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 Gus Solomons jr, dancer and Gibney artist.
Dancer Gus Solomons jr graduated in architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied with Jan Veen at Boston Conservatory before moving to New York City to dance in Kicks and Co.! Solomons joined Donald McKayle’s company and studied the Martha Graham Technique but soon felt the constraints of modern dance. He was part of the collective of avant-garde experimentalists that eventually formed the Judson Dance Theater. Then, postmodern choreographer Merce Cunningham asked Solomons to join his company. Solomons began interpreting Cunningham’s postmodern concept of kinetic intention in his own choreography, founding The Solomons Company/Dance (1969-1994) and co-founding PARADIGM (1996-2011) with Carmen deLavallade and Dudley Williams. He has created over 165 dances and is known for his analytical approach, architectural concepts, musical collaborations, and use of video and other forms of media. Today, Solomons writes dance reviews and performs internationally with various artists.
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
At the moment, I’m in recuperation mode, healing form a particularly recalcitrant hip fracture, which has obliterated my mobility and limited my day-to-day life for nearly a year and a half. During recovery, I was still reviewing performances on my blog—www.solomons-says.com—until all live performances were canceled due to COVID-19. Now, I am doing a lot of contemplating the next thing I feel motivated to do.
I’m scheduled to complete a residency at University of Oklahoma, which was postponed from last fall, 2019, due to discovery of a medical crisis, which was rescheduled until this month, and now due to COVID-19, has been again postponed until November. Who knows?
I’m also starting to research a new solo for the 25th anniversary of DanceNow at Joe’s Pub, which I’ve been involved with since its beginning. Since suspending my company PARADIGM-dance in 2011 and retiring from teaching at NYU/Tisch School of the Arts in 2014, I have been mostly a choreographic advisor, both professionally—in the New Directions Choreography Lab at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and in the Alumni Choreography Workshop at NYU/Tisch and informally for choreographers whose work interests and/or inspires me.
Since suspending PARADIGM in 2011, I have been freelance performing for various choreographers in Europe. I’ve realized that my passion is to perform and have expand my range in that realm, rather than continue to make dances, per se. That’s the most fulfilling way I can use my experience as a performer with Martha Graham, Donald McKayle, and Merce Cunningham, among others, and as maker of over 170 dances of my own.
While all my proposed performance projects are on hold due to the state of the world, I have been exploring Tai Chi meditation with Sharon Smith and contemplating my next act of creation, whatever it may be.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
I started dancing at age four in Sunday school at Rush A.M.E. Zion church in Cambridge, MA, and have been at it since, at first by just doing it, then by imitating movie musical stars, then finally studying formally at the Boston Conservatory, when I entered college at MIT to study architecture. Since then, I have done the next interesting thing that was presented to me in dance, acting, teaching, and performance.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
Currently, my daily practice is therapeutic and strength exercises to regain and maintain what physical power I still have, adjusting to the new physical instrument life and injury have presented me with, and trying to remain useful to the field I have loved and been part of for over 75 years.
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
Since, at age 81, I am still being invited to create and perform, my daily practice is directed toward making that possible: maintaining physical and mental mobility and adaptability.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
Although my practice normally used to involve daily weightlifting at the gym and bicycle-riding around town, I am trying to hold onto the hope that we will soon be released from the confinement imposed by COVID-19 and an out-of-control government situation and resume life as we knew it.
Briefly share one self-care tip that has special meaning to you now.
In the words of Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy.”
To read all of Eva Yaa Asantewaa’s Artists Reach Out interviews, visit infinitebody.blogspot.com.
Top photo courtesy of Gus Solomons jr.