Gestures from the Sawdust Root

A group work inspired by the poetry of Allen Ginsberg
Choreography: Sarah Hixon
Music: Clarinet Sonata, F. Poulenc
Costumes: Jessica DiBattista

“Gestures From the Sawdust Root” embodies a vision of modernity that is both energizing and isolating. I have long been curious about the link--good or bad--between technology and humanity. My work focuses on universal timeless themes, and seeing this link as a perennial dilemma, I sought inspiration from a variety of time periods and mediums. I found resonance with Allen Ginsberg’s dynamic poem “Sunflower Sutra” of 1955 which describes the growth of a sunflower out of an industrial junkyard--a metaphor for the beauty of nature and humanity thriving in spite of a weary, ugly, deteriorating industrialization. The lexicon of the dance was directly influenced by the poem. Passages were read aloud to half of the dancers as they improvised movement. The remaining dancers observed and then improvised a response to the first group. Movement material generated in this way was developed into motifs and phrases. Bursts of energy in chaotic group formations are contrasted with lyrical gestures. Dancers undulate like waves, grasp for the unattainable, scurry like cockroaches, & sit somber & thoughtful in isolation. Their bodies alternately present abstract images of twisted broken machinery or the beautiful vulnerability of nature growing out of debris. The costumes characterize the dancers as blue-collar workers, pulling the viewer directly into the realm of storytelling and giving humanity a face. The juxtaposition of sharp figures and lyrical melodies in Poulenc’s music expresses both vigor and sadness. The choice of the proscenium stage romanticizes this vision. Ultimately the work is hopeful, believing that nature and man will persevere in an ever more isolating modernity.


"So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck

  it at my side like a scepter,

and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack's soul

  too, and anyone who'll listen,

--We're not our skin of grime, we're not our dread

bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we're all

beautiful golden sunflowers inside, we're blessed

by our own seed & golden hairy naked

accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black

formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our

eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive

riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening

sitdown vision.


~ Allen Ginsberg