New Book: Site Dance

By Kegan Marling

September 1, 2010, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

Review by Kegan Marling

SITE DANCE: Choreographers and the Lure of Alternative Spaces
Edited by Melanie Kloetzel and Carolyn Pavlik

Site-specific dance has a long and complex history, and I’ve eagerly anticipated someone capturing its glory in writing. While Kloetzel and Pavlik’s book Site Dance misses an opportunity to unravel some of the bigger picture and genealogy of the form, it succeeds in revealing the complexities of making site specific work and the diversity of perspectives and approaches.

Put together primarily as a collection of interviews and essays by 14 practitioners (mostly East Coast based, but including locals Joanna Haigood and Jo Kreiter), Site Dance doesn’t always offer much on the background of each artist. But it makes up for that in the depth and richness of its examples – exploring concepts behind some great contemporary site works and the practical issues that abound from working in non-traditional spaces. Joanna Haigood talks about permitting issues for the airspace above the NYPD’s vehicle evidence lot, Eiko & Koma explain their process for choosing the perfect river, and Tamar Rogoff looks at how to guide an audience through a mass gravesite. Among the many works discussed are Meredith Monk’s multi-location, multi-performance epic on Joan-of-Arc (Vessel: An Opera Epic); Olive Bieringa’s BodyCartography Project; and Jo Kreiter’s Sparrow’s End.

Kloetzel & Pavlik group the artists by the way they primarily approach site work: historical connections, relationship to space, excavating beauty, and civic interaction. Sectioned in this way, the book is useful not just in unpacking site work, but in examining the creative process in general. Required reading for anyone wanting to explore site specific work, Site Dance also stands as a useful tool for those just looking to experience the many ways a choreographer approaches material.

This article appeared in the September 2010 issue of In Dance.

Kegan Marling is a San Francisco documentary and lifestyle photographer focused on queer communities, dance, and body/sex-positivity. His work has been in publications including the SF Chronicle, SF Weekly, Têtu, and Drummer Magazine, and is part of the permanent collection at SF General Hospital. He has created two short films in collaboration with playwright Brian Thorstenson for the National Queer Arts Festival, and is currently working on a photo essay on queer mythologies.