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 Troy Ogilvie, dancer, choreographer, and Gibney artist.
Troy Ogilvie has danced for and collaborated with choreographers—Roy Assaf, Sidra Bell, Antonio Brown, Gabriel Forestieri, Itzik Galili, Shannon Gillen, Margie Gillis, Andrea Miller, Patricia Noworol, Zoe Scofield, Idan Sharabi, and Nicole Wolcott; violinist—Liv Heym; theater company—Punchdrunk (as Lady Macbeth in Sleep No More NYC); and directors–Sophie Bortolussi (McKittrick Masquerade parties), Susan Misner (Bend, FOSSE/VERDON), Kate Douglas (Extinct), and Peter Sellars (The Gospels According to the Other Mary, LA Philharmonic). She has also curated, produced, and performed in solo shows RESET (2011), PRISM (2017—with producer Ron Black), and BITE (2019). Troy teaches improvisation and is on faculty at SPRINGBOARDX Skills + Process, The Joffrey Jazz & Contemporary Program, Peridance, Adelphi University, and The Performing Arts Project. Troy’s choreography has been performed by the Joffrey Jazz & Contemporary trainees, Rivertown Dance Academy, Bare Opera (Maria de Buenos Aires with director Malena Dayen), and as a part of Met Live Arts (The Ninth Hour: A Beowulf Musical with director Kevin Newbury). She has participated in residency programs at The Marble House Project and Turkey Land Cove Foundation and was one of “Dance Magazine’s 2011 Top 25 to Watch.” Juilliard B.F.A. www.troyogilvie.com @troyanosaurus
Troy Ogilvie performing in Patricia Noworol’s Replacement
Place with Chris Lancaster, Nicholas Bruder and Aaron Jones, photo by Aeric Meredith-Goujon.
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
Yes! All of them. Every single one. Canceled. Delayed. For the past several nights, I have been having stress dreams about bringing a script onstage because I did not memorize my lines, missing costume pieces as the lights are going down, or missing a show entirely because I was in a pink crystal cave and had written down the wrong time zone. Specifically, I was slated to choreograph a new opera directed by Malena Dayen, entitled The Presence of Odradek, inspired by Kafka’s The Cares of a Family Man and poems by Avot Yushurun; choreograph on the Peridance Certificate Program with music director Em Goldman; perform—on stilts while manipulating marionettes!!—in Phantom Limb’s incredible 69 Degrees South, inspired by Ernest Shackleton’s journey to the Antarctic in 1914; and project manage One Body, One Career Countertechnique Intensive hosted by Springboard Danse Montreal.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
At three, my babysitter quit, so my Mom had to find something to do with my energy on Wednesday evenings while she was working. After seeing a presentation at the mall by Miss Carol’s School of Dance, she signed me up for a combo jazz/tap/ballet class. At nine, I chose dance over soccer because, I reasoned to my parents, “if I’m at a party, I’m going to get up and dance, not get up and kick a soccer ball.” By the time I got to college, my training ran so deep that my “natural” movement instincts in improvisation class were balancés and waltz turns. Watching my classmates’ spontaneity in the same exercise created a small shift in my heart, the waves of which I am still riding. For me, that spontaneity, that flash of honesty, that fissure in our calculated selves is IT.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
I am teaching improvisation online at Adelphi, Joffrey Jazz & Contemporary, Peridance, and through the Instagram handle @movement_for_hope. I have always been a nature-and-earth science nerd and have been reading about octopuses, watching nature documentaries about polar ice and volcanoes, and learning about local birds and trees in order to go more deeply into metaphors that I use in class and in my work. I am envisioning how I can support the creation of robust and flexible infrastructures as our current ones crumble. In order to more fully participate, I actively populate my reading material and social media feeds with Indigenous, anti-racist, feminist, Black, and POC accounts, because ideas that are not supported or are suppressed by mainstream media take conscious effort to find.
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
Improvisation exists where those ideas—your practice, your visioning—intersect. What are you doing? What do you want to do? These questions meet in the body and are solved through movement. Creating and guarding a safe time for the people who are taking my classes is what I care about right now. I am heartbroken that I cannot currently ensure that their physical space is safe like I do when we share space together. In order to protect this time, I try to practice radical generosity and kindness so that there is infinite space for bravery and honesty. It is somehow horizontal leadership due to the cyclical nature of an improvisation class. Yes, I give the initial prompt but everything that happens afterwards depends upon how each person responds. I ask of myself the same bravery and honesty that I ask of the people in my class. Maybe it’s leap in this short response, but this is the kind of leadership I expect from people in our government as well.
Troy Ogilvie in Conor Doyle’s Mayfair Masquerade at The McKittrick Hotel, photo courtesy of The McKittrick Hotel.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
I have largely abandoned any curriculum and am responding day by day. Astoundingly, something specific is always revealed and the better my class and I are at listening, the more relevant the revelation. I am consistently humbled by the amount of trust and curiosity that improvisation requires. The concept of solution is really resonating with me right now—as in solute and solvent—it makes me think of dissolving and finding answers in the soup. In terms of future structures, I’m listening for solutions in the rhythms of nature and in the practices of those who have dealt with and processed trauma for centuries. I’m grateful to be teaching improvisation where I can respond immediately to any new information that I absorb. Again, it’s the same as what I ask for in class: Listen and Respond.
Briefly share one self-care tip that has special meaning to you now.
Several nights a week, before I go to bed, I wash my feet and then massage them with sesame oil. I put on socks so that the oil doesn’t get on my sheets. This was a grounding and protection practice suggested to me by an ayurvedic practitioner many years ago. I like paying attention to feet because there is a map of your body on your soles. It is also the place on our body that potentially has the most contact with the earth.
To read all of Eva Yaa Asantewaa’s Artists Reach Out interviews, visit infinitebody.blogspot.com.
Top photo by Franziska Strauss.