Nina Joly’s dance “Gobbledigook” was one of nine dances selected for inclusion in the Check Us Out Dance Festival. The festival was “a celebration of female choreographers” and was staged on Summit Rock in Central Park this past July. For Nina, the invitation meant reuniting (most of) the group who debuted “Gobbledigook” at Mt. Holyoke College, making adjustments to the choreography to suit the park space, and arranging rehearsals, first at Mt. Holyoke and then—the night before the performance—in a borrowed space at Columbia University. I went to that rehearsal and to the show the following day.
I went because I love Nina’s work. I wrote about her dance “Twins” here—you can see I struggled. Writing about dance without cliché or clinical abstraction isn’t easy for me. That’s the plan, though. To write about dance. Specifically the dance Nina makes. That’s why I booked myself a room in the haunted Larchmont Hotel, drove up to NYC, sat on the charcoal-filthy floor of an art studio and took notes while the eight dancers worked for hours on Nina’s choreography, watched the festival, and finally joined the temporary troupe for a post-performance dinner.
Nothing’s written, at least nothing more than twenty-plus pages of notes and an interview with Nina (conducted at the Book Barn in Niantic). There’s lots of reasons, but the best reason is that I’ve yet to figure out what I’m writing.
My faith in the talent of a small circle of my friends is intense. Nina’s in that circle. I believe that to be here in her history is to be in at the beginning of an important body of work.
If a way for the work to be done can be found. I fight for time to write, beg and hour here and there from my responsibilities, from sleep, from pleasure—but for all these challenges, I have a big advantage over Nina: all I need is a pen and a pad and I can create a finished work. Nina needs a space, others willing to commit to her vision and trust in her direction, and she needs music and blocks of time and some kind of theater to present the result. I suppose if her dances are performed to no one there can still be the satisfaction of the dance itself, but I crave readers and so must she an audience.
For now, the Central Park performance of “Gobbledigook,” the private show of that dance’s rehearsal, the little conversations I had with each dancer, and the conversations I’ve had with Nina about that performance and dance in general continue to percolate. This, I suppose, is a foray into organizing my thoughts.
The photo above is of the Central Park performance. The haze around the dancers is the dust that they kicked up during their barefoot performance (before the show, Nina and her troupe spent an hour picking up stones). Nina is off to the left, in the brown vest. Beside her is Lyz Hazelton, who danced “Twins” with her. Here are three videos, including one of the Mt Holyoke performance of “Gobbledigook.”