Choreographer Shannon Stewart's show about identity, memes, and the intersections of gender, class, and race will take place October 5-8, 8 p.m. and October 9, 2 p.m.
My first time seeing Shannon Stewart’s “The Relative Being What it is and Context Being Everything” could, in many ways, be described as a trip. In a strange turn of events before watching my first full rehearsal, I had to see a doctor for a cough who “had” to inject the side of my ass with something that would, purportedly, make me “feel a bit weird.” So as I sat beside Dr. Rick Snow, the self-proclaimed head-honcho of the Music Science and Technology department, and watched Stewart and her collaborators on the stage, I definitely began to feel a bit weird. As I was wondering how long the come-up must be for that bronchodilator, “The Relative Being” hit instead. The surreal choreography Stewart has created along with the powerful musical performance of collaborator Local Honey on stage gave me the ego-death that the student health center couldn’t.
“The Relative Being What it is and Context Being Everything” is Stewart’s MFA thesis project which has taken over a year to become fully realized. Her candidacy is in Tulane’s new Masters in Interdisciplinary Dance Performance so “The Relative Being” experiments with all forms of media in her performance, but it was only a month ago that she decided to put sound to the entire piece.
While Local Honey has been involved and offers her musical stylings in the middle of the performance, Dr. Snow thought Stewart could benefit from music throughout and convinced her to let us provide that for her. Like her dance, the sounds are taken from reality but their presentation seems far from it. Taking the noises the dancers and their Hannah Lax-designed costumes make, we distort and repeat them to create an uncanny musical environment. The format of the Relative Being blurs the lines between installation, performance, and conversation to ask: what is the difference between real and fake?
Stewart and her three collaborators reenact personal caricatures and internet memes about femininity, using the intersection of gender and sexuality studies with choreographic practices to examine narratives about gendered and privileged identities—specifically what is accurate, what is too simplistic, what is problematic in certain depictions of femininity, and how all of these are rendered unstable by memory, social constructions, and point of view.
“The Relative Being What it is and Context Being Everything” will be shown in Tulane’s Lupin Theater October 5th - 8th at 8pm and at 2pm on the 9th.