to be in all the places that satisfy you-in your thoughts and in your tactile relationship to the space, and the material, etc.
Katie: I feel like there’s something about allowing your mind to soften, while being seen by people, that created a physical reaction for me.
Nikima: What do you mean?
Katie: I vacillated between being aware of being watched. The tiles created a delineation between what we were doing and the outside, but we were able to press into the outside, by planting flowers or laying or giving clay to audience. And in the moments when I was drifting, there were times when part of my brain softened and I felt like I was open to being watched in a different way. I don’t know if I quite have the words for it. Tunnel making?
Nikima: I totally felt that with the tiles. It was our own little space that became so cozy. I guess the work withstood the conditions
Phoebe: Nature wins!
Stormy: Nature rules.
Jessica: Rite on nature!!
Katie: Woot for nature
Nikima: woot woot

Tyrone Tanous

Tyrone Tanous

Phoebe: I had fun with the game structures  and the times when there was space to improvise and strange moments would happen and the piece would totally become something else, there were many passages where I felt transported to Mars in 2097 AD or some wild prehistoric jungle.
Stormy: Right—sometimes I felt we were rebuilding after something catastrophic, other times — like especially when we were in the conveyor belt line and we turned and someone, I think it was Nikima, slowly passed me a flower, frolicking and taking our time to usher in a new era…Which I mean actually…maybe both were true.
Nikima: I also dug the moments of playing around with the structure/ material that we were given.
 Katie: It’s so pleasurable to do work that you can physically see. My favorite job I think I’ve ever had was when in the summer when I was in high school, I used to paint college rental properties
Stormy: That sounds so good.
 Katie: ….and I would work with a friend, and we would listen to music really loud and then at the end we could see the work we’d done, and it was so satisfying.
Nikima: I think that is what I meant by safety – I felt like the work left space for me to play around but I wasn’t left alone to find my own support but rather the developed environment gave me (us) a sense of support: so I could play without questioning, without being taken out of the atmosphere that we were developing
Katie: There were also times I was uncomfortable, mostly toward the end. 
Nikima: what kind of discomfort?
Katie: Elemental, just feeling cold from the rain.
Stormy: Ditto 100%. Feet: Frozen.
Phoebe: I just felt really fucking cold: I said “we can’t take this anymore. It’s over”
Katie: Haha yes

Tyrone Tanous

Tyrone Tanous

Stormy: Phoebe, I actually really loved that as the way to officially end the performance, because it was honest and everyone watching was on the same page.
Jessica: At times I felt that tension too. Sometimes it was difficult to fully let go and “relax”. Not sure if it was due to cold and rain or just performance anxiety-haha, not like that-you know what I mean. Like, there are people here to watch you and part of the score is to not give the audience what you are assuming that they might have come there to see:::: DANCE! A WILD PERFORMANCE ART PIECE!!! To me that restraint and holding back was difficult and felt self indulgent at times. Why, I don’t know! It’s that damn dance conservatory wiring! Like, I’m in my own world having my own experience. Suppressing my desires to move or suppressing my desires to move due to an anxious feeling?
Nikima: This is when you have to trust the work in its entirety…
Phoebe: Oh another thing- when we were moving across the floor in the diagonal, I think I like that so much because that is what we always did in dance class growing up, ACROSS THE FLOOR, diagonal after diagonal, moving in synch, moving together. Like a mystical force emerging from the woods.
 Katie: Like hunting
Phoebe: Yes very serious and focused
Katie: Dance can be very serious sometimes
Stormy: Especially the moments when we finished the diagonals and we stopped and stood still for a long time, before we broke the spell by getting back to work. Something very specific felt conjured in the air…
Nikima: The diagonal was cool also because it was so focused and direct while a lot of it was less so. My attention during a lot of the piece was more spread out, but the diagonal was super focused and directional.
Katie: Not that the imagery is excluded to dance class imagery but it definitely brought up memories of that work, across the floor, spotting!
Phoebe: spotting! Haha. Shine shine. I don’t even know how to spell chane?
Katie: chaine’?
Phoebe: yes!
Katie: Shine shine shine
Phoebe: How did it feel for you working with the clay?
Stormy:  It reminded me of backpacking last summer. Walking barefoot into lakes and such. So gushy and supportive all at once. It’s like… Clay=threshold between building structures for society and getting totally lost in the wild.
Katie: The clay felt amazing, I used to work with clay a lot when I was younger but haven’t really worked with it in years. Very satisfying.
Phoebe: Clay, dance and EDM equal pleasure.
Phoebe: We didn’t really talk about the music but we are running out of time. DJ Matthew Higgs helped out with the playlist, he knows so much about dance music, hopefully he will DJ live next time

Tyrone Tanous

Tyrone Tanous

Phoebe: Any last thoughts on the reconstruction aspects? Have you done rite of spring before?!
Nikima: Never done rite of spring before
Stormy – Me neither.
Katie: First for me too
Nikima: Not sure what the purpose was but it felt good
Phoebe: What’s the purpose of dance lol
Nikima TRUTH
Katie: I DO NOT KNOW
Stormy – haaaaa
Phoebe: So funny to think about purpose and dance. It goes into the labor and leisure conversation
Nikima: Say more..
Phoebe: When we are dancing are we working?
Nikima: But are you talking about value?
Phoebe: Yes for sure
Nikima: mmhm
Nikima: whatever
Nikima: I mean fuck that shit
Nikima: I mean not really
Nikima: You know what I mean. I mean it’s either something that we will be perpetually fighting for… or we stop worrying about it, Maybe that is somewhat privileged to say… I don’t know, now we are getting into social structures etc
Stormy: I mean either way we do the work.
Phoebe: I have to go to work now
Katie: Yeah I gotta run but nice spending the morning with you all
Phoebe: xoxoxoxo (inlove)
Nikima: Peace out mofos
Phoebe: Peace

Matthew Newton

Matthew Newton

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