What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
Alan Lomax's The Land Where the Blues Began.
I first read LWBB when I was a sophomore in high school. It opened me up to a whole world of American history, religion, music, and dance, all interdependent and intertwined. I immediately went out and found as many of the artists and recordings in that book as possible. (This was before wikipedia, mind you.) My academic research in anthropology is indebted to Lomax’s fearless and selfless song-searching in the Mississippi Delta. It stoked my personal fire; here I was, a white suburban Jewish teenager in the 90’s/2000’s, daughter of a hippie and a professor, with a physical connection to R&B and hip-hop, and a deep connection to prison chants and blues songs. Like all teenagers, I was trying to figure out who I was. This African American music was so funky, but it was distinctly not my heritage, not in my blood or my booty. So, I wanted to know how shit got to be this bad; where mind got split off from body, how music got separated from dance, and how racial and religious affiliation was up in the mix. I wanted to know how it is that most folks enjoy music, have their tastes, and can hum along, but it’s a minority that claims taste in dance and an ease in dancing along. Or, to be academic about it, how dancing came to be a ‘subjugated knowledge.’ Thanks to Lomax, I studied African diaspora religion, music, dance, racial politics in addition to fine-art dance history. It’s at the heart of why I believe dancing and dance-making is a world-changing political and spiritual practice.
These days, my focus is more on practices that, like the roots of blues music and dance that Lomax recorded, unite mind and body in creative performance. I train in a method called Gaga, created by Ohad Naharin of the Batsheva dance company in Israel. This method is the ultimate practice of merging our reasoning logical self with our animalistic potential for fast and strong. Also, I Lindy Hop like crazy. I’m at the Mobtown Ballroom 2-3 times a week and can spend hours watching footage of jazz dancers from back in the day. I think the appeal of Beyonce and Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley and James Brown is connected to dancers with jazz roots. Effervescent runs on our definition of dance; dance is a physical practice in connection to a groove. My whole philosophy of dance making, though it took a decade to coalesce, was catalyzed by Lomax.
Lily Kind's Effervescent Collective lives up to its name—it doesn't matter whether they're performing at High Zero or the Creative Alliance, where the group will peform "Butter Knife" this Friday night. The piece will be followed by a high-octane dance party with J Pope and Funk Friday. Tickets are $15, $10 for members and students.