One on One: For Christy Funsch One is Never a Lonely Number

By Julie Potter

January 1, 2012, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

Rarely do audiences experience a dance performance more than once, however Christy Funsch gives dance-goers a second chance with the ephemeral, time-based, and fleeting art form in her upcoming retrospective Funsch Solos: One On One, at Z Space, March 8-11, 2012. As a grantee of Dancers’ Group’s New Stages for Dance program, One On One features five premieres and 13 repertory solos offered in two iterations: during the first act through one-on-one viewings in curtained rooms, and then again in the second act with the audience as a group seated in the round, allowing each audience member to see the dances twice.

“I wonder what it’s like to see a solo on your own and then fifteen minutes later you see that same piece but you’re sitting in this large group. Then what do you see? What’s evocative for you? What do you remember from that one experience and how is that reinforced or threatened by the presence of the large group? I’m curious about that,” Funsch muses. She hopes the experience will stimulate discussion and conversation. Groups rotating around the perimeter of Z Space for the one on one, and then the solos repeated in the more conventional setting provide comparative experiences from both the performer and audience’s point of view.

The One On One Experience
For One on One, Funsch will perform several of her selected solos, from as far back as the ’90s. She’s also gathered a fresh crop of Bay Area performers to perform repertory works as well as several new solos. “The one-on-one experience is an experiment, and it has been as much a performer gift as it is a way of shaking up the viewer/doer exchange so I’m curious what it’s going to be like from the performing side of it. There will be a lot of repetition and intimacy and shedding this moment that is shared with one other person that no one else will know about, so I think it will be really rich and different” explained Funsch. She adds, “I expect that there’s something about watching when you’re by yourself that may bring you into a slower state of observation, maybe a place of empathy, wherein a group setting, the exchange is really different.” (During November in New York, Funsch was working with dance artist Julie Mayo on The Wrecking Project, an undertaking in which artists get to edit and re-imagine each other’s work and then perform the original and “wrecked” versions side by side.)

Going Solo
Funsch has created more than 30 solos during the past 30 years. She comments, “I think we’re all in it on our own and we have to make sense of the world and arrive as an individual with a decision, so that’s why the solo point of views come strongly to me.” Her preference as a viewer also tends toward solo work more than group performance. “I like design and appreciate those who do that kind of work really well, but I also feel like it can lead to what Tere O’Connor calls the ‘pencils in an earthquake’ kind of work where it’s a lot of pyrotechnics and flash which doesn’t necessarily ground you in an experience.”

With much work to choose from, Funsch selected repertory she could physically remember performing or rehearsing, or work about which she could recall vivid memories and thoughts from the making of the piece. “The important things are the same. The way that the embodiment of how movement is striking me and coming forth is the same” said Funsch. “The movement is the hook. The visceral experience is the hook for me more than a concept or political statement. It’s the experience in the soft tissue, how that inspires the whole structure of the piece, the mood of the piece, the costuming—all that stuff comes from a visceral place still as it did long time ago.”

On Our Own Together
Observation fuels Funsch’s creative process. She is keen to the dynamics and interactions of those she watches outside the studio in places like cafes, the street and Muni. “I do observe best when I’m on my own and that true observation takes some time, so that time to yourself, to know your point of view and be able to articulate your world view, and make answers of things, the way you decide how you’re going to treat other people—all those things. Yes, you’re influenced by your family, your upbringing, friends and context, but it’s that time by yourself that really is going to let you figure your own individual choices around those issues” she maintains.

In addition to observation, Funsch enjoys regular exchanges with colleagues in both the performing and visual arts to develop different ways of seeing space and shape. “As much as I feel that my movement history is my own, and my outlook and answers to big questions are my own, I know I am the puree of all the teachers and family and friends and strangers that have marked me,” said Funsch, adding, “As much as we act, we are also reacting. I think this is what is often for me the unexpected effect of solo work, the seeing of many others in one person’s experience, or the way one experience can amplify and refer to countless other people and other ways of seeing.” Time alone in the studio, as well as improvisation, are also the staples of her work’s development. “The biggest thing is the daily execution of it, the doing of it, the thinking and conceptualizing is important but for me it’s such an immediately physical practice so it’s that time spent,” said Funsch.

Finally transferring the solos onto the artists with whom she is working allows Funsch a satisfying distance from her work, which communicates to her the movement’s strengths and where to push. She notes how the process has helped her to read and parse out her personality from what’s actually in the piece of work she created. “I’ve gotten into this place where I’m less about my own physical preferences and improvisational determination of pieces and more about colleagues and wanting to celebrate them and bring out things I cherish about them in their dancing with works I’ve made for them. I think it happens naturally with people you’ve known for so long, the exchange and translation becomes easy because you have a shared movement history together.”

Having lived in the Bay Area for sixteen years, Funsch is awed by the depth and brilliance of dance activity in the region. “There are so many people pursuing paths of creativity that a lot of times intersect with politics and activism that’s so vital to keep putting out there in a way that is time-based where we attend the performance and share that durational experience together. Where it’s not a prerecorded bravado hit on YouTube. All that stuff is great but I’m for being there in the moment.”

This article appeared in the January/February 2012 issue of In Dance.

Julie Potter is a public practice specialist, performance curator and writer based in San Francisco. As the Director of ODC Theater, she provides artistic and administrative leadership including season programming, artist residencies and public engagement. Potter was previously the Creative Ecosystem Senior Program Manager at YBCA and completed her M.A. in 2016 at Wesleyan’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance.