The Dance Enthusiast's Social Distance Dance Video Series: Andrea E. Woods Valdés and "Her Body of Critical Theory"
Andrea Woods is one of the first people I met when I moved to Manhattan to dance. She was great friends with my roommate and we used to take Limón classes together, taught by Risa Steinberg, at the company's old studio on 19th street.
How wonderful to hear from her.
Thank you so much for sharing your dance, music, video and heart with us Andrea, aka Ms. Woods Valdés, I look foward to being in the same room with you again soon.
Her Body of Critical Theory is a 2-minute videodance created as a contribution to the Tiny Choreographies as/in/of Critical Theoryfinal group project for Experiments in Critical Theory taught by Rosemary Candelario at Texas Women’s University, Fall 2018.
Andrea Woods Valdés: I entered the choreography by way of certain words from the course readings and one of my past performances; words that provoked images and movement like: Resist, Directionality, Turn and Shift. The embodiment of these words converses with them and their ability to talk back, resist erasure, and claim agency.
This body/theory conversation speaks to vision and future and, as Grace Kyungwon Hong relates in Death Beyond Disavowal, “…a time of impossibility, where we work toward another horizon of possibility in the future, and also where there exists a radical forcing of impossible conjunctures now, so as to acknowledge the unknowable inherent in the present".
After filming the movement, I worked backwards and asked how the text could now speak to this moving body, this dancing body, this dance, this dancer?
Some text spoke to me, some whispered, shouted or called out. That is how they came to appear in the videodance.
The creative process took approximately eight hours; one-hour filming and seven hours to compose the music and edit the audio and video.
As a resource for additional engagement with the texts, I have included a list of works cited in the videodance that were both thought provoking and dance provoking for me. Moving toward essence, the tiniest pixels of essence we gather these works together to bring image, form and action to both humble and grand ideas.
Christine Jowers for The Dance Enthusiast: How are you? How is your family? And how are you handling staying at home?
AWV: My husband and I are fine in North Carolina where I live. Fortunately, I have a home surrounded by nature. Although we are confined to home, we are healthy and I feel blessed to look outside and see butterflies, deer, and flowers.
Nonetheless, people are struggling and concerned about the health of others. The city seems abandoned. We usually have a quaint, but lively town. American Dance Festival is held here in the summers. It will be a very different city without ADF going on. My heart goes out to everyone.
The Dance Enthusiast: How are you communicating with friends /family and those not in your home?
AWV: Well, like with everyone else, there is a Zoom meeting or class everyday. I'm really a people person so, I miss interaction and engagement, face-to-face.
My family is in PA and not big on social media. We talk on the phone as usual. That part is not much different for us.
My sister wants to teach (and convince) my mom to use Zoom! That will be a step into the 21st century for us.
With friends, I text and talk on the phone. I'm also working on a low residency PhD at Texas Woman's University, so I am accustomed to using the internet to research, communicate and get my work done. I have to admit it's way too much sitting now with my work for the PhD, Duke, and social life being on the computer.
Strangely, the computer actually takes a kind of energy away from my body. Sometimes I feel lifeless and exhausted. At times, I step away and I play the fiddle and the banjo. I shared a YouTube video telling people to get up and do the funky chicken!
We still have beautiful places to walk so we are blessed.
The Dance Enthusiast: What are you doing about "moving" and "nutrition" at home? How do you stay in physical, mental, spiritual shape?
AWV: Yes, the body! I talk about this a lot with my students.
I teach modern dance, dance composition, and dance for the camera at Duke University. I'm also a certified Zena Rommett floor Barre instructor and give my students floor-barre twice a week. The difference online is that I have to demonstrate and talk through the class in order to give the students the instructions.
I usually teach out on my patio through Zoom meeting. It is quite intense physically and verbally -- exhausting.
Being the demonstrator for my own class has forced to me to step up my own regiment and body care. I've come to appreciate it. I love seeing my students faces!
When the semester ends I plan to continue walking, riding a stationary bike, Floor Barre, PT for my knee and using a Pilates machine I have at home that has been collecting way too much dust!
The Dance Enthusiast: What keeps your spirit up right now?
AWV: I practice the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. I am a member of SGI USA. We are very connected, yet the practice of Buddhism encourages the spirit independence and dedication to your personal practice every day. Very much like dance!
We chant in our homes daily or together at least twice a month. It's a very hopeful practice, but it takes into account human suffering and how to overcome it.
One of my favorite writings talks about how ordinary people will take care of humankind. And these ordinary people emerge dancing from out of the earth.
We had a zoom meeting today and it was very inspiring. Other than that, I chant on my own. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The Dance Enthusiast: Is there anything you would like to say to your colleagues friends and The Dance Enthusiast audience?
AWV: I lived in New York for 23 years. My heart will always be in New York, especially in Brooklyn.
I love my home in NC. My ancestors are down here, this is sacred ground for us from slavery, through emancipation, until the present....But there's no place like New York. Thank you for the work you do at Dance Enthusiast.
Ahmed, Sara. 2017. Living a Feminist Life.Durham: Duke University Press. Anzaldúa, Gloria. 1987. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. Chen, Mel Y. 2012. Animacies: Bio politics, Racial Mattering and Queer Affect. Durham: Duke University Press. gamEdze and Gamedze. 2016. Concerning Shutdowns.Publi(c)action. https://gorahtah.files.wordpress.com/... 12/12/18. Hong, Grace Kyungwon. 20015. Death Beyond Disavowal. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. 2017. As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. 2017. How We Get Free: Black Feminism and The Combahee River Collective. Chicago: Haymarket Books. Woods Valdés, Andrea E. I Got Wings. Kimbal Theater, Long Island University. Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center – Souls of Our Feet People of Color Performance Series. Brooklyn NY 2008.