Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dance in Abundance in Philly?

We wrote this letter to the editor that the Inquirer did not publish, so we're posting here...

Becky Batcha, Features Editor

Subject: Concern about Dunkel’s Spring Dance Preview in Inquirer, Feb 5, 2017

Dear Ms. Batcha,

We are writing in response to Ellen Dunkle’s spring preview of dance (“Leaping into the Season” printed Feb 5, 2017) with dismay and concern. As longstanding dance-makers in Philadelphia, we feel that this preview excluded much of the dance offerings scheduled for the spring. It read more like an advertisement for NewMove Dance than an actual representation of dance performances in Philadelphia. Dunkle’s preview also named three productions from PA Ballet, stating: “This spring dance season in Philadelphia features more ballet than we usually see.” Is this true, or only a fact if framed within a preview that excludes most of the contemporary and intercultural dance productions in Philadelphia?

There was no mention of some of the extraordinary dance projects happening this season including: The Body Wails, the Body Restores by Lela Aisha Jones | Flyground & Vershawn Sanders Ward | Red Clay Dance at the Painted Bride; RealLivePeople Presents: Impacting Spaces at the Community Education Center; David Neumann | Advanced Beginner Group: I Understand Everything Better at Bryn Mawr; Allendance presents Bloom at Christ Church Neighborhood House; 2017 Philadelphia Screendance Festival at the Performance Garage, to name a few. All of these are listed on the performance calendar and easily accessible for any arts patron or writer.

We hope the Philadelphia Inquirer will do better in the future and more accurately represent dance in this city.

Nicole Bindler and Gabrielle Revlock

Choreographers, The Dance Apocalypse

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Notes on Clitoral Embodiment and Criticism

Last weekend my dance-wife, Gabi and I performed our solo adaptations of our duet, The Dance Apocalypse side by side at JACK in Brooklyn.

While the crowds were sparse on that Easter/Passover weekend, the critics came in throngs. Well, there were three critics. But receiving three reviews for a three night run at a venue with a capacity of 35 felt like we struck gold.

There’s no one objective truth about performance yet the audience and critical response to our work was so varied it seemed at if The Dance Apocalypse/Solos were existing in multiple parallel universes. One NYC-based choreographer told me that she found my Clitoral Embodiment class to be inviting and generous. Another left in the middle of it in a huff.

Katie Gaydos described Clitoral Embodiment as a “feminist meditation” in her Culturebot review, whereas Brian Seibert called it “dull” in the New York Times. Seibert described The Dance Apocalypse/Solos as a series of seemingly unrelated events “A parody of a fringe performance unraveling,” but Quinn Batson placed us in a context of Philadelphia based “awkwardly amazing women duos” in his OFFOFFOFF piece, saying there was an “intentional madness.”

There are lot of panels convening this spring in NYC and Philly on the role of the critic. A panel next month at Gibney will discuss the question: “Do dance critics play a useful, integrated role within New York’s dance community?” An event last week at Vox Populi called The Cursed Blessing of the Philadelphia Art Writer posed the question to their panelists: “What role does art writing play in Philadelphia? Who writes and why do they do it?”

Also last week the New York Times dance writers, including Seibert came together at Barnard to discuss: “How do critics transform the experience of watching dance? What role do they play in the perception of women dancers and choreographers and in the discourse about gender? Do they make a difference in how people think?”

I did not attend the talk at Barnard, but I am very curious about what Seibert might have said about the role his writing plays in the discourse about gender. My goal in the Clitoral Embodiment class which is embedded in my solo performance is to invite the audience to embody the principles that I am moving from in my choreography. I want them to have a kinesthetic sense and empathy as they watch me later in the dance performing nude. I’m interested in creating a bridge between the visual and kinesthetic senses for the audience so that we can dismantle the tendency for viewers to objectify the nude female body.

In her thINKingDANCE piece about Annie Wilson’s Lovertits, Kirsten Kaschock says:

One of the biggest conundrums for dance artists is this: their relationship to their bodies is vastly different than many of their audiences’ relationships with their own bodies. When they look out into the theater they might expect to see recognition: to see people remembering what it is to be at home in their bodies or moving joyously within them, or even moving with great effort. But often it isn’t true, or it’s only partly true. Performers see—also and instead—watchers, observers, critics, voyeurs.
There is a reason people treat dancers as creatures. What dancers do, naked or not, is alien to so many. It is difficult then to cross the multiple chasms—to make real eye contact across the proscenium stage, across the gulf between types of embodiment, across the gap between exposed and anonymous, across the false-binary rift between and among gender(s).

