Three gay men and a lesbian are part of 13 dancers and non-dancers performing in ‘Framing Bodies: LOVE ME’
by Marene Gustin • Photos by Lorie Garcia, Studio 4d4
Lydia Hance didn’t set out to make a dance film about gay love. But it sneaked in there anyway.
Hance’s Frame Dance Productions is both a dance company and a multimedia arts group.
“I want to incorporate technology with dance to make it more accessible through the Internet,” says the dancer, choreographer, and teacher.
“Framing Bodies: LOVE ME is the first in a series of short dance films that includes both company members and non-dancers from the community,” Hance explains of the collaborative project that mixes text with movement to tell personal stories. Out of a cast of 13, four are company dancers, the rest are non-dancers, former dancers, or just plain folks with a little movement experience. “I just reached out to people I knew and asked them to ask people they knew, and I got an incredible response.”
And some of the people who responded, wanting to tell their tales of love and isolation via dance and text, were gay.
“It was just an organic process,” Hance says. “All kinds of people who were in relationships, out of relationships, or lonely.”
As it turned out, all three men in the performance are gay and one of the women is a lesbian.
“I’m not a dancer. I’m a writer,” says Loueva Smith, a lesbian poetess. But she found a new form of expression through movement. “I’m grateful for the experience,” she says. “When I moved, my words seemed as though my body knew more of the story I was trying to tell than my words did.”
Neil Ellis Orts is a performance artist and writer, but it had been three years since he had been in a rehearsal studio.
“Dancing created about equal measures of endorphin and lactic acid,” he says. “It felt so good to move, and it hurt so much the next day. I don’t live a very shocking life. My personal life is sorely lacking in scandal. Yet, some of what came up is very personal
and not what I thought would end up in this project. After all my years of writing and performing, I think what I ended up letting Lydia have is some of my most personal writing. It also reaffirms for me that I prefer writing fiction, or at least abstracting the autobiography a little more than what is in Framing Bodies: LOVE ME. I’ve never been part of a project like this, where I do a lot of stuff, get filmed doing all kinds of things, turn in personal writing, recording it, and then it’s just turned over to another person to piece together into a film. I have maybe a little anxiety about that. I have as many control issues as your average person. But I’m overwhelmingly excited and just plain curious about what Lydia will be showing in October. I’m crazy with anticipation.”
Frame Dance Productions company member Alex Soares is also anxious to see the results of the collaborative dance film. “Now it’s all been written, danced, and recorded, and I just can’t wait to see how it all comes together on the screen,” he says.
Soares, a Brazilian native who also dances with Suchu Dance and has studied creative writing at the University of Houston, had
no qualms about participating in the intimate text/dance film when Hance presented the idea to her company members.
“Because of the nature of the project, it wouldn’t be your traditional rehearsal process with set choreography, and because it involved a strong psychological element, dancers opted to participate or not,” he says. “As soon as I found out about it, it was an immediate yes from me. This project excited me in ways that other works haven’t because I have a deep interest in how dance can be used to access and process certain emotions and memories that words sometimes just aren’t able to. I studied and practiced Biodanza for several years, which is a methodology that combines dance with self-improvement. It helped me tremendously, and I saw firsthand how effective dance can be as a self-investigation tool.”
Soares says the group that participated is very diverse, and that is what allowed them the freedom to tell their love stories. “This allowed us to share intimate stories about what we perceive as love, caring, relationships, and the absence and dysfunctionality of any of those. We were able to dance each other’s views of marriage, friendship, sexuality, and whatever else we wanted to explore. Nothing was off-limits at any point.”
Presented by Spacetaker, Frame Dance Productions’ Framing Bodies: LOVE ME premieres October 14 and 15 at Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter Street. For more information, call 713/862-0082 or visit framedance.org.
Marene Gustin is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.