“I started designing the VDL by scrutinizing my own experience.” — Richard Neutra
Creating for the Neutra House is my first project with HomeLA, and home designer Richard Neutra’s statement above exemplifies why this house in particular is the perfect home to explore my personal creative practice.
I began creating solo work in 2015 as a way to remain playfully active in my choreographic and performance practice. Like Neutra’s home, my first solo was created by studying and responding to a series of journals I had kept while traveling. My process has continued to develop in this way, using self-investigation to create dance-theater performances that are both highly personal and easily accessible. My work, influenced by my intensive training and experience in Western-concert dance tradition, has a pop-culture sensibility as seen through the lens of a gay-millenial-male. I see dance as a social activity and therefore create work that studies and comments on the human condition.
In order to connect to the humanity of the Neutra House, I turned to the writing of Neutra himself, and excavated quotes from both he and his wife Dione. For this performance, I am creating four moments, all existing in a small corner of the first floor of the house, that will be shown in sequence over the duration of the evening. For each moment, I’ve selected a quote that best represents my inspiration and thematic intention.
The first moment exists in the bathroom. In regard to his inspiration for building this house, Neutra continues “I wanted to demonstrate that human beings, brought together in close proximity, can be accommodated in very satisfying circumstances, taking in that precious amenity called privacy.” This sets the scene not only for my bathroom moment, but for the overarching through line of my performance. To borrow from Neutra, I use the “precious privacy” of a bathroom and the “close proximity” of his design to explore my own series of “satisfying circumstances.”
From here, in a corner outside the bathroom, I move into an improvisational score inspired by Neutra’s somewhat jarring and comical quote “One felt a great sense of freedom in the VDL… and there were many options for getting off by oneself.”
I transition next to a movement meditation in round-back chair in the opposite corner. Neutra writes “In the redesign, the idea was to prove that even tight spaces can foster a sense of openness and tranquillity, if not freedom. In fact, the interior space is still a meager 2,300-square-feet, but there is nothing cramped here. VDL reminds us that all architecture grapples with the tension between privacy and intimacy. The most powerful architecture is shaped by the size of the human body, not the size of the human ego.” The placement of this meditation (a practice which in and of itself is rooted in the separation of ego) is against a windowed corner, which confines my physical space, while widely opening my visual reach.
The final scene is a playful moment in front of the mirror, embodying a quote from Neutra’s wife: “I have been asked whether I would not like to live out my last years in my hometown of Zurich. No, I don’t think I would, even if I could transplant this house.” She goes on to say “Only those, who have lived in a Neutra House, would ever understand how wonderful the daily satisfactions and delights are and how much this experience helps to augment the joy of living.”
I am so in love with the phrase “augment the joy of living.” This final moment is simple in nature, but filled with enough joy to hopefully spill over and infect the viewers as well.