Interview with Greg Holt – 2,000 Movements in FringeArts 2015

by Kat Richter for The Dance Journal

2,000 Movements is one of the more straightforward titles in this year’s FringeArts festival. But don’t let its simplicity fool you. In his own words, creator and community organizer Gregory Holt seeks to “use choreography to grapple with vital questions and experiences.”

Here, the New Hampshire native speaks about his upcoming show, the FringeArts festival, and arts funding in Philadelphia.

Dance Journal:  How long have you been making dance in Philly?

Gregory Holt: 11 years! I started in 2004 with Green Chair Dance Group, and we made work for the fringe for several years, but I didn’t live in the city until 2008. I’ve been involved in the community since then.

DJ:  Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?

GH: I grew up in NH, contra dancing and swing dancing. I did my first contact improv in Massachusettes (near North Hampton of course) when I was 16. The first professional performances I saw were Pilobolus and the Baryshnikov’s White Oak Project reviving Judson Church and postmodern dances when I was 18. I went to Swarthmore and continued dancing there.

DJ: Can you describe some of your community work?

GH: I’m very active in my housing coop in West Philly, providing at-cost housing in 8 properties, shielded from developer speculation and market fluctuation. I am very active at Mascher [Space Co-op], helping keep open a process-oriented space for performance. I work with Friends House Moscow, supporting their work and tying bridges between local Quaker groups and the peacework projects of FHM.

DJ: Where did you get the idea for 2,000 Movements?

The idea came from a lot of sources, which I kept boiling down and reducing to try and reach the simplest core. I was thinking about how choreography is used to organize large groups of people, and how that can also be seen in an individual. I was thinking about the many actions and ‘performances’ that slowly create and define- and change- who we are, and I was curious about this immaterial archive of each life, how to lift it up and honor it […].

In the dance, “I” become very visible, […] not so much as a character in a narrative, but more as a location/site where these actions pass through. I’m interested in this localizing effect, and how it can smooth the connection between locality and locality, so there isn’t as much of a gap between action and context.

The choreography brings all the moments of the process back to the present, again and again.

DJ: How was it to collaborate with Meg Foley and Christina Gesualdi on this project?

Meg was amazing, coming with me to nearly every rehearsal for several months. Our conversations really shaped my thinking about the dance, and my dedication to continue it. Her insight was invaluable, reflecting back at me what I was doing and saying. We did several stages of experimenting together with the material as well, and discussed what happened to it during those trials.

Christina has also been so supportive and enabling. Her enthusiasm for the project has helped me stay focused and light-hearted, which is so important and sometimes difficult if you’re working alone. She has also come to several rehearsals and given important feedback.

I also worked with Bojana Cvejic, a theorist and dramaturge, who challenged me about the actual material of the performance, and how bring the quality and intensity that will create a shared space between audience and performer, where we feel the insistence of the material.

DJ: What can audiences expect from this performance?

GH: I’ve worked with musicians in the past, such as Julius Masri, but this time I’m using the environmental noise. Again, I’m curious about this relationship to context, and how the dance emerges out of that. The audience will be quite present, themselves a kind of multi-cellular body, seated in a half-round.

DJ: What has been the most challenging thing about producing a solo show for the Fringe? The most rewarding?

GH: What’s rewarding is that the city is ready to go out and see something ‘fringey’. They want to move out of their established zones and be challenged to think. This is awesome.

However, it definitely feels like a kind of open-secret story that everyone knows, but which the institution of the festival itself isn’t telling.

After all the marketing emails pushing the presented shows, I just got one with the subject line “what’s fringey this year?” “Oh my gosh,” I thought, “are they going to direct attention to the self-produced shows?” Nope, it only mentions the produced shows and the free, online, digital fringe (but good for them for supporting those artists!).

On the website, you can select that you are looking for ‘curated’ shows, but you can’t select that you are looking for local, self produced shows. I don’t see that the festival is directing audience attention in that direction. I’d be curious to see when, how, and to whom they centralize that part of the story as part of their mission and identity.

DJ: How did your LAB fellowship influence your work on this and other projects?

GH: The LAB was awesome […] very influential. I was able to research deeply with a regular group of dancers and produced several performances out of that material. However, this project started after that. Unfortunately, those vital residencies have been de-funded, which makes me very concerned about how artists are going to develop their voices and skill in Philly today.

2,000 Movements
Gregory Holt
Sept 16 at 7:30pm
Sept 17 at 5pm
Sept 17 at 7:30pm
fidget, 1714 North Mascher Street, Phila
Tickets: $10 / 60 minutes