My goal is to cross the chasm between audience and performer by preparing them proprioceptively, asking them to close their eyes and sense their own inner landscape before viewing the external landscape of my skin. But perhaps not everyone wants to feel the dance from the inside. I did not ignite Seibert's viscera. He never closed his eyes. His pen never left the page, and as far as I can tell he never found his clitoris.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Dance Apocalypse 2015 ~ Call For Funders

2015 Call for Funders ~ extended deadline November 1st!
Gabrielle and Nicole invite funders to apply to support The Dance Apocalypse’s 2015 creative work. Eligible funders must demonstrate a history of supporting radical, experimental, feminist performance for at least 5 years. To be considered please submit a letter of intent to by October 15th addressing the following questions:

• What is your mission? What is your distinct contribution to the ecology of the region’s cultural community? How do you place your funding in the context of the field at large?

• Describe your support capabilities. What activities are involved?  

• How does support of The Dance Apocalypse relate to your organization’s mission and/or your programmatic goals?

• How does your proposed approach in this application, as well as your history with past artists (give examples), demonstrate that your organization is ready to take on this project with a realistic expectation for success?

• How do you anticipate your support broadening the audiences for The Dance Apocalypse?

• How will you document your support?

• How will you evaluate the programmatic impact your support has had on The Dance Apocalypse? How might you incorporate your learnings going forward?

• What potential impact might your support of The Dance Apocalypse have on the field?
• What is the evidence of your organization’s ability to effectively manage and steward this project from a financial and governance standpoint?

About The Dance Apocalypse
Gabrielle and Nicole make dances with you and for you that transcend the border between audience and stage. Their work is fiercely feminist, wild, and genre defying. They use movement, text, video, stage combat and comedy to create a sensorial extravaganza. They are particularly interested in the Q and A format as performance; critiquing spectacle and competition in contemporary dance; collaboration as a practice and lifestyle. They do not shy away from using animals and babies to charm your pants off. Their work has been frequently described as joyfully disorienting. They have performed their collaborative work throughout Philadelphia, New York, D.C., Pittsburgh and Seattle. Their dances have been supported by The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, FringeArts and The A.W.A.R.D. Show!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Seattle 2014 - fiascos, fright and fun fun fun fun fun fun fun


We woke up early on the Monday after our performances to go to the hospital where Cameron was in critical care. Gabi dragged her suitcase with a missing wheel along the pavement with a periodic thud and scuff of the unwheeled side. Kristel followed behind with a garbage bag full of balloons.

When we arrived, 34 year old Cameron was lying silently in bed. A nurse held an ultrasound device to his carotid artery on the the side of his neck, presumably to test for clots like the one that had caused the stroke the day before. He was not allowed to speak, but he gave us a thumbs up to acknowledge our presence.

When the nurse was done with the procedure he opened his eyes and smiled, though his left eyelid was only a narrow crease.

We performed a 15 minute trio version of our evening length, 30+ member piece “I made this for you”, which he had missed the night before at the Seattle International Dance Festival because of the stroke which occurred just after rowing a boat on lake Union (image above). As they were about to call 911 he said to Gabi, “I don’t want to miss the naked lady.” 

So when the time came for me to perform my solo in his hospital room, Kristel closed the curtain and cinched it shut with her fingers. When a nurse tried to come in she held him at bay while I fumbled with my jeans.

We described the parts of the dance that we couldn’t reenact as a trio… the previous night a woman raised her hand when I asked for an audience volunteer to make out with me. She had been inappropriately commenting on my clothes outside during intermission and interrupted the panel discussion to rant about spirituality. Needless to say she creeped me out so I played eenie meenie miney moe with her and my audience plant and made sure it landed on him.

Later she followed us all to dinner because she was a friend of a cast member. When I entered the bathroom she was there and stayed while I used the toilet because she said she “just wanted to be around me.” She mentioned that she had taken a shit in the toilet that I was sitting on. Later she asked for my phone #. I gave her my email instead. She asked if she scared me and I said “a little bit.”

