by Aiano Nakagawa
hers and hers is a San Francisco based queer feminist dance collective. I first saw them at the ODC Pilot Program showcasing their piece Gen, Ryan, Inez, Dylan, Salome, or Quinn. Their message, their movement, and their medium of communication left me feeling empowered and hungry for more. I got to sit down with the founders, Melissa Lewis and Courtney King, and share a meal where I got to know more about their queer feminist dance collective, their friendship, and their artistic process. I had a blast getting to know them and am honored to share this interview with you all.
by Hannah Bressler
Charlotte Shane is a writer and former escort who blogged for several years on a widely read Tumblr under the name Nightmare Brunette. Her writing made waves, and caught the eye of other artists for it’s revealing look at the emotional and political themes in sex work, beauty politics, interactions between men and women, and it’s highly stylized personal writing. She later released a series through TinyLetter Press called Prostitute Laundry. Both of these collections of writing she released as books this year.
by Aiano Nakagawa
Garth Grimball is a bay-area based dancer and choreographer. In his latest work, "Dolly would", Grimball explores the intersections of Queer and Southern Identity. "Dolly would" premieres this weekend as part of ODC's Pilot Program, an eleven-week intensive with mentorship for 6 artists/groups that occurs bi-annually. You can catch "Dolly would" this Saturday, April 9 at 8pm and Sunday, April 10 at 4pm and 7pm.
AN: How does “Dolly would” speak to/relate to the greater context of the type of work you create?
GG: Knowing that I will be dancing my own choreography my primary goal is to create honestly as both a performer and a choreographer. This may sound rudimentary but I think when many choreographers dance their own work there can be a disconnect between “what I want to see” and “what I can do.” I often feel that disconnect. The piece I want to see may not be the work that is the most honest. This is where feedback is paramount, and not until very recently have I been able to fully open myself up to it.
AN: Why did you decide to explore queer identity and southern identity?
GG: Because I am queer and Southern. So it is an accessible place to mine for inspiration. In a broader context, coming from the South, I am always on some level working to promote a positive Southern identity in the face of many presumptions and stereotypes. The South continues to be panned as the backwards backdrop of Deliverance, or as cartoonishly ignorant, when there is a wealth of culture and history that should be celebrated. Don’t get me wrong, there are serious problems in the South, but there are serious problems everywhere. To get personal, I’ve been called “faggot” by strangers on the street in California far more than I ever did in North Carolina; these issues are not regional and do not exist in a vacuum. I’ll be pleased if I can contribute anything to the Southern artistic canon.
AN: Dolly Parton's name is in the title and you’re dancing to her music, but why Dolly Parton? How does her work contribute to your vision?
GG: Well I have always loved Dolly’s music. She is one of the great songwriters of the 20th century. On top of that there never has and probably never will be someone who can bring together queer culture and country western culture like she has done. Similar to the way Willie Nelson brought together hippies and farmers in the 1970s, Dolly is able to cross genres and cultures in a way that is bigger than her music or her personality, which I find fascinating. She is iconic for the integrity of her character as much as her music and on top of that her style and image is as queer as can be. In terms of crafting the choreography I found a lot of inspiration in the seemingly simple narrative arcs of country music. So much emotion and storytelling can be packed into a three and a half minute song, and I use those arcs as the framework for my own narratives that are danced in the piece.
AN: How has this experience and exploration changed throughout the process? Anything you were really surprised to encounter/discover?
GG: My piece, “Dolly would,” is being produced by ODC as part of Pilot Program, an eleven-week intensive with mentorship for 6 artists/groups that occurs bi-annually. The hard timeline of the program doesn’t allow for much doubt in the creative process, which I have come to really value. The exploration has remained clear throughout thanks to this lack of doubt. Everyone involved is there to support the process and challenge each other to make the best work possible. I am very thankful this piece came to fruition in the presence of other artists working in different dance style and traditions; their feedback pushes me to see more.
by Aiano Nakagawa
"Wax Poet(s) is an arts and performance collective born out of the desire to create and the love of collaboration. Founded in the principles of dance and movement, our work begins with the body and ends with the audience. We create art utilizing the unique talents of our contributing artists comprised of musicians, dance artists, choreographers, writers, visual artists, designers and poet(s)."
Over the past three months I've had the honor of getting to create with Heather Stockton, Garth Grimball, and Jeanette Male co founders of Wax Poet(s) a Bay Area art and performance collective. I got to chat with them about their company, how they support each other, and their upcoming show, Shouting Through a Window Between Worlds, which premieres Friday March 4th at Joe Goode Annex in San Francisco. Ticket information available below.
by Aiano Nakagawa
Devon Anderson is an early childhood educator working with eighteen two-year-olds in Berkeley, CA. She is passionate about social justice, nature education, and protecting childrens’ right to play. Her dream is to start a forest preschool that provides opportunities for children in urban areas to connect and play in nature. Here, Devon discusses her views of teaching children in a socially just way.
80% of our brain develops between the ages of 0-3. Many of the experiences we have during this time, even if we don’t remember them, can impact us for the rest of our lives. Early childhood is when we form our beliefs about how the world is and people are. That’s why it’s important to talk about concepts like race, gender, anatomical sex, ability, family structure, and sexual orientation from an early age when children are developing theories about the world and their belief systems.
by Tara Miller
Mari is a poet living and writing in Portland, Oregon. Her work explores themes of justice, addiction, race, and empowerment. Mari is especially interested in building and expanding her community through collaborations and the stories she shares.
Tara Miller: When and how did you start writing? And when did you start writing poetry, specifically?
Mari Shepard-Glenn: For me [writing] was a really healthy way to get my feelings out. And then in doing that and when I started to take writing classes in high school and college, I was able to dig deeper and dissect and understand more about why I write the way I do, my personal style. So that was really cool to define writing as my main creative outlet. And actually allow me to develop my craft and get better at it.
TM: Do you feel like you have a lot of support in your life for what you’re doing with your writing?
MSG: When I’ve shown my work to friends or family or even the literary community here, I have mostly gotten positive feedback and felt comfortable and welcomed. But at the same time, I’m not personally where I want to be with my work. And also I feel like I won’t make it until I get that terrible review or that harsh criticism from somebody who is a solid member of the community. Because it’s important to put yourself out there, and I feel like if everyone likes your work you’re doing something wrong because you’re not getting read by a diverse crowd.
Not to say that I don’t value where I’ve been, where I’ve read and the communities that have supported me. But I think it’s important to get your work read by a lot of different types of people, because then you might actually reach somebody who is not on board with what you stand for but they might learn something based on you sharing of yourself and maybe grow in themselves or take a different stance on some political or social issue.
TM: “Dan Eldon” and “Lynch Mob” are rich with political language and references. What is your perspective on incorporating politics into poetry? Can you tell us some future projects you want to work on?
MSG: Well I definitely want to do more of [incorporating politics]. My style is not completely in your face. I’m more subtle in how I frame my work and that’s true with my personality. I think it can be easier for people to digest and think about an issue when it’s tied in metaphorically but not so much that the poem comes off as vague. So I’m always trying to find a balance where I’m not being completely blunt but I’m still getting the point across.
[For some future projects] I want to do a series of poems, each one talking about different addictions. One on alcoholism, one on hard drugs, maybe eating disorders.
I [also] really want to collaborate. That is something I’ve always desired to do because I think there’s something really awesome and beautiful about sharing yourself with another artist. It’s like a magic that happens when you vibe well and you get together and create something from both of yourselves.
For more information, or to check out Mari's work, visit her website here.