ARTISTS REACH OUT: REFLECTIONS IN A TIME OF ISOLATION
Senior Curatorial Director Eva Yaa Asantewaa dreamed this series of interviews, Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation, out of grief for her work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance.
“In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.
But there’s no distancing around what we still can share with one another—our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.
So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I’m glad they’re part of our beautiful community, and I’m eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.” – Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Senior Curatorial Director
This interview features Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, dance artist and Gibney affiliated artist.
Jordan Demetrius Lloyd is a dance artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Originally from Albany, NY, Lloyd graduated from The College at Brockport where he performed works by Maura Keefe and Alexandra Beller. He has collaborated with and performed for Karl Rogers, Netta Yerushalmy, Tammy Carrasco, Monica Bill Barnes, Catherine Galasso, Laura Peterson, Ambika Raina and David Dorfman Dance. He currently teaches at Rutgers University and Mark Morris Dance Center, and his work has been produced by New York Live Arts, BRIC, Movement Research at Judson Memorial Church, The Center for Performance Research and Brooklyn Studios for Dance. He was selected as a 2019 Center for Performance Research Artist in Residence and is a recipient of the 2019-20 Fresh Tracks Performance and Residency Program at New York Live Arts. Most recently, Lloyd was the assistant choreographer of the new off-Broadway show Whisper House at 59E59 Theater. For more please check out jordandlloyd.com
Photo from Fresh Tracks 2019 by Maria Baranova.
I am in the process of creating a work formerly known as pink sheets, an investigation of relative time, teetering on the lines of storytelling and abstraction. My cast—Stanley Gambucci, Myssi Robinson, Kennedy Thomas, Ramon Vargas—and I dove back into research in January at New York Live Arts to prepare for a showing in May, the culmination of the Fresh Tracks Performance & Residency Program. While there are conversations between New York Live Arts and my fellow cohort about the reality of our showing, the abrupt halt and unexpected break from our rehearsal flow has shifted how I think about the timeline of this work. I’m a bit stuck and disappointed about how to move forward in light of rehearsal and performance cancellations and shifts in income and the economy, especially when I consider the nine months of rehearsals and the many financial investments made for this work.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
I started taking dance classes when I was 8 at a studio nooked in the backside of a local plaza. This felt like the beginning of my formal training, though I started working long before that. My impulses as a child were toward performance, claiming attention for how I expressed through movement. This often brought me into an imaginative space as I transformed garages into stages and early improvisations into elaborate productions. My artistry always lived in a world much larger than the one in front of me.
I was a serious student of dance, and I explored and developed a sense of voice with a lot of rigor. I went from studio hip-hop to the vast competitive dance world and landed at SUNY Brockport, a post-modern, composition-heavy program. Brockport gave birth to curiosities of form, abstraction, and a way of organizing ideas that felt new and familiar at once.
Photo of Lloyd’s NEIGHBORS by Whitney Browne.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
I try to focus on listening. I work intuitively, and I create from impulses of the body, mind and spirit. The range of dance environments that I passed through (I’m still passing through) speak to my present interests. I think about letting go or shedding layers of the self that are no longer speaking to me, offering space for what feels true. In this, I find myself creating performances that span the collective experience through precise manipulations of time and space, with movement being my main tool.
I try to sustain some sort of physical practice that allows my body to be without prompt, which gives me a sense of freedom in responding to what my body needs. It is through this care that I try to listen to the body and the different states of being. I think this is how I access my visions, which are thick and usually saturated with ideas. They come and go at random and are often triggered by sound, light, mood, personal experiences and, of course, movement!
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
I feel like I am living in a constant state of allowing. I allow my interests to shift and my moods to swing. Who I am is always transforming and is heavily affected by my environment. Community, even though it feels difficult to sustain in New York, is extremely important to me. The more I engage with people, the more I access and open different parts of myself. I widen my imagination and add to the food bank of ideas that my artistry feeds on.
Right now, this sort of investigation of the self feels integral to me and my work. I spend a lot of time reflecting on who and how I am in the world, and I think these reflections show up in my work in abstract ways. The same expansion of self that I feel when I engage with the world is what I hope a viewer feels as they interact with the fantastical playgrounds that I create.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
Right now, there is a lot of rest. Long improvisations, gentle stretches and walks are getting me through. I’m taking comfort in empowering music: Megan thee Stallion, Beyoncé, Childish Gambino, India Arie, and Stevie Wonder. My experience of time is extreme, and I try not to measure my productivity against that. I am FaceTiming my friends which feels good, and I am trying to watch a lot of dance.
I feel lucky to continue my teaching practice with students at Rutgers University, and I am warmed by their resilience as we transition to an online learning platform. For me, the time is now to be where I’m at, and I’m trying not to judge or criticize when that proves harder than I think. I look forward to seeing how we will shift as a people, and how this moment acts as a portal to alternate ways of being and listening.
To read all of Eva Yaa Asantewaa’s Artists Reach Out interviews, visit infinitebody.blogspot.com.
Top photo courtesy of the artist.