After our reenactment / reflection on our process, we said goodbye to Cameron who was connected to all sort of machines in his dark room. He said he thinks that there’s probably never been an experimental dance performance in critical care before.

I accompanied Gabi to the bus that she was boarding for Portland. We made plans to debrief from the week back in Philly. As she loaded her one-wheeled luggage underneath the bus, the suitcase handle fell off.

Casting fiasco # 1

We interviewed cast members for “I made this for you” online by viewing their video and resumes. We put our call for performers on message boards, listserves and our contacts in Seattle spread the word. Ty Boomershine, a frequent recipient of Pew funding via Lucinda Childs projects which bring him to Philly to teach and set her work, asked us three times on our Facebook event “what’s the pay?”

I responded:

Then Gabi messaged Ty privately and here's what happened...
  • Conversation started today
  • Gabrielle Revlock
  • 5:46pm
  • What's the deal? Why are you trolling us? I thought we were friends.
  • Ty Boomershine
  • 6:08pm
  • Ty Boomershine
  • I find what your asking of the community unacceptable and unprofessional.  If your 'friend' Nicole can't deal with the public questioning of such behavior, she should work in a way that doesn't require volunteers to make work.  I suggest painting.
  • Gabrielle Revlock
  • 6:19pm
  • Your argument would have validity if you directed it at the person who actually has the money/is in charge and that is the presenter. I encourage you to raise your concerns with him. And if you'd like to make a donation to this project which you feel so passionate about follow this link ( and you can rest assured it will make it's way to the Seattle performers.
  • Gabrielle Revlock is a Fiscally Sponsored Artist through New York Live Arts' Associate Artist Program.Please complete the form below and click on "Submit" to make your tax-deductible donation.To submit this form, all "*" fields must be filled in.
  • Ty Boomershine
  • 6:23pm
  • Ty Boomershine
  • Wait a minute.  It's up to me to negotiate the fee with the presenter to justify your public call for performers, and then to ask me to help pay your performers for you.  Wow.  Entitlement at it's finest.
  • Gabrielle Revlock
  • 6:27pm
  • It's not up to you to do anything. You chose to involve yourself and if you want to do something that makes a difference I gave you two very good options. You're barking up the wrong tree here. You're acting like a bully and picking on the little guys.
  • Ty Boomershine
  • 6:38pm
  • Ty Boomershine
  • Please.  You are diminishing the field by keeping it at an amateur level.  Expecting performers to work with solely for the honor and privilege to perform.  And typical of your original post, both of your 'options' involve asking someone else to deal with your problems for you.  I asked a question on a public forum about your post…. publicly.  You've made it personal and private.  Childish.  I'm out.

Then Ty unfriended Gabi and blocked her.

Casting fiasco #2

When we say the piece is about audience engagement and community building, it’s often interpreted as generic grant-speak. But we mean it.

So when Cyrus set up a paid workshop at Velocity as a way to gather cast members, we were befuddled because we had already confirmed some cast members who we could not charge money for participation. This created a tier system; those who would pay and those who would participate for free.

It was completely antithetical to our mission and we were very anxious about having to communicate this to the cast. Plus the scheduling was such that we needed to be at the studio all day in order to work with the performers at their convenience, but the workshop was scheduled for 11:30-1:30 everyday, a time when no one was available.

This scheduling snafu was a blessing because no one registered for the workshop and we had to cancel it. Meanwhile, our acquaintances and friends had spread the word through Facebook, message boards, listserves and through their personal e-lists. By the time we arrived in Seattle, we had 24 performers confirmed and by the show we had over 30, including the kids, the panel and the dog.

Photo: Tech for I Made This For You, performing tonight. It'll be a fun show so come on out! There are still a few tix left.

The cast

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The night of the first show the cast sat in the dressing room sharing stories about their lives. At a pause Mariah said, “Hey guys, it worked”, referring to our goal to build community. New friendships were blossoming before our eyes. We wanted to connect disparate artists across disciplines who would not otherwise know each other. We wanted to critique competition and to broaden the definition of what dance is to include clown, yoga, circus arts, pedestrian activities even kissing.

