“Dance both generous and private. It is literary, rational, literal.” thINKingDANCE
“It’s like the floorboards lift up and the space becomes so full with drummed up emotion and sensation and image that we touch each other without touching.” Meg Foley
Where does one body end and another begin? Can my words, my insistence, let you feel the inside of my elbow? If you can feel it and I can feel you, does that make us more real?
Choreographer Meg Foley’s seven-year development of improvisational performance practice culminates in a viscerally affecting new work about death and grief as bodily experiences. The undergird is a love letter to what we think has been lost. It is a rhythmic and persistent celebration of where memory and imagination live inside the body and how they are remade real through moving ritual.
Through dance, sculpture, and text, Foley and her collaborators — performers Drew Kaiser, Jungeun Kim, and Annie Wilson; designer Natalie Robin — radicalize the eulogy and use memory as felt material and forgetting as a gateway to be closer to one another. The performance builds an intimate, highly physical space that undoes our understanding of time and loss and proposes that together we can bear almost anything.
Performances on Sept 14th at 6pm / 9 pm will feature ASL interpretation by Hands Up Productions.
$29 general / $20.30 member
$15 student + 25-and-under
Concept and project leader Meg Foley Direction, choreography and performance Meg Foley, Drew Kaiser, Jungeun Kim, Annie Wilson, Natalie Robin Featuring Text by Joshua Beckman, Matthew Dickman Lighting design Natalie Robin Costume design Allison Pearce Set design Meg Foley and Natalie Robin in collaboration with performers Creative producer Sarah Bishop-Stone Production manager Natalie Robin Process facilitation Jennifer Bullock, Mina Zarfsaz Co-producer Oliver Nicholas
Photos by Tasha Doremus (featured and below), Eric Ashleigh (above)
Presented in partnership with Icebox Project Space at Crane Arts.
Developed with financial support provided by The University of the Arts. Residency support provided by Icebox Project Space, Dancemakers Centre for Creation, and The Kate Escape.
The undergird is indebted to research and dancing shared with Kristel Baldoz, Alice Chauchat, Eun Jung Choi, Jeanine Durning, Gregory Holt, Eroca Nicols, iele paloumpis, Marissa Perel, Marysia Stokłosa, and Christina Zani.
About Meg Foley
Meg Foley is a Philadelphia-based performer and choreographer. Her work is influenced by her identity as a queer artist and parent and is rooted in a loving tumble with formalism in dance and what constitutes performance. She makes dances, events, and objects that explore the materiality of physical and social identity as choreographic form. From 2012-2016 she danced daily at 3:15pm, culminating in a collective documentation and performance project with three collaborators: Action is Primary. Her work has been presented in performance and visual art venues in Philadelphia, NYC, Los Angeles, Canada, Germany, and Poland. She has received grants from Dancemakers Centre for Creation, Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Art Stary Browar, Polish Cultural Institute, and the Independence Foundation. She teaches at University of the Arts and is creative co-director of The Whole Shebang, an arts space in South Philly. Learn more at megfoley.org.
About Drew Kaiser
Drew Kaiser is a dance artist and massage therapist based in Philadelphia, PA. He studied dance & choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, thereafter moving to Berlin where he was able to expand his experience of the art form. Over the years, he has had the pleasure of performing in places from Toronto to Luxembourg, and Singapore to Shanghai. Upon moving back to the states, he began focusing on how to use the knowledge accumulated over the years studying dance to provide relief to those suffering from chronic ailment, in the form of massage therapy. Today, Drew works for a holistic day spa in South Philadelphia, and continues to work with local choreographers.
About Jungeun Kim
Jungeun Kim (J.e.) is a choreographer, dancer and digital media designer. Her dance and video works have been shown around the US, Europe and Asia. Now living in the US, her experience as an immigrant has significantly influenced her work. She is currently focusing on community-based art projects that can become resources for those in need. J.e. holds an MFA in Dance and MALS in Visual and Performing Arts from Hollins University. A member of the faculty at the University of the Arts’s School of Dance, J.e. hails from Seoul, South Korea and lives in Philadelphia.
