MR Festival 2008: Jennifer Monson in clean slate by Karinne Keithley

by Karinne Keithley
MR Festival Spring 2008: Somewhere Out There

Jennifer Monson performed at the very end of a marathon evening late Thursday, part of the CLEAN SLATE program. As I watched her improvise I experienced one of those rare moments of complete gratitude for being lucky enough to be in the room I was in. By this time in the evening the audience had moved (at the request of the exquisite Salva Sanchis) from the rows of chairs to ring the dancing space. Jennifer stalled her own beginning. Entering the space she walked around for a bit. “I’m so nervous” she said to all of us fatigued, lit, waiting. Then she started a tiny vibration in her left upper arm and it led her into dancing.

I’ve been trying to articulate an ethics of singularity, or to use a term of one of my heroines Joan Retallack, a poethics of singularity. Jennifer dancing in that room was an object lesson in the encounter of a singular, uncategorizable being, and it reminded me of what I unabashedly think is the best thing about dancing: hyper-aware, unimpeded encounter. The po of the poethics comes by taking a stance toward the aesthetic structuring of the event as a practice which prepares and instantiates an ethical practice. Jennifer’s dancing created that field of encounter for me in a balance of visibility and experience. An unmistakable lifer in improvised dance, meticulously tuned, unfurling away from the grooves of habit, she performed without engaging the economy of performative exchange–no persona, no framing, no excessive giving or needing– and I think we all watched without engaging that economy too. It is, after all, a shared project. No one was eclipsed; this is the ethic of the poethic.

Gwen Welliver’s presence in the audience increased the sense of that stance. If this is a post of unabashedness then I should add that in my own movement research, Gwen taught me about a poethical relationship to dancing, something very different from that performative exchange, something about a set of living minds moving around a room together.

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