Karen Nelson, the legendary first generation Contact Improvisor performed a solo in our circus section that she called “postmodern noodling” but more resembled a mesmerizing, spiralic dance in and out of the floor. She was incredibly humble, expressing interest in everyone in the cast. She was exuberant: backstage warming up before her cue she playfully rolled onto William and Campbell’s shoulders from on top of a piano.

William, a former Uarts student who Kristel and I knew from Philly, performed an impeccable contemporary ballet solo simultaneous to Sadie, a clown on a miniature bicycle. Campbell, an environmental activist, musician and virtuosic whistler contributed a melancholic whistling denouement with balloons falling out of his lonely arms.

Melanie tapped, Kristie burlesqued, Alysha flamenco’d, Marissa performed Indian dance, Lisa flipped over a big ball, Courtney offered the audience clarification.

PhotoLeigh, Tabitha, Cyrus, Connie, Brigette, Maya and Mariah jumped up from the audience for the finale.

The children were children.


The dog was a dog. We had one week to teach / create ten solos, a panel discussion, a group burlesque dance, a section for the kids, and a group finale. We did this at their convenience in small groups. One day we had the kids and Wally. He got over excited and shat all over the studio floor.

The panel

Nina opened the discussion on the first night with the question: “What’s wrong about these solos?” Jeremy who loves spectacle thought that Gabi’s hula hoop and my nude solo were just right. Donald expressed a fatigue from irony and sarcasm. He longed for our dances to be what they are without commenting on themselves. Shannon admitted to using irony in her own work and wondered if that is a current pitfall for young artists.

On the second night Johanna contemplated the definition of avant-garde and wondered if my dancing nude was groundbreaking if the audience was not shocked by it. None of the panelists commented on their own role in the dance, their commentary smack in the of the piece. It was interesting that they did not talk about the experimental nature of their role and the risk we took by allowing them to critique us, unscripted and candidly as a part of the performance.

Paul, a Parkinson’s patient and newly initiated to dance through Shannon’s dance for Parkinson’s class, had an entirely different take on things. He spoke about happiness and how the joy that we exuded as we danced satiated him completely. He took out a pair of wildly colored socks and placed them on his legs. He described the happiness that the socks evoked in him and that our dances were somehow like the socks. As the rest of the panelists debated spectacle, authenticity and experimentalism, he took off one shoe and put the sock on his foot. He wiggled his woolen toes with satisfaction.

We were in the award show again by mistake

In the middle of the week we discovered we were in the award show again by mistake. “I made this for you” was created for the award show as a critique of competition within the context of a competition.

Cyrus had forgotten the seed material of the piece so he didn’t realize that when he decided to turn his local choreographer nights into a contest it would be a conflict for us.

Displaying photo.JPG

I was perplexed. I went to the Y for a swim to clear my head. I went on the ferris wheel to get a view of the bay and some perspective.

I called him. “do you remember what our piece is a about?”

“Um, not really.”

I told him what our piece is about. “You realize that in order for us to maintain the integrity of our work, we’re going to have to make fun of your festival in the piece?”

“Ok. I believe in the first amendment.”

At the next rehearsal run he laughed when Gabi said that she was in a contest where audience votes determine the winner of a $500 prize (the award amount for the festival.) He also laughed when I asked her what the criteria is and she said “No fucking clue.”

Points for Cyrus for having a great sense of humor.


I confess I became emotionally confused and felt like I was dating my audience plant/kisser. The evening we met to interview each other we went to a show at the festival and for an awkward moment during an uncomfortably naive dance piece he held my hand for support.

I confess I enjoyed it.

I confess that for our upcoming Pittsburgh show I can’t do the kissing part with a stranger again. It’s too much. I’m scrambling to find a friend who’s willing to travel from Philly. Help!

I confess that Gabi and I fought for an hour in our little dorm room while Kristel pretended to look at Facebook on her phone. It’s true that I shouldn’t have thrown Gabi under the bus by telling Cyrus that I take no responsibility for anything my crazy choreo-partner says. But the fact that she conflates DIY art with unprofessionality infuriates me because for three years Curt and I curated a highly organized, integritous and successful festival that had a conscious, intentional informality.

I confess that Gabi and I should have created a tech rider a year ago and that probably would have saved us a lot of problems.

I confess that I started smoking during this project and that I’m smoking right now as I write this.

