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…or so you thought (a piece inspired by Connie Love)

I try my best to only make dances that I want to watch over and over again. Though “…or so you thought” debuts this week and is still in its infancy, I am absolutely inspired to keep watching, working on and growing it. I rarely have that feeling, but my desire to continue developing this piece directly relates to my positive obsession with the inspiration behind it. This piece comes from a yearning to always manifest experiences that bring me joy and allow me to fully embrace my true, self-defined freedom in every space I inhabit. Go-Go dancing serves as one of those experiences and “...or so you thought” is an abstraction of how it brings me power, joy and freedom.

Why Go-Go dance? Being a Go-Go dancer (freestyle dancer that typically performs at nightclubs) has, hands down, been one of the most affirming things I’ve ever done in my life. I grew up extremely shy and introverted (still am) and as a female bodied person, believed from a young age that I possessed no redeeming physical qualities that made me feel confident or worthy of being seen outside of the comfort of my home. However, I’m lucky to at least have had my home be a safe haven from these insecurities. My mother instilled within me a deep confidence about who I was, where I came from, how I looked, and my ability to be loved, recognized and have some impact in this world. However, I still battled and continue to battle with maintaining this way of being and feeling in public spaces. I learned early on that public spaces rarely allow you to be your freest self in any capacity and I learned a little later that one must actively define exactly what that freedom is to have any chance of asserting it in this lifetime.

Enter, Connie Love.

Connie Love is my alter ego that I began developing in 2016, the year I started Go-Go dancing. I’d been curious about Go-Go dancing for a while and mostly saw it as an entry into the world of professional performance that felt good. The club I started at was extremely inclusive (gender, body type, and dance background wise) with the types of dancers they hired and they exclusively played my favorite Soul, Funk, and Disco songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. It was a match made in heaven and I sprinted with it.

Once hired, I developed Connie Love into my ultimate avatar. The way she put on makeup, the way she dressed, the wigs she experimented with, the perfume she wore, the way she walked across the room, the way she put her hands on her hips, the way she looked at people and the way she held herself in general on the Go-Go box was nothing like how I presented myself, Constance, in day-to-day life. I used Connie Love to play with ideas I’ve come across about sensuality and femininity and tried to make sense of how these energies can be used to inspire and charge spaces. With Connie Love, I felt like I was serving some sort of purpose when it came to nightlife and working in clubs. By feeding and developing this persona, I learned to center love for my entire being and to prioritize letting go, no matter what. Letting go of insecurities (ideas of being attractive/questioning if anybody even cared that she’s up there dancing/how much money was made, etc.) created room for magic. Connie Love was and continues to be supreme, a vibe, and absolutely that girl that nobody can disturb, ever. Connie Love channels all of these energies and sentiments into how she moves in the hopes that it will encourage others to feel similarly. Connie Love inspires me and I love her with my whole heart. Moreover, knowing that I have successfully used Connie Love to enrich spaces and make genuine connections with hundreds of strangers for years has made me extremely protective of Ms. Love. These feelings ultimately inspired the title “…or so you thought”.

“…or so you thought” is a proclamation or shield against negative energies that may be directed towards Go-Go dancing and asserting overt sensuality and femininity in public spaces. I’ve encountered quite a few uncomfortable experiences as Connie Love that have made me consider if she should even exist. I recall one time having a fairly inebriated customer come up to me with tears in their eyes, expressing sentiments of feeling sad about me having to subject myself to do work such as Go-Go dancing. I found myself trying my best to hold back tears while reassuring them that what I was doing was a confident choice and that I loved it. I felt angry and offended that they would project such intense conclusions onto me without even knowing my experience and how much it empowered me. Choosing the title “…or so you thought” is meant to challenge any destructive, preconceived notions that anyone may harbor towards this practice and it’s meant to remind the audience that however one chooses to figure out how to be their most confident selves in the world (of course without harming others) is valid. Connie Love is my entry point into practicing how to be a more confident, free person and I will always protect that.

I also chose this title as a way for the dancers in my cast to assert themselves. None of the dancers I worked with have any experience with Go-Go dancing and most have not moved their bodies in the ways that I asked them to for the piece. In terms of movement, Connie Love borrows from a multitude of things. Social dances, vernacular Jazz, Raqs Sharqi, Striptease, Twerk, dancers that have inspired her from Soul Train, the Fly Girls from In Living Color, Fatima Robinson, Rosie Perez, Danielle Polanco, random people I’ve seen at the club…Connie Love pulls from so so much and I wanted the movement score of this piece to embody and reflect all of these inspirations.

Unfortunately, a lot of the aforementioned dance forms/dancers receive a lot of flack from Western notions of vulgarity or inappropriateness because of the technique behind these movements: being grounded with heavy use of the pelvis and deep isolations, etc. Playing with movement like this and finding a way to be confident in the execution can at times be awkward and challenging but, from my experiences and observations, there’s something about moving in these ways that is also exciting, powerful and playful. This title is a reflection of the safe space I tried to foster while teaching choreography and also facilitating dancers in creating their own movement to contribute to the piece. Every single dancer is coming to this piece with their own stories of what it means to be confident in their sensuality. This piece allowed the dancers to experience something new, with the freedom to ultimately make whatever I gave to them their own. I asked a great deal of these dancers: their time, their trust, and their vulnerability. And even though I cannot protect them or this piece from potentially negative assumptions, I can say with confidence that these dancers, this piece, and I are brave and strong in our agency.

I could go on and on about various elements of this piece, but I’d like to end my explanations here. Though the dancers and I have absolutely no control over how “…or so you thought” will land with individuals, I want to express that this piece was made with so much love and I hope that the confidence, bravery, power, and playfulness audience members witness from these dancers are not taken lightly and instead inspire joy within!

💜Constance aka Connie Love

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