Joshua Lubin-Levy interview with Dean Moss

Posted in Uncategorized | April 19, 2011 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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This interview took place on February 9, 2011 to discuss Nameless forest, a multidisciplinary performance work conceived by Dean Moss and developed in collaboration with contemporary Korean sculptor, installation artist and poet, Sungmyung Chun. Nameless forest is co-produced by Gametophyte Inc. and MAPP International Productions, and is scheduled to premiere at The Kitchen May 19-21 & 26-28, 2011.

Josh Lubin-Levy: Before we talk about Nameless forest, I wanted to ask you a little about the process of choreographing this work.  There seems to be a contradiction between the often violent content of your work, and the affectionate and caring way I’ve seen you interact with your performers in the rehearsal room.  What is the relationship of this caring nature to bringing such a visceral choreography to your dancers?

Dean Moss: Well, you know in American society violence is so much a substitute for sex.  And so I think it’s an incredibly intimate thing to be violent, especially to be violent on stage.  And part of the use of violence on stage is approaching metaphor in a very particular way – in a very direct way.  To get a performer to go with you, you have to be intimate with that performer.  And you have to have a kind of trust with that performer.  Developing a mode in which you can work with the performer to bring out an activity they might not be comfortable with.  Developing that process is really important to me because I want the use of violence to be specific and I need the performer’s understanding. I need this to be read as behavior in the performer, so that it’s generated by the performer and not that I am directing them.  Part of the interest in my work and part of the reason my work has moved into audience participation is because I am interested in behavior and what happens when you have a kind of behavior-as-form presented on stage.  Read the rest of this entry »

Creative back and forth

Posted in Uncategorized | September 14, 2010 | by emilyharney | (1) Comment

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Excerpts from an exchange between Dean Moss and Joshua Lubin-Levy, PhD candidate in Performance Studies at NYU, on the Nameless forest residency showing August 27, at The Kitchen.

Aug 30, 2010

Hi Dean,

So I loved revisiting this work with you all – and it of course has changed little since I last saw it so it was great to see it in a space with an audience.

I think the obsession people had over the audience/performer interaction was interesting.  It seemed to suck up all the focus.  I was trying to think about how that might take away from the dancers work on stage.  I think it is definitely a matter of focus.  What I loved most about being a participant last time was the way that the dancers would sit with me and guide me in the process of watching (like when they asked me “do you think this is right?  Can only boys play with guns?”). I guess it’s that old theater trick – when you don’t know what to do on stage, watch the people who are talking.

At the same time, the moments that the performance became about the very intimate interaction I was having with a dancer despite there being a capital P Performance occurring onstage was so exciting.  I think intimate is a key word.  It was baffling that people on stage were so concerned with “seeing” the dancers when the dancers were sitting and performing RIGHT NEXT TO THEM.  So the micro-performances that happen aren’t something I would want to see disappear.

From the outside the most interesting thing to watch was the way dancers squeezed in between audience members and caused this miniature choreography of bodies on the side lines.

And it also made me think that it is very important how the audience is welcomed into the space.  The dancers giving tours was slightly awkward in the way it was performed (a little uncertain, not wanting to disturb the audience members) and the same goes for asking people to sit on stage.  It made me feel like even the dancers weren’t sure if they wanted audience members on stage.  I think Sarah’s note about scripting those interactions might be great.  At the same time, just a little work on that performance in terms of acting, avoiding upward inflections in speech and performing it as though this is the most natural and normal way for the space to be would create a different environment for the audience to enter in to.  It could be this immediate welcome and intimate interaction with the performers that really opens the audience up to a new experience in the theater.  How are people greeted?

I definitely had the feeling the women were slightly under-used seeing it on the big stage.  Then you said a brilliant thing: that the women are framing devices. So much clicked when you said that.  I think in our hyper-vigilant gender-equality age that’s a great phrase to hold on to.  The boy-centric material is so powerful and present.  I thought when they started to bring in the girls they did get a little performative – they slowed down, started using their facial expressions more and got a little sentimental.  I didn’t love that as it seemed to imply there was a love-narrative I was supposed to be following.

The mushiness of the moves (curved limbs moving through space, bodies kind of colliding and pushing each other, nothing too rigid) all gave me such a great sense of psychoanalysis – like the bodies were impacting each other but also mirroring each other and becoming each other.  It was beautiful.

