American Dreams

“is it worth it, let me work it?” - M. Elliot

  • Brief

American Dreams will see Donovan & Sarkissova embed themselves in San Francisco, in order to interrogate the concept of the “american dream”, the westernization of cultural and personal identity while better understanding their own methodology in relation to performance making. 

Both choreographers will engage with their surroundings and social systems attempting to build relationships, collaborating and performing all the while generating material for performance through conversation, studio work, sharing problems and cups of coffee. 

American Dreams will include a series of contemporary dance performances and performance related sharings which will both document and investigate contemporary European identity through the lens of the American Dream. 

Donovan & Sarkissova will interact with both professional performers and people who have never performed before, gathering personal histories and experiences to create both intimate encounters and epic events in a contemporary dance context. 

“”Let us be lovers we’ll marry our fortunes together” 

"I’ve got some real estate here in my bag" 

So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies 

And we walked off to look for America !!!”

-Simon & Garfunkle

  • Approach

Our process and research is predominantly cultural in nature, and as such we have chosen to engage with Karaoke as a conceptual strategy for performance making.  

The Karaoke as principle: it is not about the skill, but about desire. The skill is not seen, but is still present through the desire being performed and challenged. We will demand our audience in our trip, but also in the theater to question whether they are willing to remain an audience, do we really crave empowerment and emancipation?

Karaoke is an interactive entertainment engagement, utilizing contemporary pop songs where the lead vocal singer is absent and the audience are participants.

Karaoke as performative practice is concerned layers of juxtaposition between dynamics: the amateur/professional, source/parody, public/private, truth/fake and embodiment/empowerment. 

Using Karaoke as a frame there needs to be someone watching, there needs to be a common ground, which in this case is the shared cultural knowledge of lyrics, meaning and format of execution, fame, virtuosity, success and failure. We are constructing choreographic missions, where we are interacting with people me meet along our trip, to contribute and interfere with our process, to sympathize with our mission and to take stands in relation to our cultural identity,a s much as theirs.

Being European receivers of American culture, the notion of parody becomes present, as much as our general interest in subversion. A parody is something parallel to a source. Our identity as secondhand receivers of an american culture, traveling to west coast US and exploring our fascinations puts us in parody with the “real” american culture. We can only explore the american culture through being Europeans in America, in some way being coherent, and in others total strangers in relation to our own American dreams. There is a practice that connects mystery and parody, in which a mystery can only be approached by parodising it. Through executing our karaoke practice, we can orientate ourselves around the source of our fascinations, without claiming or owning them. 

  • Mission Statement

We must terminate all belonging.

We must cancel all membership.

We must promote capitalism.

We must destruct.

We must present a new imagination.

We must smile and get along.

We must dance. 

We must rupture.

We must deconstruct.

We must decollate signifiers.

We must manipulate thought.

We must “self” ourselves and each other. 

We must transform.

Our weapon is naivety.

We have Aimless Conviction. 

We will Exist only on the support of our actions and those we meet. 

We are Living an American Dream.

Our performative action is travel, as a metaphor for Movement and Thought.

  • Our American Dreams

Freedom, Fresh Prince of Bell Air, Religion, Arms, Hamburgers, Queer Life vs. Thug Life, Palm Trees, Urban Shamanism, The Hills, Money, Success, Fame, Glamour, Dive Bars, Tattoos, Propaganda, McCarthyism, Terrorism, Everybody goes to Hollywood! Hipster Culture, The Source, West Coast Guruism, Counterculture, Wild Wild West, Sex

The Promised Land.

  • Timeframe

November & December 2011

  • Location

San Francisco, U.S.A

  • Objective 

Having met in a Global context in the frame of an international residency programme during Impulstanz Festival, our ideas, interest and artistic sympathies fused. Being separated from each other physically and geographically, we are continuing the process of working globally through this research. 

Conceptually speaking American Dreams is partly a propaganda and partly a cultural homogenization. Globalization as we interpret is an illusion and we are demanding that we have freedom of movement in order to respond artistically. To collaborate in this context would mean to reclaim power as children of a “global village”.

Our research and process will culminate in a 30 - 40 min performance. It will be premiered in the Melkweg Theatre in Amsterdam the 10-12th of February.

As Europeans, we will deterritorialize into the US West Coast. Our research will be delivered as a critical filter, a manifestation of our dreams being confronted with an American reality, and then being transported back to Europe, as a personal and political response of globalization and a revenge on the american culture hijacking our interests, creating our desires. 

We do not see the way out, even though we are going to attempt to distinguish and confront  the power ruling us.

The superficiality and power position of the Theater Venue,  is the space that we consider being capable to discuss these cultural dynamics and problems. What does the lens of a performance in response to the experience in the US say about our experience in the EU?

In a Capitalist frame that places the hyper individualization of the self at the paramount of importance, we will only trade on productions of Self. 

Once we utter that which is intrinsically ourselves we exist within the realm of the personal, the individual, the self, whether authentic or disingenuous. When we have nothing to trade on but ourselves what commentary are we proposing to West Coast and certainly US modes of critical thinking??? Once the self is public, the individual becomes the product, anything which is placed in the public setting through performance or otherwise is inherently and unavoidably political. There is no escaping the already loaded gun in our belt, we cannot avoid our own political position, the personal is always political as politics at least in our understanding of the concept will always affect and propagate the personal. 

The personal is always political. 

I am a dancer. I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.

To practice means to perform, in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired. - Martha Graham

The way our culture has choreographed dance has always been reflective of the larger tendencies of how we, as a society, deal with the unknown, the unframable, the foreign, the spiritual and the animal. (…) Our premise must not be to constrain movement into a set pattern, but rather to provide a cradle for movement to find its own patterns — over and over again. -Michael Klien