Heid E. Erdrich
Heid E. Erdrich is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain. She has collaborated with Rosy Simas Danse since 2014, including writing for Skin(s)and co-creating the short film, Skin Frequencies. Erdrich is author of eight books of poetry and is editor of New Poets of Native Nations. Her work has won numerous awards, including a 2018 Native Arts and Cultures Fund Fellowship. She teaches in Augsburg University’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing. Erdrich is also an interdisciplinary artist whose work will be installed at the same time Rosy Simas is in residence at SooVAC gallery in Minneapolis in May 2019.
Responses to Weave from Native Community Writers
A note from Heid E. Erdich who invited Native community members in Minnesota to respond to open rehearsals and workshops during the creation of Weave:
One thing I have learned from working with Rosy Simas Danse is the joy of engaging a truly extraordinary commitment to working in and from community, especially in Native communities and with Indigenous artists. RSD allowed me the chance to invite Native artists (local, Anishinaabe, women/Two-Spirits) to experience and respond to another Native (local, Haudenosaunee, woman) artist’s work. This rarely happens. The separation of artists into individual disciplines is not the way Indigenous cultures operate. Our dance displays our art and our stories and our music. Traditionally, dance is for all to engage which, as a Native American choreographer and community member, Rosy knows. Her support of community engagement is so much more than audience building; her direction of RSD creates artistic development for a broad group of experienced and first-time writers, journalists, filmmakers, and more. RSD is at once brilliant and totally what I’d expect from an Indigenous perspective, and it is wonderful to be part of something so fine and so rare.
Listening with the Body
Recorded sounds blow out of their original proportion – digitally made both larger and smaller than they were once. I am immersed in the sounds of water. As I listen, dancers before me are co-creating Weavefor Rosy Simas Danse. I imagine my own body in motion, in the pleasure of expression, exploring the sound Rosy choreographs with, a composition of heavy vibration.
The lights are low and the floor creaks with the subtle movements of four dancers. There are forms coming into view in the dim light, very slowly arcing out – the leading edge of a wave.
They are co-creating, almost sleepily, but actively, so as if half-awake still making the narrative of a dream even as they rise. Except the narrative is within the body of each artist in Weave. No one story arches over the work. This is exciting for me because I am a woman of words, words are my work, and Weave takes me beyond words.
The bodies of the dancers are clear now they’ve reached the light. Each seems to search, but of course I’ve projected that meaning because I want to read gesture in their movements. The music is ringing and taking its own direction. The dancers’ bodies slow to a directional wave – a pointing of sorts that diminishes as the sound circles down to nothing.
Then the sound of bubbles and water rise again with the lights. This gorgeous composition slowly builds through waves slowed so minutely that I hear each bubble pop upon the shore, fizzling first like grease on a hot pan, then shell grains rocked upon the beach. This sound undoes my ability to analyze. Takes me from my critical self. All I can do is watch each dancer round themselves to the sound.
My greatest pleasure in witnessing this work is that it requires me to listen most carefully. When my hearing grows tired, I teach myself to listen differently, to feel vibration elsewhere in my body. The music shifts to a composition of sound projected in profound humming that brings the audience into the physical space of the dance in a direct, even visceral way. There’s so much such hugeness in this soundscape – it must be the world or all of creation that it addresses. It must be something that can free us from our small selves, if we give over to it as the dancers do, if we listen together, we will find ourselves somehow closer, yet enlarged.
An excerpt from a longer essay-in-progress from observing Weaveduring residencies at Florida State University’s School of Dance’s Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) and St. Catherine University’s The O’Shaughnessy.