I’d be curious to see how it looks when you have the photojournalism images in place – I wondered if the metaphor would appear too literal.  At first, I actually wanted the voice over in that section to be more muffled or chopped up so I had to work harder to hear the reporter’s voice.  In other words – does it make it seem like the whole piece is a commentary on war?  I don’t think it does, but it was something I thought about so thought I’d throw it out there.

So there’s a bunch of notes – but overall the focus on such a male-dominated world, the violence and the psychoanalytic component of Sungmyung Chun’s work is so vivid in the work you have created it is awesome.  I say psychoanalysis in this very accessible and real and emotional and intelligent way (not too academic or cold).  I mean it in this way that the bodies on stage have this extra-narrative or physical/psychic impact and reflection on each other.  It’s a really deep and precarious balance and the forceful inclusion of the audience in that process is jarring and exciting as well.  It brings us all into complicity and complacency and responsibility.  Even just seeing the audience on stage and sitting in the audience outside and having to see my potential self reflected in the different experiences of the audience members is a really intriguing.

All the best,


August 31, 2010


Thank you so much.  It’s fantastic and so useful.

Since the showing I have changed the master metaphor for the work from the performance/performer gravitating to the onstage audience to form a pedestrian generalized community, to the performance/performer initiating the onstage audience through ritualized activities into its own secret society.  In other words the work would function as a rite of passage for the audience participants.  This change in the master metaphor would allow for the artificial and formal elements to be heightened (and limited), as in the speaking, and help solve balance and focus issues. It would also give freedom to more directly control the onstage audience experience. The women can then really become even more clearly facilitators/framing devices, not only shapers of male behavior but the interface between them and the onstage audience.  It would then seem best that the fourth wall is really solid.  That the view from the seats resembles surveillance and that the “performance” is not presented in relation to front or proscenium at all.

Thanks for providing me a thought catalyst.


sneak preview preview!

Posted in Uncategorized | March 12, 2010 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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Check out this great preview from the upcoming Sunday New York Times about Yasuko Yokoshi’s Tyler Tyler.

A new kind of music

Posted in Uncategorized | February 25, 2010 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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Steven Reker in rehearsal at Morishita Studios in Tokyo, Japan

Steven Reker in rehearsal at Morishita Studios in Tokyo, Japan

“Where language would have been, we had to use the work as the medium for communication… And in there was a space or opportunity to discover how we were both approaching our shared work. ”  -Steven Reker

Listen to a preview of the music in Tyler Tyler here.

From Julie Alexander & Kayvon Pourazar: Rehearsing Tyler Tyler in Japan

Posted in Uncategorized | February 5, 2010 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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From Kayvon Pourazar: This was such a short trip, but I don’t know if it could be possible to be immersed into such a deep aspect of Japanese culture as a visitor in such a short amount of time any more than we did. I never imagined that the work that I do as a dancer could bring about the opportunity for such vast doors to be opened. It is a huge privilege to have experienced this trip to Japan.

From Julie Alexander: Studying with Masumi Sensei was incredible. The Nezu school where we trained the first day is so quiet, clean and beautiful and there is such a tone of reverence in that space that Masumi Sensei governs with quiet authority. We gave her our gifts. We were so careful to enter the room on our knees, respectfully, and to offer our gifts to her. She seemed very excited to have us there. The training was intense. We each worked with her one on one while the other watched. She was so conscious of our bodies, being sure we were okay sitting on our knees the whole time. She was so detailed when she was training us, but quite different than our experience with Kayo Sensei in Florida. With Kayo Sensei, we focused on the form and technique and we were able to communicate the visual information through our bodies. Masumi Sensei also focused on form, of course, but we definitely relied on Yasuko to translate for us as well, because Masumi Sensei really wanted us to understand the stories, history and tradition in these dances. During rehearsal, she brought out traditional incense smelling set so we could see the objects and the tradition that are referenced in one of the dances that Kayvon does. She took such care in wrapping and unwrapping the objects and explaining exactly how they are used – not just functionally, but there is an art and a physical form involved in the delicate act.

This attention to detail that we’ve been honing in on in studying this traditional Japanese dance form is so much a part of Japanese culture from what I experienced first-hand in Tokyo – from the architecture and the food to the paper-wrapped chopsticks and the efficient subway chart (which I was particularly impressed by).

Through the studio showings, we learned that it is customary in Japan for audience or friends to bring food for the performers. We were showered with food… pastries and rice crackers and lotus root and this delicious potato with a wonderful texture. And we learned the usefulness of the phrase- “otsukaresama.” It’s hard to translate in English. But from what I understand, means something like “good job” or “you must be tired” or any time there is some sort of effort involved or even answering the telephone.