Clear out the throw rugs and push the coffee table aside: Tracy Broyles wants to dance, dammit, and she's going to do it in your living room. Sort of.
While most other dancemakers in town take August off to prep for the season ahead, 33-year-old Broyles rolls around in dirt, scrubs kitchen floors and plays in piles of leaves while rehearsing for her new site-specific dance work, Cocoon Bird. The unlikely location for Broyles' self-described "performance meditation on oracles and their trancelike states" is her own former residence, a private home in Southeast Portland's Hawthorne neighborhood.
On the phone en route to a Butoh class downtown, the choreographer says the feelings she wants to evoke in the work required her to find a new way of relating as dancer to audience. She found that creating dance in the home helped to free her creative animus. "In a house you have these channels and pathways to navigate, and you're not always knowing what you're going to see until it's right there in front of you," she explains. It's also why she's limited her audience to a meager 10 bodies per show.
Much of the house—which is now owned by fellow Portland performance artist Susan Banyas—figures into the performance: including bedrooms, bathrooms, the back yard and driveway. Expect cocoons and nets, sticks and dirt, and a live soundscape (by Jean-Paul Jenkins on acorns and other found objects, along with electronic musician "LYB") to which Broyles and her three collaborating dancers perform.
Tired of the "theme and variations" style of developing movement, Broyles holed herself up in her studio for hours at a time over several months, waiting for inspiration to move her. She calls the resulting dance in Cocoon "more true" than more traditional means of dancemaking, and bemoans the lack of innovation among Portland dancers and choreographers: "So much performance becomes about physical tricks, and the dancers are totally checked out, dancing like they're in class," she says.
A Portland dance community stalwart for over a decade now, Broyles hopes her new, slyly sited work will reinvigorate the modern-dance experience for new audiences, or at least provide some of what she sees sorely missing in the scene: "What I really want to see is a combination of heart and guts!" .