I confess that this piece makes me feel like a lunatic, but I can’t stop.


The first class we went to at Velocity was full of 17 teenagers from Utah.

Photo: Gabi and Kristel warming up for "contemporary movement research" at Velocity in a room filled with teenage girls from Utah. Class was actually pretty fun! We did a lot of bouncing.

Then Gabi woke up on Thursday morning with an infected toe. She had not taken care of a split and the toe was swollen. Kristel and I convinced her she absolutely had to see a doctor and she went to urgent care instead of class. She was prescribed antibiotics.

I went to class that morning. We did lots of bouncing, and writhing to blaring pop music. Whenever the teacher demonstrated something on one leg such as leg swings her pelvis wonked around lacking any stability. When she gave a vague image for improvisational exploration I could barely hear what she was saying over the music. This class was neither technique, nor improv. I gained no insight into dance biomechanics or poetics. But I was sweaty and warm and ready for rehearsal.


Shannon invited us to a BBQ in the park near her house. We ate grilled corn and complained about how we would only have a one camera shooting from the booth. Shannon’s partner Adam and his friend Jeff, professional video artists, sympathized and agreed to shoot our performance for a bargain price. We were so happy.

Living in a college dorm

Gabi saw a student eat a meal that consisted of whole wheat pasta topped with chicken noodle soup, pringles, and sliced bananas.


Our work is very polarizing. After our first performance, Paulo, one of the other artists in the festival, came up to us and gushed about how successful we were at packing so much DANCE into a piece that also had meaningful CONTENT. Then a local critic, Anne stood next to him and said: “I suggest you scrap the material you’re working with and make a REAL dance.”

Anne is a polarizing figure herself. Apparently she harasses a lot of artists after their shows. I wonder why the Seattle dance community tolerates her volatility and insults?

Comment cards

“The after party was fun!”

“Please keep doing this in many more cities <3”

“Women dancers should be funded fairly”

“Thanks for including the audience!”

“Best performance I have ever seen!”

“That was great fun. Panel was torture.”

Curatorial challenges

I watched Cristina’s solo on the second night before our piece and understood why people had questions about how our work altered the viewing of hers, which was entirely earnest. My nude solo in “I made this for you” parodies self indulgent, somatic dance and placed next to Cristina’s work appeared to be making fun of her.

I decided to change my solo the second night and only took my pants off. With my t-shirt remaining, it became more funny and grotesque and no longer resembled anything of Cristina’s work, which I deeply admire.

She and I walked to the cast party together after the show and she told me about a new piece she’s working on with a collaborator, sourcing from the collaborator’s family history of resisting communism in Romania during the iron curtain and her own grandfather’s experience as a Jew in a work camp during the Holocaust. We discussed the opposing propaganda that we were both subject to as children, how we were raised as enemies. I told her about my family’s socialist history and how confusing the anti-communist lectures were for me in grade school.

Cristina had watched our piece three times and while she appreciated the gesture of changing my solo so as not to offend her, she was very gracious. She said loved it as a parody and was entirely able to laugh at it without taking offense.


After we did the piece in the hospital for Cameron I worked on this writing and then went to meet Campbell, whose performance practice involves taking care of trees and gardening and other environmental activities.

His friends Larry, Frances and I danced on top of a storage container. Then we went to a Velocity where Larry and Campbell hosted a dance open mic called Shit Gold where people were invited to show new work and viewers were invited to find the gold within the shit. Through this lens everything had potential.

Campbell taught the audience how to make origami globes. He instructed us to fill them with water then throw them on the filthy steps outside of the studio. He then asked us to wipe the wet stairs with the smashed paper. We were happily tricked into cleaning the building through his performance.


I visited Karen on Vashon island and we picnicked by the glistening bay. She stirred canned tuna into a bowl of mixed greens and reflected on her life as a dancer/maker/traveler. She asked me pointed questions about “I made this for you” in a spirit of deep curiosity and support. I was vibrating with the excitement of having the undivided attention and friendship of one of my dance-heros.

As controversial as our work can be, it’s heartening that Karen can see into the piece and appreciate its simultaneously provocative and celebratory nature. We also received this review a couple of days later.

Stay tuned for our adventures in Pittsburgh this month. Will it be as eventful?