"Work Everlasting" - an interview with Alex Barbier

19 April 2018 Published in News and Announcements

Modern Dance grad student, Alexandra Barbier will present her latest work, entitled “Work Everlasting” this Sunday, April 22nd at 2 pm and 7:30pm, in MCD Studio 240. Barbier received funding form the BW Bastian Foundation to complete this project. Nicholas Daulton sat down with her to discuss her process for her work.

What is the BW Bastian Foundation?
The BW Bastian foundation offers support and funding for projects related to the LGBTQ+ Community.

What is Work Everlasting about?
Work Everlasting was initially just going to be a simple photography project that I was going to create with Leah Gulstrand.  She’s been with me since the beginning. I am in a long distance marriage and its really complicated. When I first started planning all this it was probably October, mid to late October. Being in a long distance marriage is really hard, especially because I moved here and met all these new people. I was really excited to make new friends and connections. I had a lot of questions about how to be really good friends with other gay women that my wife doesn’t know. Is she comfortable with that, am I comfortable with that? Do I have crushes on these people or am I just excited about making new friends? A lot of questions about boundaries arose and I was really just wanting to explore, through this photography project, the idea of boundaries between queer women in our relationships both platonic and romantic.

How did you generate material?
None of it was fantasy. Every single thing in this performance is real and based on someone’s real experience or story. In talking to a lot of my queer friends both here and in Louisiana there are reoccurring themes that came up in our stories. Boundaries was obviously one of them. Obsession and being obsessed with people very quickly and not understanding why. It’s a common lesbian thing. It’s weird to say because who wants to stereotype that much, but its rampant in our community- being obsessed with people. So, boundaries, obsession, and desire were the three main subjects that kept coming up over and over. I created a survey that I sent to a couple of women I knew were queer back home. It asked questions like “what have your experiences been with boundaries, with desire, with obsession.” “What images come to mind when I say these words?” They anonymously filled out these questions, so for the most part I do not know whose responses are whose. When I was planning this over Christmas break I was mostly basing the performance off of those stories because I didn’t have a cast yet. I had a lot of ideas based off of those surveys and when I came back and collected my cast, I thought it would be sweet if their stories were included in this as well. Our first couple of rehearsals, we did a lot of free writing on those same ideas of boundaries, obsession, and desire. I compared notes of what my friends back home said and what my cast said and started to build from there. Choreographically I didn’t come into this with any ideas about movement. All that I knew was that I was going to tell these stories and I had no idea other that I would do this through movement, voice overs, and film projection. The dancers and I collaboratively came up with the choreography.

Is there a reason why you wanted to make a multimedia production?
My favorite dance works by other people always involve something other than just concert dance, like some sort of projection, a creative sound score, film, or photography. I’ve always been interested in that. For one of our graduate classes last semester with Brent Schnieder who is my advisor in this project, we had to create installation performances which I really enjoyed. I loved seeing the different layers being presented together and I kind of realized that this is the kind of work I’m going to make, at least right now. That’s what I’m interested in, the multidisciplinary layered performance work.

What would you want the audience to take away from the performance?
I want audiences to take away the most basic understanding of what it feels like to be in a queer relationship. I wrote this in the application for the funding: one of the reasons I wanted to do this project is because I feel like we don’t get the opportunity to focus on queer relationships in performance. A lot of narrative dance work is still very heteronormative and I really wanted to create a performance that really put queer relationships at the forefront. I think representation is important. I also really wanted to make a queer working environment so that everyone who was involved felt like they were 100% normal and accepted within the space without having to worry about “if I say x,y,z, is it going to freak this person out?” My cast, every single one of them, identifies somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. That was really important to me, not only to share queer stories, but also to create a working and artistic environment for queer people. A place to be together. A place where we could talk about the gayest stuff, it was all gay all the time. Someone would mention a crush or relationship they had and everyone would chime in with a “oh my god me too!” “I hate when that happens” or “I’m going through that right now.” It was really cool to have this community understanding in the space at all times.