Interview: Juliet Paramor
Juliet Paramor is a dancer based in Oakland, California. She is classically trained in ballet, but works primarily within the realm of post-modern dancing, including choreographed works and improvisation. See Juliet's work on her Instagram, or embedded throughout the interview below.
L.E. Brown: When did you start dancing?
Julet Paramor: I started dancing when I was about four. I started out doing ballet, and solely did it until I was about 16, when I started learning ballet, modern dance, and contemporary jazz together. In college, I started with ballet but focused heavily on post-modern dancing.
LEB: How would you describe post-modern dancing?
JP: For me, post-modern dance, like most genres of any type of art that have developed within the past several decades, is a response to modern dance. I wouldn’t say I know everything about post-modern theory, but post-modern dance seems to take a much more natural, authentic, and somatic approach to movement. It’s easier to show someone the difference between these dance forms than to describe it. Most of it is learned in my body.
LEB: Do you think your formal training in ballet correlates to the post-modern dancing you’re doing now? Does that have a lot of influence on your current work or is it totally different?
JP: It definitely relates in the way that my body moves because it’s been trained very classically in ballet. My body carries that history in it. The ballet classes influences the movement that I make--consciously or subconsciously. When I’m improvising I tend to go directly to habits that my body already knows It’s difficult to break those habits, but an important challenge for me to do so.
LEB: How do you treat performances differently when they’re improvised on the spot and when they’re choreographed? Do you prepare or perform differently?
JP: I’ve never had a full public performance, with an audience, that’s been entirely improvised. I’d say that’s the biggest difference. Improv tends to be more a part of the process, rather than the choreographed performance itself. I’ve had segments in performances that I’ve improvised—like the Just Kids video—that are structured in an improvisational way.
LEB: Could you imagine doing an improv dance performance in front of a crowd, or is that something that dancers just don’t do?
JP: I would be really interested in it. When I consider a dance to be a successful improv performance, I try to focus solely on the sensation in my body. I’m responding to the environment, and it’s completely impulse, sensation, and automatic response. It’s second-by-second, entirely in the moment. I don’t think about anything else. Ideally, choreographical performance comes from the same place, and hopefully I know the choreography so that it’s all sensation and I can expand from the experience, and really be present. A main difference with choreographed work is that if I’m not completely immersed in it, I have to think about what I’m doing, I’m counting, and I’m maybe wondering if I’m in synchronicity with someone else, if we’re doing these actions together. I’m much more aware, and a lot less free. It’s a lot rarer with choreographed works that you’re living inside the dance, for me. Normally there’s more of a checklist that you’re going over in your head. You focus on the count, and the context, and what needs to be said, and how you’re saying it with your body.
LEB: In dance, how do you communicate something with your body, and how do you convey a certain message, if there is one, with your actions?
JP: I think each body, alone, conveys certain things by itself. So my body is going to convey something different from your body, and from somebody who’s a different race, or gender. There’s an inherent aspect of identity that plays into narrative with each different body performing. More specifically to my work, I place myself mentally into a certain moment or feeling with every movement I make. When I’m choreographing, I’ll start with an idea or moment, and I start to improvise and just let my body talk. Later, after my body started to move within that mental space, I’ll go back and edit. When I choreograph a dance for other dancers, I involve them in the writing of the dance. We start with something specific but later just start working around these questions we’re answering and working towards communicating what we’re trying to evoke. When we’re communicating something with the audience, I don’t want it to be too obvious and just give them the answers. I want my dancing to be more open, so that anyone take something from it. But at the same time, I don’t want to be unreachable; I want my audience to think about what’s happening on stage and not feel alienated. I’ve seen a lot of post modern dance where people say that they just didn’t get it. And neither did I. Which also has it’s value, of course, but I hope the audience can familiarize with something from my work, no matter how small or large, or “correct”.
LEB: Tell me about the fluidity that always seems so natural in your dances.
JP: It just comes together. I like to take the literal interpretation of something and pull it apart. You can arrange the bodies so you can make a person aware of why the movement is what it is. Like the idea of feeling alone, even when you’re with someone. In “With You Without,” I have three people moving but there’s always a duet and solo occurring at the same time. It makes you think consciously about this idea that’s pulled out throughout the process. It’s not all of these ideas happening at once, but more like a string of them. I’m still learning what my process is, and exploring it. And I think that just continues until we finally stop moving.✶