Jesse Zaritt and Jumatatu Poe presented More Mutable Than You—two solo dances connected by an epistolary exchange—at the Baryshnikov Arts Center on May 19, 2014. The performance featured talismanic objects from their previous collaboration, a duet created one year prior and begun when they were strangers living in different cities. The resulting performance was marked at once by that physical distance and by the intimate work of mimicking the movements of each other’s bodies. While creating More Mutable Than You, Zaritt and Poe carried on an email exchange, through which they swapped rehearsal footage; shared frustrations; retold dreams; and discussed the essays of José Esteban Muñoz. Below are excerpts from these exchanges, accompanied by glimpses of their final performance.
Despite years of retraining myself to relish change and imperfection, part of me still wants so badly to be done, to be fixed.
I often think of myself as a kind of garment.
I think of myself as armor. I’ve gone to the gym to pump myself up, to achieve a certain formation.
My muscles are something I use like I would use a jacket or a fork.
I think of movement as an obstacle, a kind of barrier to my functionality in the world.
The kind of movement that I’m often doing has a quality of ornateness to it.
Ornateness and a lot of repetition. Or an incessant quality.
Which is almost excessive.
At what point does the excessiveness of adornment, of stuff, become a facade?
Ornamentation revealing the self.
I think that’s why one ornaments oneself, right? To accentuate and, in a way, to reveal, like the gilded frame reveals the image.
But maybe so much so that it eviscerates—is eviscerate the right word?
I think I need some really tall platform boots in my piece. Boots with really tall soles.
Platform construction boots. Some guy at the wedding last night was wearing boots like that.
It’s funny, we keep saying: “I don’t have the stamina for this right now.” If we had the stamina for it, then we’d change it again. We’d still be unable.
In my head there is this perfect version of each phrase: my body is in alignment, my body is the medium for new possibilities of being, my body is a guide for other bodies.
I’m thinking about the fetish of the arabesque. When I was watching you, I thought of a spinning top that never tips.
What would it feel like to have that experience of: that was it? Disappointing, I suspect. Really sad, even. But I’m always searching.
I can endlessly reproduce this bottle, and—I don’t know. At certain moments, I want to be bought, owned, admired.
Are you asking if movement is a commodity?
I’m thinking about Beyoncé. She’s “a survivor.”
What are we surviving?
I’m not comparing myself to Beyoncé.
I keep thinking of Beyoncé as a mother. She’s had a baby.
She’s aware of the industry that she’s in. She’s multitasking.
I keep thinking about the queer scholar José Esteban Muñoz, who died recently. He talks about queerness as resisting the limitations of the present through performed yearning. “Queerness is not here yet.” I do think that this crime of trying to materialize my fantasy self is a queer crime.
The impossible desire for perfection. My body degrades. It’s vulnerable. It secretes. I want to be an exceptionally capable, desiring, and desired body. I do. But I’ll soon have to replace, remake my joints.
I wonder about “impact.” With my students. This absurd work. How much does it matter to anyone else? I’m happiest when undisturbed. Last time we worked together I had to protect my body because it was healing.
I was sometimes relieved that you were preoccupied! When I’m alone I dance differently. If there is one person in the room, a video camera, a mirror, or a theater full of viewers—
It’s not, “Oh, I failed to—” It’s not about rejection, necessarily. It’s: “I’m creating this other way of enacting power in the world.” Or proposing a new strategy.
I think it creates an edge. Two thin edges. I find myself trying to be cautious.
Can we avoid competition? Is this concert dance culture brewing in me? Academia?
Or just the natural way?
“Fantasy Selves” was published as part of Triple Canopy’s Internet As Material project area, which receives support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, the Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
More Mutable Than You is a performance by dancer-choreographers Jesse Zaritt and Jumatatu Poe. Zaritt and Poe began their collaboration last year, as strangers living in different cities, when they collaborated on a duet marked at once by that physical distance and by the intimate work of mimicking the movements of each other’s bodies. Now they are creating two new solo pieces connected by their ongoing epistolary exchange and featuring objects from the duet. Zaritt and Poe use these talismanic objects to explore masculinity, queerness, and desire.
The creation of More Mutable Than You was supported, in part, through a commission from New York Live Arts’ Studio Series program with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
- Jumatatu Poe is a dance artist from Philadelphia, PA. He currently works with Merián Soto, Leah Stein, Jesse Zaritt, and co-directs idiosynCrazy productions. In 2012 he received a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.
- Jesse Zaritt has performed his solo work in Russia, Korea, Germany, New York, Japan, Mexico and Israel. He has performed with Shen Wei Dance Arts and the Inbal Pinto Dance Company, as well as with choreographers Faye Driscoll and Netta Yerushalmy. His solo Binding was the recipient of three New York Innovative Theater Awards in 2010. Zaritt was a 2012–2013 resident artist in the Studio Series Program at New York Live Arts with Jumatatu Poe.