The annual senior project concert is a chance to showcase four years of growth and experience in both dance and choreography. Len Foyle, a graduating dance major, used the capstone project as an opportunity to explore how they could “queer” dance practices and the rehearsal process.
Here, Foyle talks about how that experience inspired an evolving understanding of the relationship between performers, choreographers, and the audience.
Tell us about your senior capstone project.
This work explores what it means to queer space, to queer relationships, and to queer the structures of practice and process—all of the ways that you can apply queerness to norms that already exist. I’ve been playing a lot with how I can queer my relationship to the dancers, and with how the rehearsals are set up.
A lot of it is rooted in my own identity. But I wouldn’t say it’s about my story and my personal experience. But certainly, I’ve been thinking a lot about the binaries that naturally exist within space and relationships and society.
What does it mean to queer your process?
A lot of times it comes down to working more collaboratively with the dancers, rather than enforcing my vision upon them in an authoritative way. I see what they need, how they’re feeling, keep the communication lines open, and make sure it’s a more dynamic, multifaceted process. I wanted to establish a relationship before any of that and establish a place where the dancers could be vulnerable, and where I could be vulnerable.
One thing that developed was what we called the pleasure puddle. It was loosely inspired by some choreographers I worked with in London. Half the class laid on the ground and the other half came and laid on top of them. That duet evolved into this sharing of weight and then asking for and willingness to give pleasure. It comes down to reading bodies, feeling when somebody is leaning into a point of contact, or when somebody is wedging their way underneath you because they want the weight of your body, and tuning into that.
How did this experience then shape the rehearsals?
There are a lot of very intimate moments in the piece and I think if [dancers] aren’t comfortable being in physical contact with each other and having those kinds of connections, it’s not possible to make that authentic. It looks awkward.
There are a lot of parts in the piece where there’s nose-to-nose contact, or where they’re rolling around with each other in very twisted positions. Those moments came out of the pleasure puddle and the kinds of touch that were generated. It fed so wonderfully and directly into what was ultimately created.
How did you queer the interaction with the audience during the performance?
Already within the theater, there’s this binary of audience and onstage, and there’s an expectation that the audience will come in and be a passive recipient. They can sit back and let it wash over them. I very specifically did not want that to be the case. I wanted there to be some implication and some discomfort and some jarring. I’m using lights directed at the audience and the dancers will interact with the audience, making eye contact with them. I wanted to break down all of those binaries, tease them apart and find that grey area in between.
Where do you hope this experience will lead after you graduate?
I think this is a roadmap for my life work. The piece is limited to 10 minutes; I feel like it needs to be a 45-minute, evening-length performance. There have been certain elements that I’ve wanted to add in, or that I haven’t been able to develop and explore as fully as I wanted to. Questions have come up through this process that are maybe unrelated to the specific focus of this work, but I can re-contextualize and put into a new piece of work.