The Unsayable (2010-2011)

Performance project exploring personal story through movement and text with a mixed ensemble of professional dancers and military veterans.  The project was first and foremost a group emotional process honoring veteran’s voices.  It was a work of choreography second. Balancing the two processes was a fascinating challenge.  The project’s fundamental premise was to engage veterans not as mere source material, but as artistic collaborators in conversation with dancers.  Through the project, we aimed to impart a deeper understanding of what it means to bear witness.  

Core creative question:
What are the ethics and aesthetics of honoring the voices of trauma survivors?

“there is a long and honorable tradition of art that ‘bears witness’ to human suffering.”
-Joyce Carol Oates (writing in response to Arlene Croce’s refusal to review Bill T. Jones’ Still/Here, his 1994 dance about people with HIV/AIDS)

Performers: Katharine Conley, David Fish, Cameron Growden, Derek Harris, Risa Larsen, Rogelio Lopez, Paul Ramirez, Carol Roye, Tegan Schwab
Music: Paul Haas
Text: The performers, with Bart Schneider
Workshop Transcription: Katharine Hawthorne
Additional Workshop Participants: David Witty, Jonas Pastora

Writing About Process

social practice: choreography with trauma survivors

on activism privilege and neutrality

"…the performers [in The Unsayable] speak, shift formation, and splinter into dance, bravely sharing personal anecdotes, including the ugly, the tender, and the uncomfortable."
-- Julie Potter, “What Can’t Be Said,” S.F. Bay Guardian, March 2, 2011

"[P]art of the importance of [The Unsayable] is to demonstrate one of the roles of the artidst: To bear witness to suffering."
-- Jean Schiffman, “Dancing the Unsayable,” S.F. Arts Monthly, March 2011

Portions of The Unsayable were created during an Irvine Fellowship at the Sally and Don Lucas Artist Residency Program at Montalvo Arts Center.  Created in partnership with Swords to Plowshares and the Homeless Veterans Rehabilitation Program (HVRP) of the Palo Alto VA Hospital.  Victoria Marks and Daria Halprin offered guidance. Dr. Annie Rogers' The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma provided early inspiration for this work.

Performance History
Premiere: Z Space, March 3-6, 2011
Additional performances: Margaret Jenkins Dance LAB; Makeup Mutiny