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  • Tristan Koepke

On The Horizon: Finally, Fairies!

In 2009, I had just finished projects with both the Trisha Brown Dance Company and the Limon Dance Company, and was curious about unearthing myself, my rhythmic instinct, and my personal affectation after these disparate processes. I may not have had the language for it at the time, but this was, perhaps, my first hauntological inquiry. I filmed a series of short improvisations in response to a score I developed, Levers of Affectation. After editing these together into a seven-and-a-half-minute video, I began to learn, set, and define the movement as choreography (with the help of the stellar dancers Renee Copeland and Evy Muench. There was something about the movement, my distinct rhythms, my simple response to the score, that felt important, optimistic, and highly generative. Trisha Brown’s approach to creating Set and Reset (1983), creating and “setting” material that held onto the original improvisational spirit that initiated the movement, informed my process deeply.[1] I shared the first two minutes of material, titled Fairies, in an informal showing of works-in-process in early 2010. However, I soon became distracted with other things, and moved on to other projects.


Fairies became an important specter of my past: a lost, and unfinished project that held the vision of an artistic and aesthetic future I, at least for a time, wanted so deeply. The late music blogger and critic Mark Fisher posthumously released his book of essays exploring hauntology as a “vague but persistent feeling of the past without recalling any specific historical moment” that exists throughout various cultural expressions, artists and artifacts.[2] For Fisher, the past refers not simply to impressions of the past, but more specifically, to the many futures that the past implied. The past is full of optimism, and its specters contain a loss and longing for unrealized retrofuturities. Although I’m recalling Fairies in relation to myself as a haunted subject, I am drawn towards its unfinished nature, and to its longing for a futurity that never came to be.

I propose returning to the landscape of Fairies, and, as a point of entry for developing material for my thesis project for my MFA at the University of Maryland. This new project will premier in late 2021 or early 2022. I will highlight this specter in the present, and employ it as a direct conduit for intertemporal communication. As an effort of thematic amplification, I envision a 30-minute devised performance. I plan to investigate choreographic structures that explore connections and compromise between material developed from Fairies, and other filmed improvisations and creative cul-de-sacs pulled from my archives. Although this work is deeply personal, of me, so to speak, I propose a broader application of the inquiry. A cast of 3-5 dancers who will learn my set material, as well as dance and set their own responses to my original improvisational prompt. They will respond, intervene, and amalgamate the material. This proposed process orientates the work towards creative possibilities of colliding my own dancing body and my cast’s own self-interrogation.

Earlier this year, I wrote a note to myself. I wrote, “I’m not sure my memory can be trusted.”

[1] Trisha Brown, “Trisha Brown Informance | Jacob’s Pillow Dance 1986,” Filmed 1986 at Jacob’s Pillow. Video, 14:89. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27csx8BGN3Q [2] Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology, and Lost Futures (Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2014), 14.