FIELD GUIDES INVITE CURIOSITY, TRANSFORMATION

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I’ve been working on cultivating transformative dance experiences for myself. I know it sounds like an impossible goal while I’m physically isolated from my dance community, and it often feels that way. I’m not usually successful, but I’m trying. I’ve danced in my bathtub and on top of my bed in an attempt to conjure some site-specific magic. I’ve improvised in nine degree weather in a sleeveless dress, hoping to let the wind evoke a revolution in my physicality (would not recommend). At one point, I thought it would be a good idea to make a slow-motion contemporary dance to Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. Obviously, I could use some help. 

Enter Field Guides, a series of embodied interactive audio guides which, according to the website, are “designed to offer some of the same transformative qualities as a live performance while being covid-safe.” The creation team behind this project includes multi-disciplinary body-based artist Hannah Simmons (project direction and text) and Leah Crosby, co-director of LanDforms and Seattle-based performer and choreographer (sound design and vocal performer). Just released is the second guide in the series, Viewpoint, designed to be used at the 12th Ave S lookout on Beacon Hill. I’m engaging with the first guide in the series, Home, which invites listeners to reimagine their living spaces. Both are available to stream for free at fieldguides.space.

I press play and stand in my living room. As I listen, I find myself habitually swaying. The text invites me on a journey. I put on my shoes, coat, and step outside into the piercing winter weather. I follow directions to close my eyes, and begin spinning. The sounds of the guide combined with the ferocious wind make me feel as though I might spiral up into something else, like a house swept up in a tornado. I stop, open my eyes, and pull the door open with a chilly hand. The narrative welcomes me to a place referred to as ‘Somewhere’.

Photo courtesy of Meredith Pellon.

I am told that Somewhere is both familiar and unfamiliar, and that I am now different. Crosby’s voice explains, “It’s as though you’ve spent every day of your life here, and simultaneously, as though you are trespassing in a stranger’s most sacred space.” I try to imagine what I would see if I were actually a stranger. What details have I overlooked for months? What’s exciting about this space that has become boring to me? I notice colorful blue and green thread, carefully woven into the rug I step on each day. I count six different shades in the fabric, admiring the intricate pattern. My eyes usually only meet this rug to ensure thorough vacuuming. 

The text takes me through how I should explore Somewhere. I make guesses about what Somewhere could be. I am told to open the oldest book on the shelf and smell it. It smells of aged paper, apparently the smell of Somewhere. Is Somewhere in the past? I find myself thinking about the continuous lives that homes live when they are no longer ours. I consider every apartment I’ve lived in, wondering who lives in them now and how they’ve decorated each room. 

The instructions guide me to my kitchen, directing me to engage with appliances and food so that I can feel the temperature of Somewhere and know what it tastes like. I feel as though I’m in a performance art piece, perhaps one with a hidden audience. Maybe my audience members are peering through a window behind me, watching my erratic kitchen behavior. I wonder if I’m giving them enough of a show.

Photo courtesy of Meredith Pellon.

Eventually, the narrative asks me to occupy the most empty space I can find. I enter my living room again, feeling more like the on-stage version of myself than before. I am told that I am floating and falling, with limbs that can rearrange themselves any way I want them to. I complete dreamy shoulder rotations, imaging my arms wrapping around by back and elongating to my front. I’ve left my bones at the door, blissfully riding a flow of new movement, uninhibited by limb structure. I am drifting and sinking through the space, closing my eyes and forgetting where the edges are. 

I find shapes and stillness, immersing my body in structure again. I am re-learning how it feels to hold something within myself. The essence of my wispy movement still buzzes in my muscles, reminding me of how lovely it felt to sail through my living room. 

I open my eyes as the guide welcomes me back. I stand in stillness, letting the performance percolate in my body. 

As the stage below me dissipates, I feel grateful to have danced Somewhere. 

Find the whole series at fieldguides.space. Currently released are the first Field Guide, Home, and the Second, Viewpoint, which is designed for the 12th Ave S viewpoint in N. Beacon Hill, but can be experienced anywhere.