About Annie Wilson
Annie Wilson makes performances in order to practice survival. Her work has been presented by Fringearts, Bryn Mawr College, thirdbird, Center for Performance Research, Mascher, SmokeyScout Productions, and <fidget>. Last March At Home with the Humorless Bastard was presented by JACK in Brooklyn. Other recent work includes: Lovertits, At the Gloaming with the Hipster Shaman, The Remix Festival, and Solo. She is a 2017 Pew Fellow, a 2015 Independence Fellow, an incubated artist at Headlong, and an Associated Artist with Applied Mechanics. She bartends Sunday nights at Lucky 13 Pub in South Philly and is assistant property manager at Simpson Mid-town. Learn more at theanniewilson.com.
About Natalie Robin
Natalie Robin is a lighting designer of theater, opera, dance, music and performance art. Natalie’s work often focuses on new American plays, contemporary dance and site-specific work. Natalie is Head of Theater Design & Technology at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Associate Producer of Polybe + Seats, and an Associate Artist of Target Margin Theater. She was the associate producer of American Realness, a festival of contemporary performance curated by Ben Pryor. Natalie is a contributing writer for both Live Design Magazine and Stage Direction.
Interview with Meg Foley
FringeArts: What was the original inspiration for The undergird?
Meg Foley: I made a very large project in 2016 called Action is Primary — performances and a visual exhibition all centered around this practice I’d developed, action is primary [Read more here: megfoley.org]. I‘d been performing the practice for four years and had a lot of questions about choreographic structure in improvisation and about whether it was possible to collectively make a group dance using a solo improvisational form.
I felt like in this particular, cumulative iteration of Action is Primary, I was constantly moving away from something. My performances felt awful. It was like I was trying to escape the moment, or my own embodied experience, which was the opposite of almost all the previous experiences I’d had performing the practice. So I wanted to know what happened, what was at the center, what was the thing I was overwhelmed by and not looking at, moving away from, or not saying. Then I had an image of Annie Wilson standing atop a mound yelling this speech, angry at the audience for not being able to feel the inside of her elbow, for not being able to understand the reality of her body, for the failure to communicate it. So then I was like, okay, I want to improvise a speech about my relationship to mortality and it starts with this image.
FringeArts: How did you choose your collaborators? What did you want them to bring to the project?
Meg Foley: All three of my performer-collaborators are people I’ve worked with before and who have worked with the action is primary practice before. Each of them reframes the practice for what they need and really dig into the implications of it in a way that drives me as a maker. I am not interested in making work where the performers do not have a say, and I actively pursue individual performative experience as a formal material and structural determination.
The piece is truly collaborative. I do not want to assume that my position on something they have brought to the table is the appropriate way to include it in a performance. This is an active and ongoing conversation and is influenced by my experience in social therapy, a therapeutic form that considers the group the unit of development, as opposed to the individual.
FringeArts: What is the role of the audience in this work?
Meg Foley: The audience is super involved in the piece. The piece is intimate, emotional, and physical and includes the viewer in the consideration of environment and the group of the room. We try to read the room — look at the audience, talk to the audience, and see ourselves in relation to them.
One of the central practices culminates by directing attention to the viewer and describing touching them through words. The goal is to touch without touching — really feel and be moved to tears by this long landscape of talking about what our bodies are doing and what we imagine they could do, and about death, loss, and grief. Amazingly enough, it happens.
Excerpt. Full interview coming soon to the FringeArts Blog.
Time Slips Away by Julius Ferraro, thINKingDANCE
If she [Meg Foley] wanted this to be about her skills as a dancer, she could add grace, rub away some of the effort, attempt virtuosity. But the framework—the “undergird”—is what this piece is about, and it is visible everywhere.