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Instrument in Progress

Tonight, Friday Nights at the de Young features work in progress by Artist Fellow Monique Jenkinson (aka Fauxnique). As part of the creation of her original work, Instrument, Jenkinson is working with three different choreographers in an experimental process designed to enact, expose, and undermine the roles of the dancer as workhorse and the choreographer as auteur. The presentation tonight will be a rare opportunity to witness the development of Instrument, inspired in part by Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance (on display at the de Young through February 17, 2013). The first in a series of three, today’s post focuses on the collaboration between Jenkinson and choreographer Miguel Gutierrez.

Monique dancing

Like the costumes worn by Nureyev, a dancer also wears movements made on his or her body by the choreographer. Jenkinson explains this model as it relates to Instrument:

The choreographers will use a dictatorial studio practice to create movement on my body. The phrase, “on my body” is a traditional choreographic term used to make the distinction that the movement does not come from the dancer’s body, but rather from the mind of the choreographer. This idea of “putting on” movement, like dancers put on costumes, directly refers to the garments on display in the Nureyev exhibition.

One leg

The three choreographers—Miguel Gutierrez, Chris Black, and Amy Seiwert—use wildly different approaches to dictate action on Jenkinson’s body. Gutierrez’s practice is steeped in process and his studio is a friendly and supportive space for experimentation. Gutierrez's focus is not on the result, but on search and exploration. Jenkinson selected him in the hope that his attention to process would upset and/or destabilize some of her usual working habits in an exciting new way.

Monique and Miguel

Inversely, in her role as dancer and artist, Jenkinson directs the choreographer by creating the conceptual framework in which he must make movement on her body. Of this method Gutierrez says:

We’re meeting somewhere between what she’s done and what I’ve done. I’m aware of her work, but don’t know it so deeply that I risk foregrounding components of her movement that may already be known. And I’m not invested in taking anything away from her, but I am intrigued by placing her in new situations.

New positions

Jenkinson and Gutierrez have been reading Nureyev: The Life by Julie Kavanagh, which examines what constitutes dance and what constitutes technique. Through this investigation, Jenkison is thinking about what it means to be a dancer, what people’s perceptions of dancing are, what dancing is to her, and how the idea of dancing differs from one choreographer to another.


A defining aspect of Nureyev as a dancer was his indefatigable vigor, which led Jenkinson to the question: do you have to work physically hard to make a dance? For Jenkinson and Gutierrez, the answer is both yes and no.

Fourth position

As her yearlong fellowship at the de Young progresses, Jenkinson will continue to explore these ideas with choreographers Chris Black and Amy Seiwert, and their collaborations will be featured in the next installments of this series.

Join Monique Jenkinson’s continuing exploration tonight, Friday, October 19 at 7:15 pm in the Piazzoni Murals Room, and share your input with the artist as she requests feedback based on tonight’s presentation in person or on Twitter @deyoungmuseum #instrument.

The final performance of Instrument, in which Jenkinson integrates the work of all three choreographers, premieres at CounterPULSE, one of the collaborating partners on this project, from November 29 through December 9, 2012. Advance tickets are on sale now.