Artist Jay Carlon Explores Migration and Displacement Through Dance at the Beach House
October 2, 2017
by Tati Simonian
Choreographer-in-residence Jay Carlon brings his new work to the Annenberg Community Beach House. Entitled Out of Bounds, the piece driven by Carlon's comparison of the Southern California shore with the shores of Greece and Turkey and other border crossings.
All are invited to attend open dress rehearsals October 6-7, and the culminating performance on October 8. Performance and rehearsals are free to the public.
We had the opportunity to ask the artist about his personal journey, his connections to the shore and his hopes looking ahead.
Q: In thinking about young people and their journey of self-discovery and expression. Can you speak about your journey in becoming an artist?
Jay Carlon: I come from a large, Filipino, migrant family who eventually settled in the Central Coast of California for the agricultural opportunities there. With the exception of karaoke and dancing at discotheques, my knowledge of the arts was limited. But in an unlikely way, despite my limited arts knowledge, I have always had an embodied practice. My brothers and I wrestled throughout our youth at the Boys and Girls Club. I attribute my understanding of momentum, physicality, velocity, and endurance to my wrestling training. My histories in wrestling and my migrant family have informed my identity as a composer of physical theatre.
My family’s migrant history and my experience with wrestling have encouraged my passion to explore space and physical practices.
As an artist, especially as a child of immigrants, I can’t help but feel selfish that the sacrifices my parents made led me to become a struggling artist. That concept of the American Dream is embedded so deeply in my DNA. My family immigrated to this land for prosperity, the land where one can make a decent living for simply working hard. The narrative of the struggling artist did not match the sacrifice that they made. I constantly have these looming feelings of selfishness; my parents spent their lives on their hands and knees in the dirt, helping feed others, including my family. As a dance artist, rehearsing in sterile studios and pristine theatres all over the world, I wanted to return to the land. I invested my interests in site-based work to justify these feelings, and to honor my family’s migrant history.
My first venture in site-specificity was RAKED presented at homeLA in Rose HIll. RAKED is a ritual performance that demonstrates the construction and deconstruction of a purple powder covered hill. Creating, presenting, and performing this work made me feel closer to my roots. I became obsessed with making work outside of traditional theatre spaces. I created a dance in a parking lot with my car, a work inside of a house, in museums such as The Broad, and now my largest venture: The Annenberg Community Beach House on the shore of Santa Monica State Beach.
Q: Your site-specific work Out of Bounds will be performed at the Santa Monica beach. What draws you to work created for specific places, and in particular the shoreline?
JC: When I received the choreographic residency at the Beach House, I thought I wanted to create a lucid, daydream atmosphere that traversed the property and beach. However, during my first week at the residency, I knew I needed to shift ideas. My work usually involves physicality, endurance, and exhaustion, and my initial idea didn’t quite fit that. The beach suggested recreation, and introspection, as opposed to exertion. I thought of my father’s voyage across the Pacific to come to America as I stood on the shore, and immediately knew how the work needed to shift into the theme of migration and displacement.
Q: What can audiences expect to see in Out of Bounds and what would you like them to come away with?
JC: As I continue to develop the work, the theme of migration and displacement has evolved to incorporate new materials and forms. With tons of props (ropes, cardboard, buoys, contact microphones, emergency blankets, etc.) and tons of performers (30+) this theatrical experience keeps growing and growing. The challenge in covering the infinite scale of the beach is finally fulfilled with bodies and other elements that will complete the experience. My hopes with this work is that it presents a timely issue in politics today and provokes a call to action.
Photo: Jay Carlon
Cover Photo: Jobel Medina