Returning Choreographic Fellow | Aug 14 - 21, 2016 // Nov 25 - Dec 3, 2017 // June 25 - July 7, 2018
Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed
Inspired by his participation as the first performing artist-in-residence at the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), David Neumann returned for his second of three MANCC residencies to develop a multi-disciplinary dance/theater piece, Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed (working title). SETI Institute astronomer Dr. Jill Tarter explains, “the probability of success is difficult to estimate, but if we never search, the chance for success is zero.” Neumann considers “difficult to estimate” to be quite an understatement considering the scales SETI scientists are working in. Neumann's curiosity about the universe from a scientist’s point of view began here.
Neumann’s central questions for Distances Smaller... are found along the boundary between the explainable and the mysterious. His aim is to unmoor himself from his own comfort zones by placing privilege, masculinity, and race in the context of the cosmic scale, and by relating the challenges of art-making to scientific endeavors. The work allows a complex view of the human experience to unfold, full of all its hubris and wonder. Neumann is attempting to bring the unfathomable scales of time and space into the theater and onto bodies with his mix of dance, science, and theater-making methodologies, creating a work where the borders between language and movement become indistinguishable, and the empirical and poetic become sympathetic agents.
Neumann is exploring and staging multiple, concurrent points of view in the development of this work. As his research into both the cosmological and quantum scales has shown him, the more one knows, the less one can be certain of. The same could be said of our culture. Neumann finds this paradoxical state difficult, inspiring, and truthful, and it is connected to his own process of emerging awareness within a systemically racist society. For Neumann, change begins by unpacking one’s assumptions and dancing within the mess.
At MANCC, Neumann brought an intergenerational cast of dancers including Sara Rudner, Professor of Dance at Sarah Lawrence College and former muse of Twyla Tharpe, and Jodi Melnick, a renowned choreographer in her own right. The cast also included Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski, who worked previously with Neumann at MANCC in 2011 on Restless Eye. Neumann continued his conversation with Dr. Jeremiah Murphy, Assistant Professor in FSU’s Department of Physics, which began in his 2016 residency on the intersections between dance and astrophysics. The residency culminated with an Open Studio Rehearsal during which Neumann and sound designer Tei Blow, experimented with the musical score for the work. Undergraduate School of Dance students in the Music and Choreography class, co-taught by guest artist Millicent Johnny and Specialized Faculty member Dan Smith, attended the rehearsal and engaged with Neumann in an open dialogue about his process in real time.
Neumann will return to MANCC for his third, and final residency for this project in June, prior to its premiere in New York City in Fall 2018.
This residency was supported by a multi-year, multi-residency initiative from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.