Over the last two 14Y Theater seasons, I’ve had the opportunity to see and experience a variety of incredible dance performances here in our beautiful black box theater. One in particular caught my eye during the announcement of the 2018-2019 Season last September—/wē/.
MICHIYAYA Dance, the force behind this unique performance, is a femme-identifying contemporary dance theater company. Their work aims to challenge the constructs and limitations of feminine expression with raw, physical, and unpredictable movement. Needless to say I was curious to learn more about MICHIYAYA and what /wē/ is really about.
I reached out to the Artistic Directors of MICHIYAYA Dance, Anya Clarke and Mitsuko Verdery, to explore the challenges of binary dance education, gender in a communal context, and their creative process for the upcoming production /wē/.
Your description reads, “/wē/ rids the binary, embraces the inner self and builds without walls.” How is the dance world changing when it comes to gender diversity?
The dance world is slowly becoming more accepting of gender diversity, but representation not as visible as it should be. For gender expression to thrive our world needs communal spaces for all gender identities to continuously create work, perform, and thrive. This needs to be done without singling any one individual out—where everyone can just BE. We’ve been thinking a lot about communal and support spaces, especially in this work /wē/.
What challenges do you feel need to be acknowledged in the dance community?
The dance community needs to examine and challenge the gender binary present in dance education. The gender binary is upheld in dance education, and we need space for transgender, gender fluid, polygender, and all nonbinary children. Once our schools, teachers, and professionals change their policies with gender diversity, we think we’ll begin to see steps toward better representation in the professional dance community. Dance is a freeing artistic expression, it demands that we support, protect, and celebrate all people but especially gender nonbinary people, who are often underrepresented and marginalized.
What is your process when working with dancers and how do you think it might be different?
We have a very collaborative process with our dance artists. We encourage individuality, and for our dancers to bring their whole selves to the process— and do they deliver! We aren’t interested in dance as homogeneous, rather we view dance as a medium for creative expression. We’re interested in the translation of information from us to them. They really transform whatever we give, whether choreography, tasks, or intention, into rich and honest substance.
The 14th Street Y has been excited to present /wē/. What can our audiences expect from the experience? How does /wē/ fit into our season of War & Peace?
Audiences can expect a multidimensional landscape of movement, sound, and projection! /wē/ is physical, dreamy, queer, masc and femme, instinctual, sculptural, and more.
/wē/‘s connection to War & Peace is its reflection on time—the stir before a storm, and the quietness after. /wē/ also unfolds dichotomies that come up between “war & peace” with concepts of the individual versus community, and autonomy versus dependence.
Thursday April, 25 – Sunday, April 28
Artistic Directors Anya Clarke and Mitsuko Verdery present the world premiere of /wē/, a collective study on gender identity featuring their six dance artists with live sound by slowdanger. /wē/ rids the binary, embraces the inner self and builds without walls.TICKETS
Opening Reception + Performance
Thursday, April 25 | 8:00 PM
Celebrate wē/ with the Artistic Directors, Board of Directors, and full company at their opening night reception! Hear more about the work and creative process over hors d’oeuvres and drinks.Opening Reception + Performance Tickets
Performance + Post Show Talk Back
Sunday, April 28 | 4:00 PM
Join MICHIYAYA Dance and facilitator, Kadie Henderson (producer and host of the podcast, We Makin It, for their post-performance discussion, fishbowl conversation style, inviting all audience members to discuss queer magic, embodied spaces, and coexisting energies.Performance + Post Show Talk Back Tickets