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Flash Reflections, 11-9: Forti-tude
The Importance of Being Simone Forti
By Asimina Chremos
Copyright 2001 Asimina Chremos
Paul Ben-Itzak: Simone Forti is in
New York for three nights starting Thursday. We are having the show reviewed,
by Chris, but I would also like to get something up this week to goose people
to the show. I know you're quite familiar with her work. Would you be interested
in writing a primer Flash? Something along the lines of, why Simone Forti matters
to young choreographers/dancers, such as yourself?
Asimina Chremos: Why does Simone
Forti matter to me? Simone Forti has had a huge, positive, even liberating impact
on my approach to dance as an activity and an experience. In the late '80s, I
had recently left a ballet company, had entered a college dance department, and
was beginning to explore the world of Modern Dance. I took a two-week summer improvisation
workshop at the Naropa Instititute with Simone, Barbara Dilley, and Nancy Stark
For Simone's class, the students
split into groups and did explorations of outdoor spaces, and then showed little
site-specific compositions. I remember sitting in a stream with the water up to
my waist, wearing a brown cotton leotard that changed color when wet. I performed
a repetitive action of waving my right cupped hand under the surface and scooping
it up to throw an arc that started near my right hip, arched high over my head,
and splashing down somewhere several feet to my left. I don't quite remember what
my classmates were doing in this dance, but the sheer sensual pleasure of performing
this action remains strong in my memory, along with the deep green light coming
through the tree leaves, the rich browns of the stream banks, and the sun-glistening
Several years later, I was wheeling
around a large and crowded room at the American Dance Festival in Durham, moving
through space like an awkward, flightless bird, dodging others of my kind, who
soared and flopped, folded and unfolded through the space. Simone was teaching
and she had talked about the structure of the arm, and likened it to a wing.
I went to New York to see my friend
Eric Schoefer perform with Simone and several others, in a beautiful arboreal
yard; perhaps it was Wave Hill. Was it Simone who poked her torso out of the leafy
plane made by a low-hanging tree branch, smoothing her palms along the leaves
like a 17th century lady at European court would smooth her broad skirt?
Just last year I was at a technical
rehearsal of the White Oak
Dance Project in Chicago, and Simone was doing a run of one of her dancing
and talking improvisations with an object. The object she chose was a huge puffy
blanket that was white on one side and black on the other. Appearing on the stage
at ease in her comfortable pants and t-shirt, somehow she became a most graceful
jellyfish, her movements and her use of the blanket creating the illusion she
was underwater. Rolling along the floor, she flowed, expanded and contracted with
utmost elasticity, flow, and beauty.
Simone is now over 60 years old.
Whenever I begin to stress over being a has-been old lady dancer at 35, I think
of Simone and my neurosis disappears. Simone embodies humor, curiosity, and wit
as a dance artist. Her respect for the human body and the environment set an example
of openness, acceptance, and possibility. Through her teaching and performing
she offers students and audiences awareness of changing systems, gentleness, and
This is not to say Simone is all
butterflies and sunshine. Especially in her moving and talking work, she sometimes
tackles situations of immense darkness. There is a practice I've seen her perform
that uses newspapers and she moves and talks through news stories and current
(Editor's Note: Catch Simone Forti
tonight and tomorrow at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church in NYC, where she
performs "Illuminations," a collaboration with composer Charlemagne Palestine.
For more information, please visit the
Danspace Project web site.)
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