in unison taisha paggett with WXPT: The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People
And for the first time in a long time, I’m back in my body. I’m standing at the edge of a room. My feet together, half on cold grey flooring, half supported by brown fuzzy carpet. I let the weight of my body fall into my heels as I breathe low into my belly. I look down. I look up. I look at the eyes of the bodies in the circle.
I know this space. Not as intimately as the WXPT company members, but as someone who was invited to share in an experience. I’m guided by the voice of taisha paggett and in response my body changes energy. There’s an impulse, a motivation, and I’m left experiencing an awareness I haven’t felt in a long time. This project, company, and school, in its exploration of personal and collective identity and politics, is a continual discovery of aliveness.
Last month I had the pleasure of attending performances, classes, and rehearsals with taisha paggett and WXPT’s School for the Movement of the Technicolor People. In collaboration with Ashley Hunt and Kim Zumpfe, LACE was completely transformed into a dance school and rehearsal space. During a conversation hosted by at land’s edge, paggett discusses an interest in “opening things up” as she explains the different installation choices in the space. Hearing this, my mind journeys to the scene of paggett attempting to bust through a wall with her hands during the opening performance of the school. paggett’s intention seems clear and direct. The body breaking through walls. “Through” suggests a movement of the body from one place to another without interruption. taisha leads us on that journey as we confront our inner selves and traverse the wild, untamed spaces and mindsets we inhabit.
These bodies are moving together, while simultaneously holding space individually, distinctly. Each body contributing to a collective experience and quest for understanding. It is obvious that taisha believes this in her core — that these bodies can make change. A power, a tour de force, a movement of bodies ready to take up space as personal and political beings. In an email to the school’s participants, taisha signs off with a beautiful phrase: in unison, taisha.
For the final performance of WXPT, after weeks of classes in The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People, performances loop every 30 minutes. Audience members are given a piece of paper with a time slot as they enter through the back entrance of LACE. Although it is hard to pinpoint a “beginning” upon entering, the performance seems to begin each time with taisha paggett’s voice. Speaking with purpose, paggett delivers the following through a loudspeaker:
what is a body? / what is a thing? / how is a thing which is a non black? / what is the difference between a thing and an object? / how is a thing which is a non body? / what is necessary for a body to do? / when does a body stop doing? / we are made by all that we know / and all that we know is what is /
By the end of Saturday night’s performances, the dancers had picked up a momentum that was captivating. Flying through the space, see-sawing from one tip of the space to the next, the personal and collective power made noise. The dancers were mesmerizing, focused, tranquil, and bewitching.
A herd of bodies support and help a single body climb, fall, and flip through air. The bodies shuffle, replacing one another, as the single body walks and balances on their hands. This action pulls the bodies from one end of the room to the other. Gently they place the lifted body on the ground and they immediately surge with energy and shift direction. They run to the opposite diagonal. They scatter/fall as if they are hit by a blast. They all freeze on the ground. Legs suspended in time. In air. Cheeks on the ground. Then, in another instant, they are back on their feet, rushing across the room to lift that body back up. As they raise the body up higher and higher, the body extends one fist. This momentum, this movement, moved me as I sat watching.
When we think about collectives, we think about bodies that come together. WXPT could not be a more genuine collective of dancers and people. Collectivity defined. I thought to myself, if this were the model for other collaborations there would be more generosity and hope in the world. taisha asks us to make eye contact and to be present as we are moving through space with other bodies. taisha asks us to lean into what is different and what is unknown.
I find myself thinking about the memory of The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People in a hotel bathroom in Paris. My feet, in socks, glide across a white tile floor. I’m back in my body. My awareness focuses inward. My arms extend. A shadow appears. The light from the Parisian glass window is producing my twin. I feel alone. There’s no one to dance with, no one to move with, no one to question with. There’s just the wispy, empty shadow.
My back carries an energy to my limbs as I move in the bathroom, the same way it did in the room with the bodies at LACE. My head falls to one side as I dance. Certain isolations occur while movements slow down and speed up. I imagine I’m not alone anymore. That there are other bodies all around me surging with energy too, carried by histories, curiosities, and desires. What if we all didn’t have to feel alone. What if we could feel together even when we are apart. What if we could believe that bodies can make change and do the impossible even when we cannot see it with our eyes. What if we could feel the togetherness and the movement across thresholds of spaces, and time.
I’m shaking. I’m writhing. I’m moving.
Images courtesy of taisha paggett