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Works in Progress Blog: April Sellers

Each Works In Progress Resident will contribute several blog posts over the course of their residency. This first post addresses the central question of the project each is building during the residency, and discusses aspects of their creative process.

April’s project is titled “Patriot Erector” and explores gender through the notion of patriotism.

Details about the presentation on April 20th and 21st: HERE.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those solely those of the artist.

– CFPA Mpls

Americans have not been so divided over politics and social mores since the Civil War. Our political state has sharpened frustrations amongst neighbors, families, and strangers. As a contemporary choreographer, I have a responsibility to reflect aspects of our changing culture back to audiences. It’s my mission to present human stories and to ask the audience to question their relationship to the identities presented on stage.

Each time I start a new piece, I begin with an intense period of introspection. First, I identify the most pressing struggle in my own life, as a 21st century queer feminist. During this residency at Center for Performing Arts, I am investigating the self-selection process of the modern family. At a time of hyper-politicization, what does it mean to “go back home” when home seems so foreign? Can we choose our families? Or are we doomed to belong somewhere, whether or not we share common ground with others in that same place? As a woman from a small, rural Iowan town – but now rooted in a metropolis – how do my community and my environment shift the impact on my politics?

For some of us, the cutting of ties to our biological families has been chosen for us. We were kicked out, rejected, and not invited back. Cut off from those roots, we then seek minds like ours, to share experiences and provide mentorship. We choose a new family. But do we stay there, safe within our selected families? Or do we reach out to those with different experiences?

Before I begin to explore the movement vocabulary of a new piece, I spend necessary time with my collaborators in discussion. I share intimate reflection and research materials, such as articles and video samples. During the creation process, performers and community members become my collaborators. I guide them through a series of questions to cull the subtle gestures that tell stories. I use the text generated by this rigorous interview process as prompts for generating movement.

Rehearsing is a process of defining unknown boundaries, where the dancers draw from their personal history for the narrative, executing technical movement while keenly aware of their role in the ensemble.

In the past, while working in artist residencies, the untethered time has allowed me to shift the message of my work from the personal to the universal. For me, the universal is like opening the filter of gender, where male and female constructs disappear, and narratives are woven into an emotional landscape.