Creating Utopia / by Valerie Green

Reaching into my memories of the development of this piece, I’m thinking of the creation of each of the solos that appear in the work. These solos are intentionally personal to our lives, our struggles, and our styles of perseverance. Prior to the rehearsal when each solo was created, Valerie asked us to think about what we perceive Utopia to mean as fuel for personalized choreography and intention. I shared with Valerie that, for me, Utopia is a state of mind that I aim to reach and maintain: a state of peace, mental stability, and recognition of what is needed to sustain a healthy perspective within the struggles of my life. As I see it, Utopia is not a place, but a space in my mind where I have time, energy, and patience enough to recognize my spirit and feed it accordingly.

I’ve carried this sentiment with me throughout the development of the rest of the work, specifically in relation to the character that I have become within the piece. If I could describe that character, I would say she is anywhere from softly aware to actively concerned about the shifts happening around her. She is anywhere from a heartfelt observer to a bubbling participant. She is anywhere from innocently curious to emotionally rambunctious. She is anywhere from independently assured to destructively upset. She is a struggle of dualities. To me, this is the path toward and through Utopia. The struggle to find the mental state that will carry me through to the receiving of light, balance, and peace. A personal journey of emotional regard and physical action, of carrying and maneuvering all that there is to manage on the journey, of wrestling with content in order to find peace within it.

At the same time, it is the acknowledgment of the commonality of individual journeys running simultaneously throughout time and space. Even within the sometimes-isolating search for my mental Utopia, I am surrounded by companions who are struggling and succeeding in their own ways, within their own characterizations, and on their own timelines. Yet, we are together. We check in on each other. We push, pull, maneuver, knock down, restore, and shift each other’s emotional and physical material along the way. We sometimes change or complicate the journey for each other because of the incompatibility of the struggles on our individual pathways, but, more so, we could not make the journey alone.

In thinking of Utopia as a mental state, it can be easy for my character (and my person) to feel isolated and busy within my own head, like a tempest in a teapot. However, my character is challenged along this journey to reach outward, connect, see, feel the presence of others, and embrace the strength gained in exposing fragility. This is the take away that touches me most inside my interpretation of the piece. Even when we have to move our own baggage or struggle through our own scenarios, we are not alone if our friends are near, even as they fight their own fights. In this way, I am reminded that Utopia is found together as an equal reflection and causation of what is happening within. The sense of Utopia is alive and energetically cyclical, ebbing and flowing based on the state of our minds and our communities.

When performing my solo in the piece, I feel the presence of my company members, and my character feels the presence of her surrounding companions. At no point do I feel alone, even as I am the only one dealing with my personalized battles. In my life, I agree with the dance. I see myself successful within myself when I am connecting outside of myself. I see my Utopia appearing when I am reaching equally inward and outward. I see myself balancing the carrying of others and being carried by others. I see myself reaching milestones with others, never alone, yet with deep consideration and consciousness of a healthy inner me that only I can summon and create. 

Let’s create Utopia together, reaching in and reaching out. 

-Emily Aiken

Utopia Map.jpg
Photo Credit:  Nomi H. Rave

Photo Credit: Nomi H. Rave