I MADE THIS FOR YOU.
NICOLE BINDLER & GABRIELLE REVLOCK
The A.W.A.R.D. Show! is a national dance competition with audience votes determining the winner. It was a divisive force in Philadelphia in 2009, creating tension, rifts and disappointment among choreographers who were already exhausted from working in a discipline that is widely misunderstood and marginalized. When The A.W.A.R.D. Show! returned in 2011, we decided to make a piece for it called “I made this for you” that challenged notions of competition and conventional forms of beauty by using biting wit and playful commentary.
When Gabrielle performed a dance with a hula hoop in the 2009 A.W.A.R.D. Show! many audience members struggled to classify it. We decided to take on the question “What is dance?” by including every kind of body-based performance that interested us. This included hip hop, martial arts, acrobatics, wrestling, yoga, and even making out.
We invited over 20 movement artists to participate. We asked them to improvise short solos based on their various expertise-in this way they were all collaborators in the work. They felt a sense of ownership and agency in a context that had been disempowering and alienating. Our choice to critique from within was a riskier option than boycotting or writing letters to the producers. We felt trepidation about the possibility of being disqualified for parodying the show. To our delight we were voted to the finals! Most importantly, the risk proved worthwhile because in the process of making this large group work we created a community of artists that would not have existed otherwise.
Regarding beauty: One section included burlesque dancing with ladies in black lingerie, fishnets and heels. Nicole entered completely nude and danced in unison with the ladies. This was an explosive, comedic moment which was also infused with a feminist critique. Burlesque dancing titillates by exposing partial nudity. By dancing completely nude the mystery was shattered and the burlesque ladies were a clown-like backdrop to the real, living, breathing woman.
“I made this for you” commented on the exploitative environment of the dance contest by using all of these varied, talented performers in brief, spectacle moments. While we were parodying the spectacle environment, we were also earnest in our celebration of the diverse and virtuosic cast we had gathered together. “I made this for you” danced the line between sincerity and parody. We strove to make a piece that was beautiful, human, political and also joyfully disorienting.