Role: Performer, Co-choreographer. Description: “SHAKE” is a rambunctious and tender duet born out of a nine-year friendship between Wesleyan Artist in Residence Iddi Saaka and Bates College Associate Professor of Dance Rachel Boggia. This, our first co-choreographed work, features our shared love of vibratory movement, smooth breath, and cheesy humor; and influences including Ghanaian dance forms, American postmodern dance, fake tap dance, bad jokes, and life experiences. SHAKE represents a new way of working for both us. The 2.5 year process of making foregrounded the physical and the social, allowing the conceptual and cultural frameworks to emerge from an always-evolving embodied experience of relating.
SHAKE represents a new chapter in my understanding of collaborative research. Other collaborations started with an explicitly stated research question or subject. This launched from curiosity– how would our friendship, our shared love of moving, our desire to make work, manifest as choreography?
We come from very different movement traditions. Saaka’s training is in traditional West African Dance (University of Ghana Accra) and Contemporary Choreography (UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures). My background is in American Postmodernism (The Ohio State University and The Bates Dance Festival) and my childhood in “Ballet, Tap and Jazz” dance studio culture. These different trainings impact everything from the way we hear music, coordinate movements within our bodies, understand touch, and even gauge the success of a performance. Our genders, nationalities, and racial backgrounds inform the way our identities are constructed in society. More importantly, we share many elemental predilections: similar body size and proportion, similar age, inclinations towards similar movements qualities and speeds, a copacetic sense of humor, and similar experiences growing up in rural agricultural areas (him in northern Ghana, me in upstate New York).
When we came together to make work, we focused on connecting physically and energetically. This was perhaps influenced by the design of our process, which structured around intensive residencies separated by long swaths of time. Upon seeing each other at rehearsal, a friendly “catch-up conversation” would often blend seamlessly into a period of wordless movement generation. The effort to reconnect socially and physically at the beginning of each rehearsal added to the final quality of the work, in which two different people inhabit a changing energetic landscape. Our long and easy friendship and mutual professional regard made working together a joy.
SHAKE isn’t about friendship, it is made of friendship. It reflects the real-life process of two people finding and re-finding connection through the vicissitudes of life.
Wesleyan University 2017 Spring Faculty Concert. Middletown, Connecticut. May 5-6, 2017.
Upcoming: San Diego State University Dance Department. May 2018 (in negotiation).